138 Cheapside Q+A with John Harkness


In today’s Q+A we’re focusing on 138 Cheapside – a purpose-built office building with ground floor shops of 1958 designs by architect Theo Birks.

The entrance of the building

138 Cheapside is in close proximity to Foster Lane and St Paul’s. It is in the setting of St Vedast, a Grade I listed church to the immediate north, and St Paul’s Cathedral to the South-West. It was a purpose-built, 1950’s office building, which was brought up-to-date with the needs of a modern office building, whilst it was partially occupied.

We asked John Harkness, one of Morrow + Lorraine’s Senior Associates, a few questions about the project.

John, in your opinion, what is the most successful aspect of the project?

We were able to successfully refurbish the reception, common parts and several office floors whilst the majority of the building remained occupied. The terrace was a very successful addition to the building, maximising the wonderful views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the London skyline.

The reception area

How did the area of the project influenced your design decisions?

To set the proposals apart from the traditional office environments common to the area, the City of London, the design proposals were intentionally slightly bolder and more modern than other neighbouring buildings.

Typical office floor

In times where sustainability plays an extremely important role in architecture, how did this play into the scheme?

A lot of the existing building was retained, with additions being of high quality, highly durable and long lasting, to better match original elements of the building. High quality insertions, which are well made and well built, should last longer, requiring less maintenance and fewer replacements in the years to come.

Seating area integrated into a timber joinery wall

As our spaces adapt to our future needs, the potential for lobbies to serve as additional amenity space is endless. How did the need for a community working environment influence the refurbishment of the main communal spaces?

Space was limited but the design proposals aimed to open up the existing reception space, providing an area which both welcomed visitors into the building and doubled as a breakout area to be used by the tenants.

Colourful details of the balcony

In terms of office sector, what’s the next big thing?

Flexible working, within a collaborative, creative environment with a focus upon high quality light, varied biophilia and integrated technology.

The view on St Paul's Cathedral from the balcony


Thanks John!

About John

John is one of the most experienced members of our team and a strong influence within the practice. His long-standing convictions about sustainability are the foundation of his approach to architecture, and his role helps steer our strategic vision and ensures there are clear and consistent guidelines.

He studied Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, and he then worked at Foster and Partners. Here he gained experience in establishing processes and the importance of attention to detail.