Hugh Broughton Architects has completed a new office development within Congress House, the TUC’s modernist headquarters


James Brittain 

The Rookery, a new office development within Congress House, has reached completion; it forms the latest stage in the conservation of the Grade II* listed post-war modernist building. For the last twenty-three years Hugh Broughton Architects has been engaged in the careful restoration of Congress House, which was purpose-built for the Trades Union Congress (TUC), opened in 1958, and has remained their London headquarters since.


The latest phase of the refurbishment comprises a new entrance to the south of the building on Dyott Street, a new reception, new rentable office spaces on four floors and reconfigured staff facilities. It creation reinstates the intentions of the original plan by David du Rieu Aberdeen to include entrances on both the north and south sides of the building. The Rookery takes its name from the term coined in the eighteenth century to describe densely populated areas of the city, like the narrow streets off Great Russell Street.


Originally the building was conceived in response to the restricted and awkwardly-shaped site, bounded by three streets. While the main facade on Great Russell Street is flat and rectangular, the undulating side elevation on Dyott Street is more exuberant in form, with a complex composition of contrasting curves and volumes that define the cantilevered horseshoe staircase, the projecting first floor library, and car ramp.


The refurbishment has revitalised what had become a dark corner of the building, creating a secure and attractive new business centre for the neighbourhood, which will have increased footfall with the imminent opening of Crossrail at Totttenham Court Road Station. It provides a separate entrance for tenants of new rentable offices on the ground, third, fourth and fifth floors.


A spacious ground floor reception space incorporates an informal meeting area, its finishes sensitively matching and extending the original palette of timber, plaster and marble. Below ground, bright and elegant TUC staff facilities have been created in a redundant area of car park. The new offices have been upgraded with new plaster ceilings, open-plan layouts and a simple integrated approach to building service installations, carefully matching Aberdeen’s original architecture while meeting current standards for energy conservation.

The TUC has a reputation for embedding the arts into the fabric of Congress House. The original building includes the courtyard ‘Pieta’, a memorial to fallen trade union members from both wars, by Sir Jacob Epstein, now protected by a steel and ETFE roof canopy installed in 2016 as an earlier phase in the programme of works led by Hugh Broughton Architects.


The new Rookery entrance incorporates a FutureCity-commissioned glass screen by Berlin-based artist Eva Berendes. Her hand-sandblasted glass ‘Solidarity Screen’ unfolds across the curved car ramp, animating the Dyott Street facade and mounted on a grey Yorkstone dwarf wall to match the main entrance steps on Great Russell Street. Its bold, colourful geometric forms are inspired by motifs from the enamel badges of the affiliated unions.

The rest of the external fabric of the building remains unchanged, although some repairs to the facing materials have been necessary, particularly to the tiling. The street facings are glossy two-inch Cornish granite slabs. A continuous strip of steel-framed windows, with extruded aluminium cills and dividing mullions, follows the same geometry as the granite slabs between them. All columns and other external surfaces on the street side are faced with in-situ, vitreous mosaic tiles – the columns in white and building in robin’s egg blue.

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