Also known as 'Centrepoint', 'Centre Point' is an office complex building in central London, famous for its highly visible tower block. It goes up for 385 feet, 32 storeys, and, although not very large by American
standards, is second only to the BT Tower
as a navigational landmark if you're lost in central London
. Although the tower has 'Centre Point' written on one side at the top in illuminated letters it does not actually have a name of itself.
The complex is dubiously famous for being an investment first and a practical workspace second; although large and impressive, it remained empty for almost twenty years after it was built (with the exception of over 100 squatters, who occupied the building in 1974 as a protest at the waste of it all). It is currently a Grade II listed building, and is thus a national treasure, despite looking like a refugee from Stalinist Russia. The building incorporates a pond and a fountain which contain water that is probably not fit to drink, as well as a restaurant, a swimming pool, a squash court and other amenities. The restaurant gives an attractive view of the Argos store across the road. Beneath the building; a beach... no, no, that's not right. Beneath the building is an underpass which allows one to leave Tottenham Court Road underground station at all four paved sections of the crossroads on which the complex sits. The underpass constantly smells of urine.
It stands at the junction of Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, New Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. It is therefore in a position of some importance, as all the aforementioned streets are of interest to Londoners and tourists alike (Oxford Street has big music shops; 'TCR' has computers, televisions, and furniture; New Oxford Street has Forbidden Planet and Jessops; whilst Charing Cross Road has musical instruments, EMI, and bookshops such as Foyles). The pavement which skirts around Centre Point's fountain is so narrow as to make it dangerous to cross directly from Tottenham Court Road to Charing Cross Road.
The complex was designed in 1959 by Richard Seifert, who also designed King's Reach Tower (home of IPC and '2000AD'). The money behind it was provided by entrepreneur Harry Hyams. In 1964 it cost £5.5 million; in 1973 it was worth £20 million; and in 2000 it was bought by Leconport Estates for £65 million. It was 'opened' in 1971, although only to caretakers - amusingly, it remained empty until the early 80s. Due to sharply rising property prices, the appreciation in value of the building was greater than any revenues which might have come from renting the offices out. Furthermore, as a rental property it would have been liable for property tax, but as an empty building it wasn't. Centre Point was therefore more profitable as a monument than as a building.
Richard Seifert went on to design 'Tower 42', aka the 'Natwest Tower', which is in The City, much less visible to tourists. Tower 42 is taller and less ugly than Centre Point, clearly a product of the modernist early 1980s rather than the boot-on-face brutalism of the 1960s. Tower 42 bore some of the brunt of an IRA bomb in 1993, although it did not sustain major structural damage.
It is not to be confused with 'Centrepoint', the homeless charity; they are not based in Centre Point. The building is currently home to the Confederation of British Industry.
The full address is "Centre Point, 103 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1DU". At night, it's quite eerie and mysterious - many of the floors are unlit, and due to the way that the windows are sunken into the building, it's not easy to see if there's anybody at home. It is interesting to speculate whether the whole thing is actually a giant surveillance post for MI5.