bankside lofts iconic skyline interview

Published: 16/02/2021

Read about the journey of buying a 
Bankside Lofts apartment from one of our vendors back in 1997.  It makes fascinating reading.

"We had heard about a new project on the Southbank by the famous Manhattan Loft Corporation which had been in the press and magazines lately.  At their site office in the warehouse on Hopton Street we looked at the model and plans for the new development. The old Victorian cocoa warehouse and a curved modern extension from the 50s were to be the base of the really impressive high-quality architecture, incorporating a tower, the refurbishment of the Victorian warehouse, a garden with trees and a new wing at the back called Gallery Lofts. Nothing could have been more exciting to get involved with.

My former Tutor at The Architectural Association School of Architecture, Piers Gough was the architect. I had been impressed by him and his amazing ideas at the school back in the 70s.

MLC had erected a high scaffolding tower on the roof of the old warehouse so that one could look over the top of Falcon Point and get an impression of the views we could have.

The Millennium Tower Lofts had not been released yet but we loved the idea of living in this incredible development so much that we persuaded Harry Handelsman and his team to let us reserve 902 on the ninth floor. It was going to be even a lot higher up than the scaffolding tower which we had climbed earlier wearing our rucksacks and anoraks; it was a windy day, so, courage was needed.

We had carefully studied the plans for all the lofts in Millennium Tower on the front of the development overlooking the Thames and chose the only one which had full, uninterrupted views from the City of London, with St Pauls Cathedral smack in the middle to the West End. It was incredibly exciting. We paid our deposit and our solicitor started the process of buying the 'piece of air’ in the sky where our loft was to be. We had to wait two years for the development to be built. This was the first time that a developer had introduced the New York Loft idea to London. You were able to buy empty shells in industrial buildings for people to create their own fit outs. Gas water and electric points would be provided over the entrance door to the flat as well as the drainage and ventilation pipes serving every apartment. The industrial Look was being retained by the architects, even in the new parts of the building. So, to our great delight there were concrete columns which we could leave exposed and have the basis for the fashionable Loft Look: Concrete - Steel - Glass and Glass bricks.  I asked the architects to send me a plan where columns and services were going to be and then drew up the plan for our loft. The finished lay out was then submitted to MLC and Southwark Council’s Building Control Department for approval. They were very easy about it all as Loft fit-out was a new concept they had not come across before. We quickly discussed fire regulations which demanded a small lobby so that the common parts of the building were protected from potential fire inside the apartment. Other than that they gave me free hand and approved my plans shortly after. In those days you could go along and see the guys in the council and discuss things. Happy days, bring them back.

1997 came around quite quickly and we were served the practical completion notice for the development, completed the sale and we could start our fit out. Clear rules were in the lease of what one had to observe. All of which is common sense stuff: No noise after hours, protect walls in the corridors and the lifts etc. MLC team were very friendly and helpful indeed and there was a hive of activity in the tower and elsewhere in the buildings with contractors fitting out lofts.

Outside the area was still desolate with rubbish and tumble weed blowing around. No shops and no amenities, derelict warehouses and an air of abandonment. Bankside power station was just a beautiful hulk of a building. Anything could have happened on the site.  One day I spotted Nicholas Serota of the Tate Galleries looking up at the building! Amazing! The power station could possibly become a Tate Gallery! -  and so it did. We were friendly with one of the big curators at Tate and she invited us for a tour with a small group of people to look around the new Tate Modern with no art yet in it. The architects Herzog and DeMurion had just finished the project; one of the most amazing art galleries in the world.

At New Year’s Eve 2000 we held a big party in our Loft and were able to watch the incredible fireworks display on the Thames with our friends from our terrace. All the terraces in the building were full of happy people cheering and wishing each other Happy New Millennium. Streets and Bridges below were literally carpeted with people as far as the eye could see from our wonderful high vantage point. The fireworks display on the Thames directly outside our windows were the most incredible thing I had ever seen. Everyone cheered at the top of their voices.

After midnight all the Tate team came over to us to join our party. What an incredible night that was.

Meanwhile people have taken note of what an amazing location this is. 15 minutes walk to Covent Garden along the South Bank. A lot of beautiful buildings have since been completed. Neo Bank Side next door by Richard Rogers and the new Tate Extension are only two of them; and now, of course, the development of Bankside Yards to the west of us which is going to be very impressive too.

We always thought we might move back into the Loft in in later life as this is probably the most special place you could live in in London, we therefore held on to it for 25 years; but as we are very settled here in Cornwall where we have all our friends and family, living back in London  would probably not be in a very meaningful sort of way. We still love the City in which we have lived for some 40 years; but I guess we can always rent somewhere, for however long, at any time. So, we decided to sell our beautiful Jewel on the Thames.

Someone will be the lucky buyer." - Vendor, 2021

If you are interested in buying property in Southwark, we are an SE1 estate agent who will be delighted to assist you with your search.
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