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The Oxo Tower building, built in 1930, is situated on the bank of the banks of the River Thames in London, England. Although it has been a major feature of any tourists' boat tour worth its salt for time immemorial, only recently, in 1997, was it renovated. The renovation, carried out by Lifschutz Davidson, was designed to diversify the range of activities on offer in the complex.

The difference to the external appearance of the building was minimal. Up to the eighth floor, the building retains its dark monotone, a key feature of the site since its original date of construction. Simple walls, striped with dashes of white and punctuated with pockets of light glimpsed through windows, give the lower part of the building a drab appearance which contrasts with the light exterior of the tower and the modern sleekness of the ninth floor.

The ninth floor of the building is the most recognisable feature of the renovation. This comprises a light and airy space walled by plate glass, designed to give users of the building a panoramic view of London. The side of the building bounded by the river offers a terrace for people who wish to expose themselves to the alluring stench of London's famous sewage.

This floor offers a brasserie and a restaurant, as well as the Harvey Nichols bar. Other functions of the building include commercial premeses up to the third floor, as well as 78 apartments on the fourth to eighth floors.

Although the modern ninth floor has a striking impact on the building's appearance, the most attention-grabbing feature of the building is the tower in the center of the complex. Although not the most inspiring architecture in London in style, its red-lit windows in the shape of the word OXO downwards are a major feature on the London skyline at night.

Nugget of trivia: legend has it that the OXO sign lit in red was designed using backlit windows (rather than standard lights) to loophole the laws which were current at the time, which prohibited advertising on the River Thames. Now if that's not fascinating, you tell me what is!

Technical information:
Client: Harvey Nichols.
Architect: Lifschutz Davidson.
Construction: John Sisk & Sons.
Structural engineers: Buro Happold/WSP.
Construction services: Mecserve/How Engineering.
Lighting design: Equation Lighting Design.
Quality control: ECHarris and Partners.

Inspiration and information drawn from "The World of Contemporary Architecture", published by Könemann. ISBN: 3-8290-3564-0.

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