The Willis Building

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Height: To Tip
124.8 m / 409 ft
Height: Architectural
124.8 m / 409 ft
The Willis Building Outline
Floors Above Ground
Floors Below Ground
Tower GFA
50,107 m² / 539,347 ft²


Official Name The Willis Building
Other Names 51 Lime Street West Building
Structure Type Building
Status Completed
Country United Kingdom
City London
Street Address & Map 51 Lime Street
Postal Code EC3
Building Function office
Structural Material composite
  • Core: Reinforced Concrete
  • Columns: Steel
  • Floor Spanning: Steel
Construction Start 2005
Completion 2007

Companies Involved

• Current St Martins Property
• Past The British Land Company PLC
Developer Stanhope; The British Land Company PLC
Design Foster + Partners
Structural Engineer
Design Ramboll Group
MEP Engineer
Design J. Roger Preston Limited
Main Contractor Mace Limited
Other Consultant
• Façade Maintenance Lerch Bates Europe
Material Supplier
• Sealants Sika Services AG

About The Willis Building

51 Lime Street acknowledges that the way in which an office building responds to the context and spirit of the city in which it stands is as fundamental to its success as the acknowledged benefits of natural ventilation, light, open space and a view. As a result, the architects continue their built explorations into new strategies for flexible, column-free office space, but have also created the idea of the “urban room”, where genuine connections to the public realm are established, and the way in which the building “touches” the ground is paramount.

51 Lime Street, also called the Willis Building (after its primary tenant), sits in the heart of the City of London. It lies to the east of Richard Rogers’ 1986 Lloyds Building and responds to this unique location with an elegant concave form. The project is significant in both urban and environmental terms—51 Lime Street is among a number of projects in the City of London that have struck a delicate balance between commercial requirements, the need for flexibility, and respect for the area’s world-famous architectural heritage. The original building for Willis Faber Dumas by Foster + Partners in 1976 was a seminal project for the practice, an open office building characterized by its sense of community —this spirit has been kept alive in the new UK headquarters in London, with expansive roof terraces that offer broad views over the city.

The development comprises two separate buildings which step down to a new public plaza. The building at 1 Fenchurch Street responds to the smaller scale of Billiter Street and Fenchurch Avenue, while the Willis headquarters building rises to the west of the site. The smaller building’s concave façade encircles the plaza and its curved corners maintain important view corridors, and also restore a pedestrian route through the site, reinforcing the medieval street pattern. The landscaping also features sculpture reclaimed from the previous building, linear benches and a living wall to replace the existing ‘party wall’ between the Willis Building and its neighbors, improving the view from the building and encouraging biodiversity. With a fringe of cafes, restaurants, shops and bars at the tower’s base, 51 Lime Street extends the vibrancy of the nearby Leadenhall Market, a particularly lively shopping area in the City with a strong architectural character.

As towers grow ever taller, the strategies to achieve stability are increasingly central to the design approach. On plan, the Willis headquarters has been developed as a series of overlapping curved shells, while its section is arranged in three steps. The roof terraces overlooking the plaza on the lower two steps are directly accessible from the office spaces. Both buildings have a central core to provide open floor plates and maximum flexibility in use, so they are able to accommodate a number of different configurations for one or more tenants.

The entire development is visually unified by its highly reflective façade. The pressed form of the panels and their mica finish give them depth and texture. A strong language is established through the interplay of solid and glazed panels arranged in a saw-tooth pattern. The fins also increase insulation while reducing glare and solar gain—just one of the strategies that have contributed to the building’s BREEAM “excellent” rating. Together with highly efficient services equipment and systems and extensive bicycle parking, the building’s progressive environmental strategy surpasses statutory carbon reduction targets by more than 20%.

CTBUH Initiatives

Seven Cities Winter Spaces Walking Tour
29 Jan 2015 – Tour Report

Activity at the CTBUH London Conference: Day Three
13 Jun 2013 – Conference

Willis Building Technical Tour Report
13 Jun 2013 – Tour Report

More Initiatives

CTBUH Initiatives Related to The Willis Building

Seven Cities Winter Spaces Walking Tour
29 Jan 2015 – Tour Report
The new CTBUH Urban Habitat / Urban Design Committee organized a highly successful Winter Spaces Walking Tour in seven cities around the world.
CTBUH London Conference: Day Three Activity
13 Jun 2013, London – Conference
Tall Building Industry Gathers in London See the highlights from the tall building event of the year…
Willis Building Technical Tour Report
13 Jun 2013, London – Tour Report
The tour of 51 Lime Street, known as the Willis Building, started with a trip straight to the top floor and was quick to impress the delegates with a first stop at the 23rd floor’s expansive balcony…
London Report: Bucking a Western Trend?
Jul 2011, London – Tour Report
Executive Director Antony Wood visited the UK in July for the inaugural meeting of a future CTBUH UK Chapter and other endeavors.


From London to Chicago: The Willis Group and Tall Buildings
11 Jun 2013 – Carmine Bilardello, Willis Group

Interview: Emerging Corporate Mobility
11 Jun 2013 – Carmine Bilardello, Willis Group

CTBUH Awards

Best Tall Building Europe 2008 Winner
CTBUH Awards 2008

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