Summit House, London

  • 12 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4QD
  • Designed by: Joseph Emberton and Percy James Westwood
  • Built: 1925
  • Tags: Art Deco, Commercial

Standing on Red Lion Square just off High Holborn in central London, Summit House was built in 1925 for the Austin Reed Company. The Austin Reed menswear company was founded in 1900 and by the 1920s had a flagship store on London's Regent Street. The company commissioned the architectural practice of Westwood & Emberton to design a London headquarters for the company.

Joseph Emberton was born in Staffordshire in 1889 and was responsible for some of Britain's finest Modernist buildings including Simpson's of Piccadilly (in London) and the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham-on-Crouch; he died in 1956. Percy Westwood was born in 1878 and went into practice with Emberton in 1922; he died in 1958.

Summit House is a steel-framed building, clad in toffee-coloured faience. The building is six storeys high and the main elevation is eight bays wide; the two rightmost bays are set back slightly from the main body of the building. To the left of the main body is a further single bay, four storeys high. The building extends down Dane Street where the elevation comprises a four-storey, ten bay elevation. The windows on each storey are deeply recessed, and feature black, metal-framed windows. The left-most bay onto Red Lion Square incorporates a tall, three storey metal-faced bay window, with three slender windows to each bay.

At ground floor level a low-wall encloses the basement storey. The wall includes decorative iron railings, in a 'lotus' leaf style with lotus leaf finials at each corner and either side of the main entrance. The building is accessed via steps from the street, with double doors inside a deep recess. The entrance surround projects slightly from the main body of the building. The wooden doors incorporate carved panels by English sculptor and designer Percy Metcalfe 1895 - 1970).

On the corner of Dane Street there is a Blue Plaque dedicated to John Harrison (1693 - 1776). Harrison invented the marine chronometer, a device which allowed ships to accurately calculate their longitude whilst at sea.

Summit House has been occupied since 2002 by solicitors Mishcon de Reya; prior to that the building had been used by the telecoms company Cable and Wireless.

The building was awarded Grade II-listed status on 6 July 1981.

Posted by Richard Coltman on Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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