One London Place

There’s no way to miss it.

The shiny, blue skyscraper that can be seen well outside of downtown has become iconic in London’s skyline. It doesn’t matter which direction you’re coming from – One London Place has stood like a pillar, towering above the other buildings in the core for over two and a half decades.

One London Place from City Hall’s Promenade Deck. Photo by Laura Thorne.
One London Place from City Hall’s Promenade Deck. Photo by Laura Thorne.

Londoners have climbed its stairs or even rappelled down its side to raise money for charity. It boasts the fastest elevator in London and its panoramic views of the city are unbeatable. You may pass by it every day or even work in it, but how much do you know about London’s tallest building?

Building an icon

The idea for One London Place was conceived in the late 1980s by two London-based companies Sifton Properties Limited and London Life Insurance Company. Their collaboration resulted in a $100-million partnership and a plan to change London’s skyline forever.

From the beginning, the building was planned to be both a focal point and catalyst for future growth and investment in downtown London, while also setting a new standard for commercial skyscrapers in southwestern Ontario. One London Place’s unique post-modern architectural design was developed by Crang & Bourke, an architectural firm based out of Toronto, chosen due to their expertise in high-rise buildings.

One London Place from Fullarton Street, with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the foreground. Photo by Laura Thorne.
One London Place from Fullarton Street, with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the foreground. Photo by Laura Thorne.

Sifton Properties was responsible for the sites’ development, with co-founders London Life investing a significant amount of funds and agreeing to fill at least seven floors of the space once it opened.  A well-known family business in London responsible for many local landmarks – including Westmount Mall, Sifton Bog, and the currently under-development West Five – Sifton Properties remains the building’s managing partner.

One London Place is located at Wellington and Queens at the site of the former YMCA, which was bulldozed following a catastrophic fire in 1981. Construction was completed by 1992, and One London Place took its reigning title as London’s tallest building.

London’s full-sized mirror

One London Place is not only the tallest building in London, but also the tallest in Ontario, outside of the golden horseshoe (which contains the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, and Niagara).

Standing at 113.4 meters / 372 feet / 24 stories / 55.8 Lebron Jameses, depending on your preferred unit of measurement, and half a block wide, the building would appear overbearing if not for its distinct design.

The footprint of One London Place is a truncated triangle, and its tower’s irregular lines and soaring cliffs make the building’s shape change based on your location. Depending on the perspective, it can look rectangular or triangular or even like an octagon or hexagon.

One London Place in all its glory from the corner of Wellington Street and Queens Avenue. Photo by Laura Thorne.
One London Place in all its glory from the corner of Wellington Street and Queens Avenue. Photo by Laura Thorne.

The highly visible landmark not only stands out due to its immense height but also its glittering façade. The exterior base is encased in a dark blue granite, with reflective blue glass surrounding all sides of the structure.

The glass surface mimics the London sky and appears to change colour and shade as the light and weather change throughout the day. London’s own looking glass – on cloudy days the building resembles a gunmetal grey, and on bright sunny days, it shines a magnificent blue, with light bouncing off its many edges.

What’s in a name?

One London Place’s official address, 255 Queens Ave, is rarely used outside of an envelope.

The name was designed to be as iconic as the structure itself. Mirrored off of other such skyscrapers in Canada, such as Toronto’s First Canadian Place and Place Ville Marie in Montreal, One London Place was chosen to be a standalone name. It’s a location that transcends the need for a street address or postal code.

Its easily identifiable name lends itself well to its reputation as one of, if not the London core’s most prestigious buildings.

The missing tower

One London Place is impressive on its own, but one can only imagine if it’s proposed little sister had come to fruition.

A promotional booklet published by Sifton Properties to attract tenants outlines the original plans for the complex, including an 18-story Phase 2 tower designed for the south-east portion of the site which was intended to be connected to One London Place by a vaulted glass atrium.

However, One London Place opened in the midst of the early 1990s economic recession, which might explain why the second tower, while planned, was never built.

On a grey day, the building’s reflective surface makes it appear to blend in with the sky. Photo by Laura Thorne.
On a grey day, the building’s reflective surface makes it appear to blend in with the sky. Photo by Laura Thorne.

The underground infrastructure for a second tower, including a parking garage, access stairs, and foundation, was constructed at the same time as One London Place, keeping the option of building up later.

Sifton Properties has stated several times over the years that they would be ready and willing to build the sister tower, provided an anchor tenant is found. While one could argue that a neighbouring tower might diminish One London Place’s grandeur and stance, for now, it remains its own distinct monument, standing tall and shining for all to appreciate.

Feature photo by Nicole Borland.

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