LSE’s new Centre Building review – a study in shades of Pompidou

Into the cramped hive that is the London School of Economics, Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners have inserted a bright, shared space designed to lure students and staff alike out of their rooms

A square. We all like squares, orderly places of public enjoyment, signs of civilised city-building, agents of urban harmony across the centuries. Architects especially like squares, their being both conspicuous symbols of a commitment to the public good and geometric figures. Architects like to do good and be seen to do good. Geometry is a tool of their trade. A square neatly wraps symbol and instrument up in one word and four lines.

The London School of Economics, unusually among institutions of higher education, has had, until now, no squares. No quads, no courts either. It occupies instead a dense tissue of narrow streets squeezed between the semi-circle of the Aldwych, the rectangle of Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the ramrod of Kingsway. All available regular shapes having seemingly been used up by its neighbours, this world-famous seat of learning has patched its campus together from a morphology of crookedness, grown from spores seemingly scattered by a wonky 16th-century cottage in its midst, on whose front large gothic letters wrongly proclaim it to have been the Old Curiosity Shop that inspired one of Charles Dickens’s novels.

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