In 1995 Reuters moved its journalism operations away from Fleet Street, the stretch of London pavement that was once home to the capital's bustling, 300-year-old daily journalism trade. One-by-one, the newspapers and wire services had all moved away; largely, they ended up in the decidedly more modern Canary Wharf, a financial center that grew up further down the River Thames.
The death of Fleet Street, however, in some ways helped give birth to another piece of London real estate: When the Reuters reporting staff bolted 85 Fleet Street in 1995, it alighted at the ITN Building, a Norman Foster-designed property on Gray's Inn Road, former roost of the Guardian newspaper.
Writing in the Guardian in 1990, scribe Harold Jackson said there was little love lost for the old newspaper building, whose remnants were visibly incorporated into the design of the new building. ?If it wasn't rated the grottiest building in London it could have been because the judges had been fixed,? he wrote. ?If you opened the window you couldn't hear yourself think for the traffic below; if you didn't, you roasted or froze. Your colleagues in the main body of the building saw daylight just twice a day, on the way in and on the way out.?
In its place rose what was, by all accounts, a modern, glassfronted building built with the television age in mind. Independent Television News (ITN) is the supplier of broadcast news to the UK's two independent broadcast networks, Channel Four and ITV; these networks have been, over the years, the broadcast home to revered UK media figures like Sir Trevor McDonald and Daljit Dhaliwal. For this reason, the building, which has garnered awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the British Council for Offices, is kitted out with studios and broadcasting facilities, as well as a ten-story atrium that begins on a subterranean level that used to house printing presses.
While suffering from low occupancy in the years after its completion, the building eventually filled up, becoming the ?stock exchange of the media world? with television and journalism tenants like Scottish Television, French Telecom satellite service Maxat, aforementioned wire service Reuters and now-defunct international newspaper The European, as well as the sales and marketing operations for a number of broadcast companies.
In the basement of the building is the ITN Archive, which has been called ?Britain's entire collective memory of the 20th Century.? While that might be typical broadcast hubris, the fire-proof vault does house a collection of ITN and Reuters material dating back to 1894 (the first moving image in the collection is footage of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia).
The real estate division of London-based private equity firm Doughty Hanson purchased the building in April 2001. It exited the ITN headquarters in 2005 in a secondary sale to Catalyst Capital for £112 million. When it held the property, Doughty Hanson renovated the property to the tune of £3.5 million.
Even the old hacks came around to the charm of the new building. As Jackson described the technical innovations installed for the television age, including special ceramic-layered windows and environmental control measures, he mused: ?If technology has the answer, it should make this as fine a building functionally as it is visually. Perhaps someone?it might even be me?will shed a tear when it is just another hole in the ground.?