Kent Blaxill restores appearance of iconic Willis Building in Ipswich

The Kent Blaxill team at work on the Willis Building in Ipswich.

The Kent Blaxill team at work on the Willis Building in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

A team of glass installers from East Anglian builders merchant chain Kent Blaxill has completed a key role in the refurbishment of the iconic Willis Building in Ipswich.

The team returned to refit eight 175kilo panes of glass that were removed six months ago to allow the main contractor, Structuretone, to work on the building with the minimum of impact on the day-to-day operations of the Willis business.

Kent Blaxill was contracted last year to remove, and eventually re-install, the panes of specialist 12mm heat-treated and toughened anti-sun façade glass which are the key feature of the iconic building, designed in the 1970s by Norman (now Lord) Foster.

The panes were removed using specialist lifting equipment and stored for six months in the Kent Blaxill warehouse, before being refitted with equal care.

“It was a challenging job but we were excited to work on such a special building,” said Paul Meek, Kent Blaxill’s glazing contracts manager, who oversaw all the work and was on-site at all times.


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The Willis Building was built as the headquarters of Willis Faber & Dumas, as the business was then known, between 1970 and 1975.

It was one of the first projects carried out by Lord Foster following the launch of his Foster Associates practice and in 1991 became the first 1970s-built structure in the UK to be given Grade I-listed status.

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The building originally featured a swimming pool which was later covered over to provide more office space although, due to the Grade I listing, it was not filled in but left in place below the floor.

The recent refubishment of the building has remained faithful to the original concept, right down to the colour of the carpets.

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