Michelin House, commissioned by the Michelin Tyre Company Ltd as their first permanent British headquarters in 1909, has been a favourite London landmark for many years.
Its exuberant stylistic individualism has been variously described as an example of Art Nouveau, proto-Art-Deco, Secessionist Functionalism and geometrical Classicism. It has even been described as 'the most completely French of any Edwardian building in London'! Designed by an employee of the company, probably under the guidance of Edouard and Andre Michelin, it owes more to the imagination, vivacity and outrageously irreverent flair for public relations of these two men than to any notion of the architectural taste of its time.
In 1985 Michelin moved out of the building and in June of that year it was bought by Sir Terence Conran and Paul Hamlyn. Planning permission for a Restaurant, bar, major retail store and additional office space was obtained and a programme of extensive restoration of the building and reinstatement of many of its most prominent original features was begun. It is against the background of the history of the Michelin Building, seen in the context of the early days of motoring and the character then of the Michelin Company, that the most recent extensions and developments of the building should be seen. Conran Design Group were responsible for the interiors of the new restaurant and bar on the ground and first floors, and for the retail area. In all three spaces, they opted to retain aspects relating to the history of the building whilst introducing new themes appropriate to its change of use.
Both the Oyster Bar and the Restaurant refer directly to the building's association with tyres and, in particular, to Bibendum, the Michelin man. Both are named after him and take advantage of every opportunity to reflect his corpulent profile. Both the Restaurant and the Oyster Bar continue to retain strong French overtones, with a clear emphasis on quality and style. The new Michelin Building is now every bit as concerned with modernity, efficiency, quality and style today as it was when it first opened in 1911, nearly a century ago.