In 1959, the Smithsons were commissioned to design a new headquarters for The Economist magazine in Piccadilly. Inspired by the narrow lanes and courts of the old City of London, they created an elegantly spacious pedestrian plaza as a trio of finely detailed towers, each built on a different scale, clad in traditional Portland stone. The office interiors were based on their lengthy research into the working practices of The Economist journalists. At the opening the editor Sir Geoffrey Crowther said that the staff had felt 'trepidation' on first meeting the Smithsons but took 'leave of them now with awe and affection'.
The success of The Economist project secured a commission for the new British Embassy in Brasilia. Alison and Peter produced their design after conducting yet more rigorous research - this time into how the embassy's staff worked. One senior diplomat described their scheme as an 'embassy of great beauty and certainly the most efficient embassy building ever conceived'.