To optimise workspace and minimise impact on the primary elevations – the reason for the building’s listed status – the existing vertical circulation and services were removed from the floor plates and relocated in a single core, creating a modern ‘rear’ to the building. The new core is the most complex part of the scheme and drew on the practice’s significant experience in innovative office refurbishment. Its steel frame and concrete composite deck structure is clad with brickwork to the Whitcomb Court elevation and a stick-system curtain walling to the internal courtyard elevation. The link ‘squares off’ the three main facades, extending vertically from the second floor offices to fifth floor level. By improving circulation and creating an attractive light-well, it makes viable this otherwise non-functional area of the building.
The removal of all vertical services and access from the original floorplates provides flexible, open-plan accommodation with unobstructed views across each floor and aspect through primary elevations. The existing building’s tight floor-to-ceiling heights were maximised by a simple 60mm suspended ceiling with recessed lights and a shallow 100mm floor void to carry services. Extensive refurbishment and restoration of the façades saw brickwork and stone cleaned, original features restored and fenestration at ground floor level altered to accommodate replica windows and a new glazed frontage to modernise the new entrances. A chimney and lift overrun rationalises the previously cluttered roofscape.
The fifth floor storage area’s openable window lights were inadequate for new workspaces. Westminster City Council welcomed a solution which involved dropping the existing sloping mansard roof gradient locally to the windows – providing adequate daylight and maintaining the integrity of the existing roof profile. Artwork by Mark Pimlott gives distinction to what was an inhospitable alleyway.