A series of four buildings dating back to the 1890s has been turned into a single and contemporary workspace unit.
Words by Emily Martin
Client: Lazari Investments
Architect: Forme UK Design and Architecture
Size: 5,110 sq m
Duration: Six months
Forme UK Design and Architecture was tasked with transforming four inter-connected buildings into a single commercial building. Dating from 1893, 1895, 1907 and 1930, the buildings had been used for storing samples for retailer Debenhams, being accessible from its Oxford Street flagship store through a tunnel to the four buildings on Wimpole Street.
In the minimally styled reception, guests are greeted by a highly polished reception desk and ‘lines of light’ cut into the walls and ceiling
Today, the site of the listed buildings provides contemporary workplace accommodation, with Forme UK following a design brief to deliver a scheme that reflects the buildings’ heritage. But providing open-plan working for contemporary business needs was a major challenge for the design team, which had to resolve differing floor levels across the mixed building stock.
The open space of the now-unified interior of the three buildings
The project involved extensive structural amendments, including the removal of existing internal masonry walls, stairs and lift shafts to open out the space. ‘Care was [also] taken to preserve and expose existing beam structures to the upper levels, and the building was cleaned and repaired to its original condition,’ says Mark Twigg, director at Forme UK. Original window and other fenestration features were carefully updated and retained, with Forme UK replacing single panes with double-glazed units, for example, while maintaining the original design intent.
Looking up into the lightwell, featuring Atrium’s I. Rain
Forme UK created a new reception space by annexing an existing lightwell that provides natural daylight and space for the new glass lifts, new WC cores and roof terraces at two levels.
The four internally connected buildings on Wimpole Street date between 1893 and 1930
‘The reception space in now bathed in great natural daylight, which penetrates from roof level to the ground floor,’ explains Twigg. ‘The new lift core running through to the reception gives the building a central core function that unites each of the buildings’ wings at the upper levels.’ The main circulation stairwell also allows light through the building’s core, while also featuring a striking lighting feature from Atrium called I.Rain.
Designed by Thierry Gaugain, it cascades down. Guests are greeted in the reception by highly polished surfaces, with feature ‘lines of light’ cutting through wall and ceiling, a re-occurring feature of the building interior space. ‘The overall reception concept and narrative throughout the common core spaces and building generally was based around the idea of lines of circulation and connectivity in the different building types that have now been linked,’ adds Twigg.
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