Horseferry House

London. 2008

  • Project Details
  • Completion: 2008
  • Cost: £21 Million
  • Clients: Derwent London plc

Horseferry House reinvents an imposing 1930s government office building into a sophisticated HQ for a world-renowned fashion company. The inside of an existing seven-storey island-site building is gutted, and its lower levels carved into to reintegrate it with the street by creating double-height entrance portals and a naturally-lit lower basement. An existing internal courtyard – previously under-utilised – and a lightwell are topped with ETFE pillows and transformed into two new full-height atriums, becoming hubs of light and movement. Both are animated by black metal link bridges that serve not just as thoroughfares but as breakout spaces in their own right. Cantilevering metal-framed break-out spaces (pop-outs) and glazed ceiling extensions connecting to the roof terraces (pop-ups) increase space and lighting levels on the seventh floor. The conversion – initially designed as a speculative office development but then pre-let in full to Burberry – has resulted in 150,000 square feet of flexible and high quality office space.

Horseferry House is a refurbished speculative office building in Westminster. Derwent London purchased the building in 2005 with a view to refurbishing and creating high quality office accommodation facilities for a number of tenants. The redesign has created an outstanding contemporary office building centred around a dramatic atrium space animated by light and movement. The scheme was prelet and is now the headquarters of leading global fashion brand Burberry.

Built in the 1934 in two stages, Horseferry House is an elegant but robust steel framed brick and sandstone building built around a central atrium. It was formerly owned and occupied by the Government and due to years of low investment it had become somewhat dilapidated. Building upon special characteristics of the building, the scheme maximised and made efficient use of its latent potential by balancing capital costs, physical and planning constraints, value and time without affecting the external bulk and massing of the island site.

Works to the existing building were concentrated in three particular areas. The first involved the design of a new ground facade and its careful reintegration into the existing city fabric. The building’s glazing was covered in impenetrable bronze anti bomb film and a number of bays were walled up to above eye level therefore one of the aspirations was to open the ground floor facade, to engage with the street and the surrounding community, this also provided an opportunity to naturally light the lower ground floor by creating voids in the ground floor and creating drama with the resulting double height spaces.

This new glazed area included renovations to the existing Western entrance bay, ground and first floor as well as the four bays to the north. Secondly, all existing windows at the ground floor as well as the associated steel infill /stall riser screens were replaced. Finally, a cohesive design solution emphasised each entrance portal with a steel lining washed with light. The sandstone base at ground and first floor was cleaned so reveal the material’s original, extraordinary colour.

Internally, existing lift and stair cores were combined with wc’s and escape stairs and were moved into the central court. This freed up a significant amount of floor area for office. The existing internal courtyard, previously under-utilised, was transformed into a stunning new atrium and reception and covered with an ETFE roof. By making the ground floor inhabitable, this new space created a hub around which all spaces within the building were connected. This space is activated by movement over the bridges that transverse this space and by the changing weather and light conditions.

These ideas of connectivity and movement are emphasized through the choice of materials. The stairs have clear screens in front of them adding to the expression of movement and the bridges contain frosted glass lens set into pre cast concrete panels that allow refracted light and shadows to animate the space. The atrium itself is clad in white render as a cost-effective and neutral material.

The smaller lightwell also has clear ETFE pillows at the top to allow light into the offices and is occupied on the lower ground floor by an office lit by a glazed ceiling. The lightwell also has bridges that span the space providing connections and informal breakout spaces. These bridges swap sides every other floor to achieve a greater felling of height, space and light.

The office spaces were refurbished to a high specification with a 123mm raised access floor, ceilings and walls plastered and finished in white emulsion, lighting mounted to downstand beams, secondary office lighting provision with high level power containment, a fully integrated VRF / VRV system and an occupancy for means of escape 1 person per 10m². Integrating these into an existing building offered a number of challenges and a number of options on all variables were mocked up to determine the appropriate standard. Similarly the wc's, such a key indicator to the aspirations and standards set by the developer and tenant, were also mocked up, lessons were learned and applied to the final installations. All the windows were replaced as the existing ones were in a state of disrepair. The new windows matched the design of the existing as part of the conservation of the original buildings character.

The top floor is traditionally the most exclusive part of a building affording the best light and views. However at Horseferry House, the seventh floor office has the lowest floor to soffit heights. This was mitigated by a series of pop outs and the pop ups which lead to private terraces. The pop outs are cantilevered break out spaces that protrude into the atrium and light well. The pop ups provide access to the terraces via a stair case and additional light whilst also giving a more generous feeling to the height of the floor.

Horseferry House has reinvented a tired, but elegant, London city building into a lively office headquarters for a highly sophisticated tenant. The scheme maximises space and light to create a vibrant hub of activity which is reflected in a reinvigorated street presence.

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