The Battleship Building

London. 2001

  • Project Details
  • Completion: 2001
  • Cost: £10 Million
  • Clients: Monsoon Accessorize / Wymore

What is now known as the Battleship Building is in fact two distinct buildings – an office/workshop (the Battleship) and a vehicle depot (the Rotunda) – connected by the Westway gyratory. At the Battleship, the conversion from maintenance depot for British Rail into flexible workplace interweaves past, present and future to continue the building’s original long-life, loose-fit approach. The enigmatic grade II* listed landmark is transformed internally to reveal its heroic concrete volumes; a three-storey slate-floored atrium is carved out of the original slabs and a mezzanine floor inserted. Externally, the prominent funnels and Japanese mosaic cladding are restored to their former glory and new double and secondary glazed windows are added to Bicknell & Hamilton’s ribbon strips, preserving the extant fenestration grid and pattern while upgrading internal environmental control. The neighbouring Rotunda Building, a racetrack-shaped building defined by and sitting below the level of the Harrow Road roundabout, is stripped back to its shell, given a new roof and transformed into 4,000 square metres of office space for Nissan’s Design and Research Centre. The Battleship is multi-let; it was initially reinvented to become Monsoon/Accessorize’s headquarters, but the company’s subsequent growth led to their relocation a few years later into the AHMM-designed Yellow Building.


Royal Fine Arts Commission trust Awards: Building of the Year 2002

This project involved the refurbishment of the previous British Rail Headquarters buildings sited beside the eastbound carriageway of the A40 Westway in Paddington.  Originally designed by Bicknell & Hamilton the buildings were completed in 1969 and Grade II* Listed in the early 1990s after a successful campaign to prevent their demolition.  The buildings were derelict for many years often used for illegal raves but to many travellers on the Westway they remained a modernist icon.

The job was won through competitive interview with the clients Wymore (building owner) and Monsoon Accessorize (tenant) in January 2000.  Wymore’s brief was to completely refurbish both buildings to allow flexible tenancies to exist in the future.  Monsoon Accessorize, the single let tenant for 179 Harrow Road, required a fit-out to accommodate new office headquarter facilities which would reunite their existing 2 offices spilt between Ladbroke Grove and Perivale.

179 Harrow Road has been completely refurbished, brought back to life and given new purpose as the bright, contemporary and unusual new working space for the 200-plus Monsoon Accessorize head office staff. The building provides 3,000m² of primarily open plan office space with the use of chilled beams for air conditioning/heating and lighting fixed to high level exposed concrete soffits.   A staff restaurant resides on the 4th floor almost within touching distance of the Westway.  

Internally, redundant space has been opened up to spectacular effect; new technologies have reclaimed old plant room areas turning them into majestic office spaces.  Other key moves include the insertion of a triple height void in the reception area, which unifies the lower floor spaces and presents Monsoon Accessorize’s open working environment to visitors.  

The neighbouring Rotunda Building, an unusual oval building defined by and sitting just below the level of the Harrow Road roundabout next to 179 Harrow Road has been refurbished to shell status providing 4,000m² of office space. The original zinc roof has been stripped and replaced to match the original but with the provision of insulation to upgrade to modern standards.  The two buildings are no longer linked at ground level but both are reached by pedestrians via the adjacent Regents Canal towpath. As the final stage of the project a new footbridge over the canal is to be constructed.

With Grade II* Listed status and inclusion on English Heritage’s At ‘Risk’ registry, the project required much consultation with Westminster City Council to ensure the refurbishment proposals were approved.  The project was also considered within the greater context of the neighbouring large scale redevelopment of Bishopsgate Goods Yard.

Externally the dramatic concrete frame has been cleaned of graffiti and the cream mosaics originating from Japan, restored to their former glory.  The strong horizontal banding of perimeter windows have been replaced with double glazed units and a secondary line of glazing installed to improve acoustics.  Internally the blue mosaics of the original organic shaped main staircase have been cleaned and repaired and the original boarded concrete left exposed where possible.

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