100 Pall Mall has been given a sensitive refurbishment that pays homage to the Stripped Classicism of the original design
Heritage buildings have a lot to offer contemporary workplaces – think soaring ceilings, luxurious materials, and impressive detailing that would be almost unthought of today. But there are, of course, myriad challenges to be faced. When Julia Hamson, founder of 4 S Architecture took on the refurbishment of 100 Pall Mall, a managed workplace in a Grade II building in central London, she turned to the original building for inspiration.
“There’s an extra level of detail that is found in these older buildings – it’s a more refined craftsmanship that often gets value engineered out of new builds,” says Hamson. “ There’s a sense of history and character that is more unique and so different to the way that offices are done today.”
100 Pall Mall was constructed in 1959 to replace bomb-damaged property, and was designed by renowned classicist Donald McMorran, co-founder of McMorran & Whitby. While the building was listed in 1995, the original interiors had already undergone significant alterations that were looking tired and dated after nearly three decades.
“It had a lot going on and was very visually noisy – it was the ugly duckling of the clients’ portfolio,” says Hamson. “The client wanted to refresh the reception and common areas, including the staircase, lift lobbies, and toilets to appeal to the contemporary office worker. It was a question of how to make it lighter and brighter and our first step was understanding the DNA of the original.”
Through research, it was discovered that the central reception area was previously a corridor and the two spaces on either side – which form a transept – were office spaces. As these areas were no longer original, 4 S Architecture had carte blanche to reimagine the space. During construction, it was also revealed that the low ceilings in the side areas actually concealed impressively high ceilings.
“It was just sitting there all boxed in,” says Hamson. “We activated quickly on site with the contractor and managed to get the client on board to change the design half way through construction to make two big barrel vaulted arches in the transept as well.”
The rejuvenated interiors are designed within the same Stripped Classicism style of the original, with the vaulted arch from the original interior used as a motif throughout – most notably the niches behind the reception, the seating area beside the reception, and the arched mirrors in the bathrooms.
To reduce visual clutter, all new materials echo the existing, from the green panelling that picks up on the green marble throughout and the terrazzo in the bathrooms that evokes the panelling on the stairs, to the brass detailing.
The lighting, however, arguably makes the biggest impact. Passersby on Pall Mall can catch a glimpse of a moon-shaped pendant hanging in the central vault – ”as if the moon has been captured and held in the reception,” says Hamson – and a rather odd tasselled chandelier of unknown origin in the lift lobby has been replaced by three luminous ceiling panels that transform the once dark space into an inviting, light-filled connection hub.
“We wanted to create a refined, elegant and luxurious atmosphere that had more of a hospitality feel than a conventional workplace,” says Hamson. “Our new insertions echo those already in place to create a harmonious whole.”
The intention was to strip out the grey stone floor that had been laid over the original stone flooring, however it turned out to have been irredeemably damaged by the past installation of flood lights.
“You never know what you’re going to find when you start peeling back layers of past interventions,” says Hamson. To preserve the history of the site, 4 S Architecture undertook a detailed survey of the floor and mapped the pattern of the stones. The original floor was then covered by a protective layer and new, more robust floor was laid on top, with a subtle pattern that pays homage to the original beneath.
Another challenge was how to integrate sustainability into the building, given that the majority of the fabric is already in place and protected by the Grade II listing. So, most of the new materials that have been introduced have impressive green credentials. Take, for example, the lush green carpet that snakes up the stairs from the lower ground floor to the seventh floor. Sourced from Ege Carpets, it uses 146.08kg of regenerated nylon, which is made from old carpets and discarded fishing nets. LED lighting, 100% recycled aluminium entry systems, and sustainable paint have also been used.
As a result of these interventions, tenancy has dramatically improved in the building, the occupants have pride in their workplace, and visitors get an impressive first impression. “If you’re careful and sensitive, you can make quite significant and radical changes to listed buildings,” says Hamson. “Stripping back the space and bringing it to life with a new vision that pays homage to the original was so rewarding. It feels so calming and as if the new interventions just belong there.”
Images by Henry Woide
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