“The building that now stands on the site aspires to everything the company ever desired when we made the decision to develop this site. It is a wonderful addition to Soho.”
S P Silver, Executive Director, Derwent Valley
Bespoke office buildings, like Lloyd’s of London or Lloyds Register, are often mould-breakers. The speculative development sector tends to be more cautious and certainly less likely to challenge planning constraints, which reduce the potential for innovative design. In this light, Broadwick House comes as something of a surprise.
The building was commissioned by a developer and stands in the Soho conservation area, where straightforwardly ‘contextual’ design had previously been the norm. The planning negotiations for the project were protracted but the result is a strikingly contemporary structure that enhances the neighbourhood.
The site is on a corner of a city block, with thoroughfares on all four sides. To the east, it abuts Berwick Street, with one of London’s best-known street markets. Neighbouring buildings range from Georgian town houses to 1960s high rise flats and 1980s Post-Modernist office blocks. Into this diverse scenario, the practice’s scheme introduces an element of calm, rationality and urbanity. By concentrating service cores on the western edge of the block, clear, well-lit and highly transparent office floors are created behind fully glazed façades. Energy efficiency is ensured with the provision of solar performance glazing, in conjunction with external shading devices and motorised blinds. Ground floor façades are set back to facilitate passage along the crowded streets – ground floor and basement areas are allocated for retail and restaurant use, whilst at the fifth floor, the building steps back to provide outdoor terraces. The most distinctive element of the scheme is the double-height space set below the great arched roof, affording spectacular views over London’s West End. The glazed lift tower on Broadwick Street is a memorable urban marker, a celebration of movement typical of Richard Rogers Partnership.
The upper and lower ground floors have been turned into Yauatcha, the latest project by restauranteur Alan Yau, creator of the Wagamama restaurant chain.
The building is designed as a contemporary landmark that makes a significant contribution to the Soho streetscape.
The primary driver of the architectural concept is an unprecedented level of transparency on the upper and lower ground levels, allowing previously unachievable views through the building, made possible by the fact that the island site is bounded on all four sides by public thoroughfares. The secondary focus of the concept is the large curving double-height space at the top of the building that mediates between two different urban scales. In between these two elements, is the block of clearly expressed large open floorplates that benefit from high levels of natural light from all four sides.
In keeping with the constraints of the Conservation Area requirements, the building mass is carefully placed to have a minimal impact on the surrounding streets, while creating an appropriate transition in scale suggested by the adjacent buildings. Adjacent to the principal corner formed by Berwick and Broadwick Streets, the tall lift tower element focuses the main building height on Broadwick Street while the curved roof structure, containing a double-height studio space commanding spectacular views across the West End, creates the transition in height through to the setback that defines the three main articulated facades that turn the site corners.
The building is composed of ‘served’ space, consisting of the occupied floorplates, and ‘servant’ space which provides essential support to the floorplates in the form of circulation, wet areas and general services.
These elements are distinctly expressed in the architectural composition. The floorplates or ‘served’ space, are arranged as a stack of efficient, glazed volumes utilising a simple structural system to create high quality flexible office space allowing for maximum daylight penetration. The facade expresses the clear floor to ceiling glazing, the consistent 1.5 metre planning grid and the capacity to cellularise the accommodation as required.
The secondary services, or ‘servant’ spaces, comprised of lifts, stairs and toilets are placed on the boundary adjacent to the blank wall of neighbouring Trenchard House. The principal vertical tower, with its dramatic glazed passenger lifts, lends a strong sense of identity to the building and can be clearly seen from both the Broadwick and Berwick Street approaches. Additional service cores are expressed as distinct tower elements on Hopkins Street. All of the circulation and services are given further clarity through a system of colour-coding and elemental zoning.
In keeping with the high level of activity at ground level, especially the retail areas of the Berwick Street Market, the shops, cafes and restaurants of Broadwick Street and the nearby Carnaby Street shopping precinct, the ground level of Broadwick House is set back to allow for an increased public realm on three sides. This experience is enhanced by a high level of visibility through the ground level spaces.
In response to the innovative and forward-thinking environmental criteria, the building is entirely cooled by a passive chilled beam system, one of the first complete systems to be implemented in London. Overall, the building has significantly lower energy consumption compared to other similarly sized buildings. Broadwick House is also designed to enable the key environmental systems to be updated and improved, tracking technological developments over the life span of the building. A further important aspect of the environmental response is the provision of louvres and external blinds to each of the facades, which respond to localised conditions of solar gain, views, privacy and overlooking.
The construction process was complicated by the difficulty of accessing the site from the narrow adjacent streets and the fact that the Berwick Street Market had to continue operating throughout the construction programme.
This resulted in limited vehicle access, limited scope for street craning and much-reduced facilities for temporary works to be carried out on site. In addition, the location affected the size of components that could be brought to the site and the times that they could be delivered – construction traffic had to avoid the area during most daylight hours. As a result, many of the components, including the facade systems, ceilings, stairs, toilets and floors were designed and assembled to a strict planning module, enabling suppliers to partly complete components off site, therefore reducing the storage requirements and on-site fabrication.
The high level of commitment on the part of the client and the design team, as well as special variations to the standard procurement route, meant that the design was developed with direct input from the main contractor to resolve all of the associated logistical issues, as well as maintaining high quality and cost assurances.
The fit-out of the building’s interior was undertaken by design studio Imagination who have worked with Ford for many years on motor-show displays. Imagination, in association with the architect and the occupier, ensured that all aspects of the interior design, including the furniture, are entirely compatible with the architecture.
Yasmin Al-Ani Spence
ClientDerwent Valley Holdings PLC
£ 6 900 000
Gross Floor Area
Ove Arup & Partners
Davis Langdon & Everest
Buro Four Project
John Sisk & Son