Like many commissions, this project was won in competition against some of London’s most established practices. The site comprises an urban island site with only a relatively narrow frontage facing Strand. The longest aspects are to Arundel Street, which runs from Strand to the river, and Milford Lane to the east, which abounds the Inns of Court. The site was occupied by an oppressive, high concrete slab block and its removal was an opportunity to positively contribute to the Conservation Area and the immediately adjacent Grade 1 Listed St Clements Dane Church and The Royal Courts of Justice.
With a brief for a residential building above retail street frontages, the challenge for the new architecture was to reflect the civic character of the grand London streets of Aldwych and Strand, yet express the domestic use. The nearest paradigms are Parisian mansions blocks. Some key elements in the a reading of this Beaux Arts tradition are vertical hierarchy, a simple street rhythm, expression of self-contained blocks and a strong roof zone. In additional, decorative metal work and ground floor public colonnades are found in the site context and help evoke the contrast of scale or, indeed, help combine both the small scale of private balconies and the public scale of the streets.
While composed as a site with four frontages, the development form is a S-shape series of urban blocks arranged around two courtyards and connected by an internal colonnade. The urban form is strengthened with facades tight to the back of pavement. Each building block has a layered façade of stone, metalwork and glass composed with a vertical hierarchy that reflects the changing topography of the site. Overlaid to this are laser cut metal filigree balustrades. The copyrighted pattern, called STRAND, was developed as a repeat motif, to counterpoint and be developed as a theme, throughout the building. Wherever it is used it is the foreground to a view out of the apartments so becomes an ‘overlay’ of the London streetscape.
The filigree, as a motif and a technique, is also used to create the ‘mansard’ roof form, providing a veil to the residential terraces behind. These elements underwent extensive R&D to ensure that the material, colours and pattern would be correctly perceived from close up and from longer urban viewpoints. Percentage of void, size or aperture, and the scale of the repeat, were all considered through the development process along with more prosaic matters like cleaning and wind noise.
To the less civic streets the architecture responds, as London buildings do, by reverting to brick as a more modest material to reflect the texture and colour of the local, narrow alleyways. The balconies and large glazed areas to Milford Lane are angled north to allow, and to acknowledge, St Clements Danes. The proposal controversially removed an entire street that divided the site whilst widening and enhancing the historic Tweezers Alley to the southern boundary. Landscaping and public realm has been an important part of the project nowhere more so than to the street fronting the Inns and in the new colonnade to Arundel Street which will contain a large restaurant and pavement artwork by renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy. Single surfaced roads allow better access to local pubs and cafes in the narrow streets and tie into the language of the lanes running through the Inns.
Underpinning the accommodation in a 4 storey basement including a leisure facility, swimming pool, business centre and energy centre.