Interacting with Heritage Buildings

We are experts in the re-interpretation of existing buildings with a specialism for working with heritage assets.

Throughout the lifetime of the practice, we have often been asked to design new spaces for old and precious buildings. We are passionate about the architecture of all eras, from the concrete modernism of Denis Lasdun, who’s 1972 library for the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies we have refurbished - to high-urban Georgian townhouses, neo-classical public buildings, and country estates.

This experience has given us a real knowledge of the sensitive and creative realisation of contemporary space in historic buildings of quality. The refurbishment projects that we have engaged with are all within special buildings – often listed, and all cherished by their owners and communities that use and enjoy them. As an architect this is quite a responsibility, which necessitates extra care, dedication to the building and research.

Our fundamental approach is to remove any unnecessary accruements to the original fabric, then repair and re-layer with new additions in a way that does not harm the building. Heritage buildings must be retrofitted in such a way that ensures that interventions can be easily removed at a future date. In our view, this is the essence of successful heritage refurbishment.

For the comprehensive refurbishment of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Lasdun’s Grade II listed Charles Clore House, the accumulated fixtures and fittings were removed to showcase the original exposed concrete finishes while the reorganisation of the library, administration and academic research spaces are upgraded, but still speak the language of the original materials. And for the new Object Based Learning Room within UCL’s Grade 1listed Wilkins Building, the project required an advanced technical specification, with high quality lighting, audio visual, data connectivity and air conditioning. Our innovative solution was to introduce a completely new ceiling raft constructed from lightweight steel trusses and timber. This structure is supported by two new storage pods at each end of the room which does not require suspension or support from the ceiling or walls. This principle protects the historic fabric of the room and provides a concealed network for the technical specification. It is essentially a removeable object within the room, that has minimal impact on the listed building – a fully reversible intervention.

Applying sustainable design solutions to historic buildings is a very specific technical process, and one that requires a great deal of investigation and research of the existing fabric. A significant proportion of our work involves the re-use of existing buildings, often this is not for the initial purpose for which they were designed. The benefits of this in terms of minimising the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions is clear.