Goddard Littlefair designed a new Marketing Suite within the former Grade II listed County Hall building for Braeburn Estates Partnership. The suite will serve as the sales and marketing hub for the launch of the luxury residential offer that forms part of the new Southbank Place development.
This major new scheme (scheduled for completion in 2019) will bring high-end, riverside living (as well as integrated office and commercial space and affordable housing) to the heart of London's South Bank, with the majority of the new apartments afforded views out across the Thames to the House of Commons and the great institutions of Whitehall.
Southbank Place, located between Westminster and Hungerford Bridges and bordered by the River Thames and Belvedere Road, will be made up of eight new buildings, together with the retained and refurbished Shell Tower. The overall development, one of the largest in central London at over 2 million sq ft, has been master-planned by Squire and Partners and seeks to re-vitalise the area with high-quality architecture and much-improved public spaces, as well as creating new pedestrian routes connecting Waterloo Station with the South Bank, including a widened Chicheley Street on the approach to the London Eye, plus a new city square at the heart of the scheme.
Marketing Suite Commission
The commission to Goddard Littlefair for the design of the Southbank Place Marketing Suite is in addition to an earlier commission to design two spas, public spaces and luxury residential interiors schemes, forming later phases of this landmark development.
"The marketing suite heralds a new design approach," commented Goddard Littlefair Director and Co-Founder Jo Littlefair, "with a concept that is immersive in character, giving an essence of what clients will be able to purchase and communicating an instant feeling of exclusivity."
History of the Space
The Marketing Suite is located on the first floor of the former County Hall building (with a ground floor entrance area) and occupies spaces once used by the GLC (Greater London Council), including the former private offices of GLC Leader Ken Livingstone.
After the disbanding of the GLC, the space served in the interim years as the Headquarters of The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, but has been empty since the charity ceased direct operations in 2012.
Listed Building Status
The six-storey County Hall building, originally designed by Ralph Knott and built using Portland stone, was opened by King George V in 1922 and added to with new North and South blocks between 1936 and '39. It is currently Grade II-listed.
Goddard Littlefair worked alongside a heritage officer appointed by Lambeth Council on the scheme in order to ensure that all significant aspects of the original building were not only respected, but also restored to the highest possible standards - and even added to in some instances, using new features that achieve a level of seamless integration with the historic fabric of the building. The main element to be worked with and around was the site's original timber-panelling, which was expertly restored, but could not be used structurally in any way.
"The heritage elements were an interesting - and sometimes challenging - aspect of the project," commented Goddard Littlefair Director and Co-founder Martin Goddard. "Although we were always aware which elements were listed and had to be retained, there was inevitably more to find out once the project went on site, revealing the underlying structure and its real state-of-health!"
The brief to Goddard Littlefair for the Marketing Suite was to create a level of luxury detailing that would instantly communicate the quality of finishes of the final development. Almost every element of furniture and decorative lighting within the scheme has been designed by Goddard Littlefair, which is typical of the agency's approach. The scheme's architectural lighting, particularly in the exhibition area, was created together with lighting designers DesignPlusLight.
A rich palette of colours and texture was created for the furniture and fabrics to ensure an elegant and assured final scheme. Jo Littlefair trained initially as a textile designer and her passion for fabrics very much prevails here: "Combinations of fabrics that have a real integrity are a passion of mine, from wool fabric that drapes beautifully to the depth of tone that only comes from true silks - or leathers that have been finished to reveal the beauty of their natural skins."
Potential buyers arrive at the suite for pre-booked appointments, approaching through the building's principal entrance on the south side of Westminster Bridge and turning left down a small marble stair, before entering through an original, but enhanced double-door into a stone-clad lobby area. The entrance stair down into the lobby has been given a new bronze handrail, which references the design of the existing entrance door's handles for a fully integrated, always-been-there feel, typical of the heritage aspect of the scheme.
Goddard Littlefair dressed the lobby space (which also serves other offices in the same building) as part of the project, restoring all its original finishes, including cleaning the stonework and repairing the terrazzo floor; refurbishing the clock and gilding the ceilings, decorating the floors with new rugs for an instant residential feel and installing new lighting, including a bespoke feature light in the centre of the room. A new reception counter was installed, whilst the timber staircase to the next floor features a new carpet runner and bronze stair rods for further residential emphasis, whilst its walls have been lined with new paper and paintwork.
A real sense of arrival is most emphatically given, however, by a stunning, bespoke, 6m-high chandelier, which hangs down into the stair void and is anchored five storeys above. The chandelier, designed and detailed by Goddard Littlefair, is made up of sixteen interlinking crystal circles with LED lighting and took four days to hang, necessitating the installation of a new steel brace at the stairwell head to support its weight.
At the top of the stair glazed entrance doors are framed by bespoke installations in the form of mirrored inset panels at both sides and also above the doors. These were created from sandblasted, gilded verre eglomisé and feature an English rose garden design created by an artist to a brief from Goddard Littlefair.
Inside, the U-shaped 1,207 sq m suite is made up of a series of individual rooms linked by an existing, integrated corridor. Visitors arrive at a dedicated reception and waiting lounge, where they are welcomed, shown brochures and offered refreshments. The receptionist is housed behind a curved desk in front of a refurbished fireplace, whilst various configurations of bespoke seating and tables form the lounge and waiting areas. A stunning new pendant light has been specially-created for the room, along with four bespoke joinery units in the corners to frame the space, which are beautifully-detailed with gilted linear shelves and a curved line pattern detail. The units are multi-purpose, serving both as drinks units and display areas for books and artwork accessories, whilst cleverly concealing heating and cooling systems at the top shelf level. To minimise the intrusion of modern technology, a TV screen is set behind mirrored glass, to be used when required for presentation films. Two WCs are also located opposite this room, whilst a back-of-house space is located on the far side of the reception.
Visitors are taken onwards from reception to a series of exhibition rooms, set along the light-filled west face of the building, overlooking the Thames. En route, they pass through a hallway lined with display panels set into in a series of five window bays, which show the history of the South Bank and its buildings, underscoring the development's cultural and historical context.
In a further piece of 'heritage inclusion' design, all the radiators along the corridor and throughout the first floor space have been refurbished. Some radiators had existing casings, whilst others were missing and so they were all re-aligned via restored or new casings to match the panelling they sit beneath, whether painted or veneered. The new casings were delivered to site raw and primed and then painted or polished in situ to ensure the highest possible quality.
The exhibition area visitors now come to is made up of three individual rooms, where potential buyers can view the scheme and layouts for the residential areas in the form of fine-detail models or panels.
"This aspect of the commission was challenging and drove through some very interesting concepts," Jo Littlefair commented. "The difficulty presented by the listed building status meant that the display structure could not affect the existing space and led us to propose a freestanding display structure."
For a high-end feel, the self-supporting structure was designed in steel and clad in timber with leather panels, brass rod detailing and backlighting, before being fixed to the walls with non-permanent bracing. The ceilings were painted black so that they effectively disappear from view and a major new ceiling raft detail was put in, using a steel structure clad in timber with lightweight steel details. Also, to make the three rooms equal size (as briefed), non-structural internal walls had to be taken out, meaning that some panelling and flooring had to be replicated to ensure a seamless look and feel, creating further improved 'original' structure for future use.
Visitors start in the central exhibition room, where they are given an overview of the site via a 2 by 2 meters site model (created by Kandor), which shows the London Eye and all the buildings in the development, whilst the panels feature a large image introducing the scheme's principal architects and interior designers.
Initially, the sales focus of the suite are the residential apartments within the One York Square buildings (numbers 4a and 4b). Visitors will be taken on from the central exhibition space to the York exhibition room, where exquisitely detailed models (also by Kandor) show apartment layouts and spas. The additional building models in these rooms are also interactive, with individual apartments able to be highlighted to show their exact location, footplate and aspects. Highly-detailed CGI images also reveal the proposed interior design of each apartment.
The next part of the buyer journey is to visit mock-ups of the apartments themselves, along the final section of the three-sided space. The mock-ups start with a full-sized kitchen and bathroom, balcony and circular main space from the One York Square development (where interior design is by Johnson Naylor). Goddard Littlefair liaised with Johnson Naylor on the integration of the mock-up to ensure design integrity with the rest of the Marketing Suite.
The final part of the visit takes place in the closing rooms, located at the end of the exhibition corridor. It is here that deals are sealed and the finer detail of finishes palettes selected. The closing rooms feature refurbished fireplaces and bespoke tables, chairs, rugs and soft furnishings by Goddard Littlefair, as well as special joinery units that conceal heating and cooling units, as before, plus drinks cabinets that also serve as storage areas for samples boards.
The One York Square closing room features full-height timber panelling, with inset fabric-wrapped panels added into the recesses to soften the aesthetics and help with acoustics, attached using a special tape that doesn't affect the surface beneath. All existing wood panels were stripped back and then re-polished by a crack team of specialist French-polishers. Flooring throughout is original parquet, which was stripped and re-sanded and also repaired, with any gaps re-filled.
"The flooring was a particularly satisfying element of the restoration process," commented Martin Goddard. "A very small layer of the wood was removed initially and the resulting wood dust mixed with resin to fill in any gaps where the wood has moved over the years. The resulting floor was then re-polished and, of course, as the dust comes from the same wood, it matches the original colour exactly and the result is absolutely seamless."
The second closing room, for later stages of the project, is the grandest of all the rooms in the suite and once served as the office of Ken Livingstone in the days of the GLC, with a 5m-high front elevation overlooking the Thames and luxurious new curtains dressing the windows.
Off this room is a boardroom with bespoke lights, which is served by a small dedicated kitchenette/pantry and can also be used as a further closing room if needed.
Photos: Gareth Gardner