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INTERNAL REFIT FOR ERSKINE'S ARK

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AGENDA

Practice DN-A has won an extraordinary commission - to totally transform the internal structure of Ralph Erskine's famous west London icon, The Ark.

Developers GE Real Estate, Landid, and O and H Property have taken on the Richmondbased practice, which was set up by three former Aukett directors, to look at ways to make the landmark building easier to let.

Despite being one of the capital's most recognisable ofces, The Ark has had a far from successful commercial history. It has only been let for four of the years since completion in 1989.

The accepted argument is that, despite its iconic status, the letable ratio of the office space in the Hammersmith building is completely untenable in the current market.

DN-A's solution is to rearrange the oorplates of the interior. The key move is to remove a stand-alone structure in its massive lobby called 'the village', which was added to Erskine's design at a late stage.

At present, the higher oors are surprisingly small given the volume of the building. DN-A's solution will see some of these extended into the space taken up by the voluminous atrium (see plans, right). The changes will see the oor space increased from approximately 13,000m 2 to 15,000m 2.One of the advantages of Erskine's designs is that the building was largely overengineered - a move that will allow for the easy addition of the extra floor space.

The practice argues that its designs will retain a sympathy for the original building, creating two volumes at either end which resemble, in plan, a 'keyhole' form. These spaces will allow all oors a view up to the dramatic roof.

The top two levels will retain many of their amazing vistas up to the ship-inspired roof-structure. DN-A foresees these oors as being premium space for the rental market.

Other changes include plans to create a 'proper reception', which the original design failed to do.

Interestingly, DN-A believes that all these proposals will not have to go through the planning process because they are purely internal, a move that improves the nances of the project.

The practice believes that the building is not commercially sustainable as it stands. If it were to go through planning, the architect would argue that the building would have to change if it is to remain.

There is little likelihood that the extraordinary building will be spot listed, although DN-A admits that there is a small chance that conservationists may try to stop the changes.

As a result of this situation, the exterior of the building will be completely untouched by the work. While the practice would like to transform the entrance, it claims to be largely happy with the facade, which, with its copper cladding, will continue to turn green in the years to come.

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