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FIRST LOOK

Apt adapts central London building into residential development

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The £30 million central London scheme has retained the existing building’s original façade, designed by Gibson and Russell in the 1800s

Chapter House in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials Conservation Area has been adapted by Apt to provide 40 new apartments.

The building was originally designed by architect Gibson and Russell in the late 19th century, but had been unoccupied for many years because of its tight site. Londonewcastle was appointed development managers on the project in early 2016.

The architect has retained the existing building’s street-facing façade, demolishing the building behind to allow for a new structure to appropriate the site more efficiently.

A two-storey extension clad in copper-like material with slender balustrades sits above the historic frontage. Formerly a four-storey building, it now includes six levels of accommodation with private terraces and gardens to the rear.

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Chapter House’s interior plays upon its location within Covent Garden – one of London’s cultural neighbourhoods – with interiors theatrically inspired. A large entrance lobby has a dramatic material palette of warm veneers, a padded leather-effect concrete, gold curtains and a rich deep blue carpet.

Residential accommodation ranges from studios, one, two and three-bed flats to two duplex penthouses across the upper floors.

Each flat has its own individual character depending on whether spaces sit behind gables or within a water tower, creating unique light wells directly above windows. Full-height finishes include ceramic, v-joint panelling, doors and cabinets, while other accommodation in the building includes a bespoke concierge service and gym and training studio.

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Architect’s view

The design process has been an exciting and challenging adventure. We feel that we have achieved our client’s brief by creating a distinctive building in the heart of Covent Garden. We have meticulously remodelled and rebuilt Chapter House, bringing a redundant building back to life while remaining sympathetic to its historic surrounding. Each apartment within has its own playfulness and individuality to thrill future residents for years to come.

Right from the beginning of the project, we developed a very positive relationship with Londonewcastle which led to a close collaboration built upon trust. The project was challenging due to several factors including tight deadlines, an existing consent requiring significant modifications, the complexity of the conservation area context planning requirements, retaining the existing façade and very tight access to the site through a narrow mews, which was shared with Camden residents that we had to use for heavy demolition and construction for two years.

As part of the design, we retained the 1893 front façade from Gibson and Russell on Parker Street. We developed a contemporary language for the spaces behind that still held a connection to the history of the building. We did this with a bespoke use of classic elements; for example, we introduced timber sash windows, but these were then positioned in non-traditional locations.

We modified the existing façade in such a manner that the alterations were not aggressive. Some reinstated existing windows and doors had been modified in a previous life and so we enlarged them through a reconstitution of original features. Within the retained façade, the frame of the sash windows has been redesigned thinner, in line with some surrounding precedents, we did this to bring more light inside each apartment and to subtly introduce a more contemporary feel.

The additional contemporary dark metal two-storey extension above the existing façade is set back at each level behind the gable pitch roofs in order to not be too dominant. It gives a subtle visual hint of the new life of this classical building while respecting the weight of the history.

Stephane Piazza, project leader, Apt

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Location plan

Client’s view

The architects have turned this building into a beautiful secret gem in the middle of Covent Garden. While the external façade has been carefully restored, it’s only when you enter the building that its new nature can be fully experienced. Experiencing the building is a wonderful journey, from entering the opulent new entrance lobby with its playful notion towards the theatre neighbourhood, discovering a beautifully detailed new façade at the rear of the building, exploring each apartment’s unique and different features and layouts, to the fact that most apartments have their own beautifully landscaped external balconies and terraces.

Baerbel Schuett, director of development, Londonewcastle

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Typical floor plan

Project data

Start on site January 2017
Gross internal floor area 4,400m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 4,830m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design and build
Construction cost £30 million
Architect Apt
Client Londonewcastle
Planning DP9
Townscape and heritage consultant City designer
Landscape architect Andy Sturgeon Design
Structural engineer AKT II
M&E consultant Scotch Partners
Cost consultant Core 5
Daylight, sunlight and party wall surveyor Point 2 Surveyors
Building control Bureau Veritas
CDM co-ordinator Gardiner & Theobald

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Axonometric diagram

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