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BuckleyGrayYeoman completes controversial Whitechapel office

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The architect’s reworked refurbishment of a former department store retains ‘one of the best visual jokes in London’

BuckleyGrayYeoman’s comprehensive remodelling reconfigures the interior of a former Wickham’s department store in Whitechapel, east London, restoring original features to create a mixed-use workspace. The scheme also adds a 1,500m² extension on top of the existing 9,300m² block.

Known as Dept W, the Category A fit-out is spread across three upper floors with the addition of external roof terraces, with planting on each level. The ground floor and basement level include a reception, café, auditorium, meeting rooms and gym.

Lewis khan dept w 016

The architects chose to retain and conserve the Wickham’s original façade following a local conservation campaign and protests from Historic England when plans to refurbish the building were announced in January 2015. The practice was forced to redesign its proposals the following April following the vociferous social media campaign – protesting against its initial plan to demolish the façade and replace it with a sculpture (AJ 28.04.15).

The facade now forms the main entrance to ’Dept W’, with a void behind in the footprint where the shop once stood, now used as a courtyard commemorating the story of the site which once belonged to the former Spiegelhalter’s jewellers.

BuckleyGrayYeoman’s reworked plans for the conversion of the former Wickham’s shop in Mile End Road to commercial space were approved at the end of 2015.

The revisions involved the partial retention of the former Spiegelhalter’s façade – retained after the previous owners refused to make way for the 1927 Wickham store designed by T Jay Evans & Son.

Architectural writer Ian Nairn, in his 1966 book Nairn’s London, describes how the Wickhams built the shop in the 1920s in the expectation that the Spiegelhalter family business of clockmakers would eventually sell up. But the Spiegelhalters refused, leaving the ‘plucky little structure’ as a ‘powerful and evocative symbol of East End indomitability’ for almost a century. The result, Nairn wrote, ‘is one of the best visual jokes in London’.

Matt chisnall photography (3)

Architect’s view

Owing to its David and Goliath story, at Dept W we inherited a wonderfully rich, layered building. We sought to embrace this history by unearthing and celebrating original features. New additions are proudly modern and breathe life into the space, beginning a new chapter for this iconic building. Dept W now provides a unique, high-quality, social workspace to an area of London which is quickly emerging as one of the capital’s new business and tech hubs.

Amr Assaad, associate director, BuckleyGrayYeoman

Lewis khan dept w 011

Client’s view

The refurbishment of Dept W was in line with Schroder UK Real Estate Fund’s strategy of investing in growth areas throughout London that appeal to an increasingly diversified tenant demand. The complex year-long refurbishment presented many opportunities to restore this historic building and transform it into a modern and truly individual workspace that delivers the type of space that occupiers are looking for. The redevelopment of Dept W is a great example of SREF’s proactive strategy to deliver value to its investor base by taking a creative and bold approach to real estate investment.

Jourdan Rajwan, Investment Manager, Schroder UK Real Estate Fund

Dept w ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site December 2017
Completion date January 2019
Gross internal floor area 10,220m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 10,870m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design and build
Construction cost £10 million
Construction cost per m² £1,000
Buckley Gray Yeoman 
Client Schroders REIM
Structural engineer Furness Partnership
M&E consultant Charles D Smith & Associates
Quantity surveyor Quartz Project Services 
Planning consultant 
Acoustic consultant Lee Cunningham Partnership
Project manager Quartz Project Services 
Sunlight & daylight consultant Point2Surveyors
Transport consultant Motion
Heritage consultant Alan Baxter Associates
Verified views Cityscape
CDM co-ordinator Brian Bulfin Associates
Approved building inspector JM Partnership
Main contractor Corley + Wooley
CAD software used Vectorworks

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