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FIRST LOOK

Cullinan Studio completes warehouse conversion on historic Southwark site

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This Victorian fruit warehouse close to Borough Market, on the site of medieval Winchester Palace, has been sensitively converted into loft-style apartments, offices and a restaurant

The warehouse conversion at 16 Winchester Walk is the third of four new and refurbished buildings that make up Cullinan Studio’s reconstruction of Winchester Square, the original courtyard of the 13th-century Winchester Palace.

The building had been home to fruit importer JO Sims Ltd for almost 100 years, once one of only two fruit auctioneers in London.

Situated at the heart of the Borough High Street conservation area, the design draws on the local heritage of warehouses and wharfs, using existing brickwork, timber beams and columns, while re-establishing original loading bays as full-height openings with Juliet balconies.

A subtle, but defining quality of the scheme was its technical complexity. Built on the site of a Scheduled Ancient Monument – Winchester Palace – the 19th-century warehouse building was completely dismantled except for its external brick walls, and a lightweight, hybrid steel and timber structural frame was inserted into the building’s shell.

This presented another set of challenges, as Roman and medieval archaeological remains ruled out any intrusive ground works. So the new structure had to reuse pre-existing, unevenly spaced, foundations. This meant all the ground work had to be carefully designed and coordinated with Museum of London archaeologists, so as not to disturb the historic remains.

Working with the large irregularities of the resulting structural grid, the ground floor restaurant, first floor offices and apartments at second and third floors, are planned to maximise generous spaces, with simple, robust contemporary detailing attuned to the aesthetic of the original building and its surroundings.

08 winchesterwalk ©paulraftery

08 winchesterwalk ©paulraftery

Source: Paul Raftery

Architect’s view

From street level, 16 Winchester Walk presents an elegant warehouse conversion which blends seamlessly into its tightly grained historic Southwark context. Less obvious is the structural complexity of the building and the story behind its reconfiguration.

The original warehouse was significantly reconstructed to accommodate bright and spacious open plan apartments, offices and a restaurant – a technical feat achieved through close collaboration with structural engineer Mason Navarro Pledge and the contractor’s site team.

Conservation area constraints required the retention of existing external brick walls, but internal floor levels did not offer adequate ceiling heights – so everything was removed except for the brickwork. This included timber beams and columns which were carefully set aside and restored for re-use within a new steel and timber structural frame.

The building sits over protected archaeology – ruling out intrusive ground work – so the lightweight structure had to spring from Victorian foundations. The team worked with Museum of London Archaeology to ensure that historic remains were not disturbed during the build process.

Planning rational spaces from a structural frame where little is perpendicular was challenging but it was achieved, while giving each apartment a unique shape and layout. Historic loading bays were also reinstated as Juliet balconies to each floor, providing generous daylight and views.

Externally, a varied palette of brickwork was laboriously colour-matched to unify the building envelope. Internally, a feature is made of the natural colour variation of the existing and reclaimed bricks – tracing the building’s evolution over time.

Helen Evans, project architect, Cullinan Studio

16winchesterwalk drawings 012

16winchesterwalk drawings 012

Source: Cullinan Studio

Second floor plan

Project data

Completion date July 2017
Client JO Sims Ltd
No. of residential units 6
Office and retail space 995m²
Construction value £7 million
Architect Cullinan Studio
Main contractor Capita Construction
Structural engineer Mason Navarro Pledge
QS Gleeds
MEP engineer MLM
Fire engineer BuroHappold

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Those brick external walls that account for so much of the character of the building, and were retained, seem to have generally been left exposed internally - going by the images - and so it would be interesting to know how the implications for heat loss were tackled.

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