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Law and order: AHMM’s New Scotland Yard refurbishment

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Allford Hall Monaghan Morris has delivered a new home for the Metropolitan Police which combines openness and security

PROJECT DATAARCHITECT’S VIEWENGINEER’S VIEWDETAIL

Staff have been moving into the Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)-designed New Scotland Yard since last November. When it reaches full capacity, more than 2,300 people will pass through its doors each day. It’s a fitting time for London’s Metropolitan Police Service to move to its new home, just as the Met’s first female police commissioner, Cressida Dick, takes the reins. 

It is also a return to the William Curtis Green-designed building on Victoria Embankment, part of a strategy to rationalise the force’s estate and shake up its working culture. Its former base for 49 years at 10 The Broadway has been sold and the funds used to refurbish and extend the 1937 building and improve technology across the Met’s estate.

The building, which sits next to the original police HQ designed by Richard Norman Shaw in the 1800s, was originally built as an annexe to the latter to house the force’s technology departments. But it had stood empty since 2011. AHMM won the job to bring it back into police use in October 2013 when it was selected ahead of Foster + Partners, Allies and Morrison, Keith Williams Architects and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands in a RIBA-run contest. 

Many of the security measures are barely noticeable, or become a discreet part of the landscape

The scheme consists of four main elements: a new glass-fronted pavilion; another pavilion at the top of the building with views over London; a new wing at the side of the building to add symmetry; and an extension to the rear elevation to increase the floor space. ‘One of the most important ambitions was to give a sense of transparency and openness,’ says AHMM co-founder Paul Monaghan. 

But at a time when the need for security is so high, this was never going to be easy. ‘The types of attack we had to design for have changed significantly since we began the project,’ Monaghan adds. ‘The glazed pavilion at the front was certainly difficult.’

Bomb-proof glazing is par for the course in designing a building like this. But many of the security measures that have been put in place are barely noticeable, or just become a discreet part of the landscape surrounding the ground floor: bollards and a walled ramp leading up to the glass pavilion, for instance, are designed to prevent the building being rammed by a vehicle. You are hardly aware that you are crossing a security line, which is embedded in public realm features, rather than being an obvious afterthought.

For the Met, just moving to open plan spaces and adopting hot-desking has been a huge change in culture

To the rear, the building is clad in fins bearing colours sampled from surrounding buildings. Orange-red tones of brickwork combine with yellowish stone colours of the nearby parliament buildings to create a privacy veil along the back of the building where the façade sits just a few metres away from the adjacent block. The Eternal Flame, which honours police officers who have died on duty, has been moved to the front of the building where it can be seen by the public. It had previously been housed within the hallway of 10 The Broadway, away from the public eye. Continuing the series of military and civic memorials along the Victoria Embankment, the flame now sits within a contemplation pool to the south of the entrance pavilion. In the pavilion itself, a case overlooking the flame holds the Roll of Honour listing all those members of the Met who have died in service. 

To the other side of the pavilion, the building’s previous entrance has been turned into a glazed vitrine, which will display historical items of interest. Eventually a museum will open in the building’s basement, reinforcing the message of openness and accessibility between police and public. 

Just as important as the building’s transparent entrance was the need for spaces which could be used for media broadcasts. Views have been carefully considered for different purposes. At the front of the building, TV news reporters can stand before the relocated revolving New Scotland Yard sign, while terraces on the upper storeys at the rear provide a backdrop of the Palace of Westminster and central London. 

13019 n860 rp

13019 n860 rp

Internally, the Met’s new home features large, open plan office spaces reminiscent of AHMM’s 2011 Stirling Prize-shortlisted Angel Building in Islington. (Monaghan toured the building with the client while they were designing this project.) The new New Scotland Yard lacks the large top-lit atrium space of the Angel, and instead a new lift core occupies the centre, its glazed sides offering glimpses into each of the office floors. 

For the Met, just moving to open plan spaces and adopting hot-desking has been a huge change in culture, and AHMM has provided a variety of spaces to help ease this transition. In some there are high desks with stools, in others a more formal regular layout, while café and breakout spaces have been designed to accommodate meetings in a more informal environment. 

In the bathrooms AHMM has had some fun playing with the graphic heritage of the Met with each floor designed using the colours of police service cars through the ages. It’s fun and playful without being obvious. 

In its completed state the building differs little from the practice’s competition-winning proposal. The architecture offers a subdued Modernism and a gravitas befitting a respected institution. The building will become an icon not just for its architecture but because it is inevitable – it will be on our television screens every week, a calm backdrop to the drama of policing London’s streets. For AHMM this has been a chance to put their stamp on a building of major significance in London.  

13019 2454 ahmm

13019 2454 ahmm

Project data

Start on site June 2014
Completion November 2016
Gross internal floor area 1,200m2
Form of contract Design and Build
Architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Client Metropolitan Police Service, Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime 
Structural engineer Arup
M&E consultant Arup/BAMSE
Quantity surveyor cost consultant/project manager Arcadis
Landscape architect Gillespies
Fire engineer Arup
Daylight consultant Gordon Ingram Associates
Acoustic and transport consultant Arup
Façade engineer Arup
Planning consultant DP9
Space planning Haverstock
CMD co-ordinator BAM
Main contractor BAM
Approved building inspector Butler & Young
CAD software used MicroStation and Revit
Annual CO2 emissions 27.7kg/m2

Scotland yard gf plan

Scotland yard gf plan

Ground floor plan

Architect’s view

Our design for New Scotland Yard is a radical remodelling and extension of the Curtis Green Building, erected on the Thames Embankment in the 1930s, which was an earlier home of the Metropolitan Police Service. 

The core of the brief was to deliver a landmark development and to create flexible, efficient office environments and extend the floor space in the Curtis Green Building; create a highly visible entrance and reception area; create an enhanced connection with the public and enliven the external realm; use good-quality, durable materials from sustainable sources; and employ a holistic, layered security strategy to protect the building’s users and visitors.

The design has transformed the building with the addition of a curved glass entrance pavilion, rooftop pavilions and a reworking of the existing accommodation. The scheme has expanded the building’s floor area from 8,691m2 to about 12,000m2 through extensions to the rear, roof and front concourse. The contemporary design of these complements and enhances the architectural features of the original building and the materials, colours and proportions of neighbouring Whitehall buildings. 

Inside the original building we have created a flexible office environment to facilitate collaboration and interaction. The rooftop extension provides multi-use conference space and terraces and is illuminated to give presence at night, symbolising the 24/7 nature of the building along with its civic purpose. A brick ‘carpet’ in the landscape outside the entrance references the distinctive striped brickwork of the neighbouring Norman Shaw North building, while the Eternal Flame has been set within a contemplation pool south of the entrance pavilion.

We knew this would be an extremely complex project from the start. Our proposals had to address the history and traditions of the Met while delivering a headquarters fit for the present and future organisation. The brief demanded a building that reflects both the prominence of the location and the importance of the Met as an institution, and it has been a privilege to be able to deliver that.

Paul Monaghan, director, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Scotland yard sectiona apng

Scotland yard sectiona apng

Section

Engineer’s view

Early discussions focused on maximising the usable floor area. Modifications to the existing perimeter increased the area available from 4,700m² to 6,400m² while meeting 21st century energy requirements.

Building engineers also maximised floor-to-ceiling heights and installed a new west-facing glazed façade with architectural shading, which brings daylight into the interior. The new pavilion atop the building provides space for meetings and activities.

Following geotechnical investigations we presented to the client an opportunity to add an additional floor to the existing building and remove the density of columns within the floor plates with minimal new ground works.

At street level, the fully glazed entrance pavilion acts as a flexible, introductory space and allows some public access. The curved, blast-resistant glazing required rigorous testing to ensure safety and robustness.

Arup’s contribution involved many specialist consultants, including security and AV/ICT experts. The building’s design incorporates the latest technologies for live broadcast. Arup also acted as BIM co-ordinator, responsible for maintaining ASMEP 3D models on behalf of the wider design team. The project had a demanding timetable. Working closely with the contractor, Arup developed a scheme that focused the works (including a new stability system for the building) into the new build portion, saving time on programme and reducing risk for the client.

Craig Irvine, associate, Arup

Detail

Scotland yard entrance pavilion detail section

Scotland yard entrance pavilion detail section

Entrance pavilion detail section

The ground floor pavilion is a semi-public space and the main point of entry into the building. Standing proud of the original façade, it is the most visible intervention made during the refurbishment, a free-standing object connected to the existing building by a minimal, metal-clad junction. It has an intentionally lightweight construction in contrast with the existing architecture, but sits on a Portland stone plinth. In plan it is an elongated oval centre-justified in front of the east elevation at ground level.

The housing for the eternal flame has an infinity edge detail so the flame appears to be floating in a ‘hole’ scooped out of tranquil rippling water.

The structure has full-height structural glazing, chosen to give maximum transparency but effective security. The roof soffit is clad in strips of timber both internally and externally, and overhangs the façade line to provide some solar shading.

Inside, the pavilion is circuited by a ‘race track’ light that in turn encloses two large circular rooflights which bring in natural light. The bronze cladding panels on the outside are lined through with the stone mouldings of the façade, while inside the proportions of the space also reflect the order of the original. The three entranceways are positioned where the windows originally sat, framed in the original Portland stone of the façade. The building’s old bronze bell push has been retained in situ ‘as found’.

Paul Monaghan, director, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris 

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Chris Rogers

    Hmm, an oddly 'thin' critique - my print copy should have arrived today but didn't so I hope this isn't all there is... No mention, for example, iof the way the detailing of the extensions gradually simplifies. Couple of factual points; the Norman Shaw complex was not "the original police HQ", of course, as the name implies - that was in Great Scotland Yard. And according to another review, the revolving sign isn't the one from Broadway but a replica.

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  • I know this building. I like it very much ! :)

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