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Office reinvention: The White Chapel Building remodelled by Fletcher Priest


Fletcher Priest has transformed a tired 1980s, eight-storey office block in Whitechapel for Derwent London

Sitting on Whitechapel High Street, the entrance to the building has been moved to a new, central position coming directly off this – from its previous position around to the side – creating a more permeable, welcoming public face on to the street. This entrance leads into a communal glazed atrium that rises through the full-height of the building, giving glimpses of the floors above, which in total provide 186,000m² of new office space.

The atrium also creates a new axis through the building that is shared by tenants and public alike, with a new coffee bar, and seating and display areas, running through to an exterior ’garden’ terrace space.  To encourage cycling, a 187-space cycle store, lockers and 20 showers have also been provided for tenants.

Derwent whitechapel building  ®hufton+crow 009

Architect’s statement

The brief was to give a new life and identity to a dated building, as it looks to create a progressive office environment that breaks the boundaries of the conventional and makes the best of the existing. We have extended the life of the building by repurposing existing fittings and revealing its hidden qualities.

The design process started by shifting the existing entry point from the side to the centre of the building on Whitechapel High Street, thus reconnecting the building to the street to create a welcoming public entrance in what had previously been a fortress-like façade.

Next we filled in the existing staircase void, which dominated the old atrium, gaining a new 7,000 sqft reception area for the ground floor. This is now a light-filled, seven-storey atrium, with views and access through to a garden terrace, a public ‘living room’ that can host everything from performances to meetings. There is an informal sense of various social zones, each with a distinct atmosphere, where the public and building tenants can meet, work and relax. We filled the space with mid-century modern furniture and textiles and specified high quality, natural materials such as oak and exposed concrete to create warmth and a relaxed, domestic atmosphere in the heart of this office building.

Francesca Gernone, director of interiors, Fletcher Priest

A 1311 ga rendered floor plan updated

Project data

Start on site January 2016
Practical completion November 2016
Gross internal floor area 23,000m²
Form of contract or procurement route Traditional procurement
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Fletcher Priest Architects
Client Derwent London
Structural engineer Elliot Wood
QS Aecom
Services NDY (Norman Disney & Young)
Lighting Pritchard Themis
Graphics Cartlidge Levene
Project manager Blackburn & Co
CDM coordinator ISG
Approved building inspector MLM
Main contractor ISG
Cad software used AutoCad


Readers' comments (2)

  • Time will tell, but the exposure of ceiling services look very intrusive in some areas - and just plain wrong in the lift lobbies. 'Value engineering'?

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  • Chris Rogers

    Wronger than the naked manekins?? Joking aside, this could have been covered better. The building is actually Fitzroy Robinson's Sedgwick Centre (1986-88), built for what was then Britain's second-largest insurance broker. The atrium is in fact original, though its escalators were removed c.2005 as part of Sheppard Robson's refurb. Below ground is/was the Aldgate Barrs shopping centre, which was linked to the substantial network of public subways in the area. Take your point re exposed services; this is really a heavily-serviced 80s office block trying to be(come) an AHMM WCF-style Shoreditch block. As you say time will tell.

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