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Simpson & Brown wins Willow Tearooms restoration job

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Simpson & Brown Architects has won the competition to overhaul Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Willow Tearooms in Glasgow

The Edinburgh-based firm defeated Purcell, John McAslan + Partners, LDN Architects and emerging Glasgow studio Dress for the Weather to land the prestigious contract.

The full shortlist

  • Purcell
  • Dress for the Weather
  • Simpson & Brown
  • LDN Architects
  • John McAslan + Partners

Planned to complete in time for Mackintosh’s 150th birthday in 2018, the £7 million project backed by the Willow Tea Rooms Trust will restore the Grade A-listed 1903 café and create a new visitor centre next door.

Designed for ‘art tearooms’ entrepreneur Catherine Cranston, the Sauchiehall Street landmark became part of a department store during the 1920s before being partially restored as a café in the early 1980s.

Coinciding with Page\Park’s nearby ‘Mack’ resurrection, the latest project – backed by the Willow Tearooms Trust – will restore the building as far as possible to its original 1903 condition.

A five-storey neighbouring tenement block (215 Sauchiehall Street) will meanwhile be converted into a visitor centre featuring retail, an exhibition space, offices, toilets and a kitchen. 

Willow Tea Rooms Trust chair Celia Sinclair commented: ‘We know it is a very challenging project for any architectural firm but we were tremendously impressed by Simpson & Brown’s conservation expertise and by the ideas they put forward for the new Mackintosh centre.

She continued: ‘They will combine the old with the new, perfectly contrasting modern and impressive design with the original splendour of the only remaining Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed tea rooms.’

John Sanders, partner and heritage specialist at Simpson & Brown said: ‘The complexity of the project required that we bring together a team of experts in their fields to ensure every detail is taken care of and we’ve selected people we respect and admire to work with us.’

He continued: ‘The key to the success of the design lies with the trust’s acquisition of 215 Sauchiehall Street, which will allow us not only to create a world class visitor centre but provide amenities, such as lifts and other facilities, which will be accessible from, but not interfere with, the tea rooms themselves or the experience they provide.

‘Essentially we’re taking the tea rooms back to their celebrated past but also taking them forward in time to make it a unique architectural and design experience.’

Led by Simpson & Brown, the winning team also includes Studioarc, Rybka, David Narro Associates, Alliance CDM, Building Learning and People Friendly Design.

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