Development Transformation of the Year

Development Transformation of the Year
Bell Yard Apartments by Marek Wojciechowski Architects

Bell Yard Apartments is a 10,600 sq ft office-to-residential conversion occupying a richly historical site in the Strand Conservation Area adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice, London. The existing building was low in architectural merit and presented an exciting opportunity to be reimagined as something of much higher quality and contribute more positively to the local conservation area. With shared aspirations towards adaptive reuse, the project team achieved this with minimal structural intervention; whilst managing to increase the GIA by 25% and dramatically improve its appearance. 

The scheme sought optimal density to provide 12 residential units in a mainly commercial area. It did so by reinventing a tired vacant office building, on a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of Central London. The project therefore successfully contributes to diversifying the mix of use classes and increasing the vitality of the street on a human scale, previously uncharacteristic of the area. Equally, the architecture of the building is now more coherent and adds to the richness of local heritage through careful choice of materials and proportion. The proposed design is driven by its historical neighbours with the hierarchy, proportions and materiality all designed to enhance the street scene. The rhythm of the façade takes cues from its origin as four town houses.

Two overarching benefits of adaptive reuse are; helping to achieve environmental goals and an accelerated construction programme. Each of which have significant benefits to all stakeholders involved. Approximately 85% of the existing structure was retained, and structural interventions were only made where essential. Any additional elements were prefabricated or component based as much as possible. Hence, by reducing the amount of demolition and construction time, the amount of disruption to adjacent homes and business’ was reduced dramatically.

Furthermore, by retaining approximately 85% of the original structure, the net embodied carbon of the project is dramatically reduced. The existing fabric of the building is then upgraded and reconfigured to improve its ‘in-use’ environmental impact.

Judges’ comments

“Beautiful execution, a clever reuse of an existing building where more than 85% of the original fabric has been salvaged. Clever planning and intervention of the new, with elements being fabricated off site etc. Elegant detailing and quality materials throughout.” 

“A delightful restoration of an incredible constrained site, making clever reuse of the existing building fabric to craft desirable and well-considered internal spaces.”

“Bell Yard is an accomplished adaptation of the existing structure with clever internal planning maximising the site's potential. The façade makes a beautiful contribution to the ever-changing streetscape.”

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