Great James Street

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Location: Bloomsbury, Central London


Project Year: 2014

Cost: £500k - £2m

Great James Street comprises two five storey terraced townhouses built between 1720 and 1724 in Bloomsbury. The client has used the buildings as their head offices for many generations. The properties suffered bomb and fire damage during the Second World War and were patched-up shortly after with a series of rear extensions. This annex contained poor office accommodation and some areas were in such bad condition that they were only suitable for storage.

Emrys’ solution was to retain and enhance the grandeur of the Grade II* listed terrace and to introduce an entirely new structure in the tight landlocked space to the rear, creating a dramatic transition from old to the new.

An asymmetric lofted ceiling sits under a new roof with recessed lighting accentuating the geometric planes. A double height void has been cut out at the rear and a cantilevered timber staircase rises through to connect the two floors. Use of roof lights and glazed access to courtyard areas has ensured that the building is flooded with light. It was agreed with the local authority to retain some elements of the existing outbuildings, the most notable feature being the existing silver vault, a brick barrel-arched structure that included a heavy steel door. Whilst this was not ideally located, it was used as the starting point for the space plan of the lower floors and became an unconventional meeting room.

Faced with the restriction of the landlocked site, Emrys took the existing heights of key points around the perimeter to the rear of the listed building and used this for inspiration for an unusual triangulated roof form. The contemporary folded roof is complemented by the use of a copper bronze alloy in a flush rain screen arrangement, the patina selected to harmonise with the existing townhouse.

The structure is made up of a series of folded triangular plates that are self-supporting when all panels are in place. These are retained by a continuous light-weight steel ring beam that ties all the panels together and prevents them from sliding away.

The project was phased to allow the client to maintain operations throughout the construction work.

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Rear ground floor interior

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Lower ground interior and silver vault

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Rear elevation of Georgian terrace