Kier Property for Crown Estate & Defra
130,000 sq ft
Refurbishment, Retained Facade & Restoration
Listed Buildings & Conservation, Office Space, Public Sector
RICS London Regional & National Award 2005
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The office building in Whitehall Place, comprehensively refurbished by tp bennett as efficient modern offices for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), dates from the early 1950s and is listed as a good example of post-war traditionalist architecture. However, the seven-storey building offered poor working spaces internally DEFRA’s aim was to create a modern, open plan office environment, allowing the Department to consolidate its office provision.
DEFRA’s brief included the provision of a restaurant, gym, conference and media facilities as well as open-plan offices. Fundamental to the project was the infilling of the light well at the rear of the building to create greatly expanded floor plates and a central atrium which would provide an arrival point for all floors as well as housings the new scenic lifts. One of the problems of the building was its varied floor heights. Achieving evenly distributed floors was vital to the services strategy but meant radical structural changes, in effect a completely new structure, behind the Portland stone retained facades, which still related to existing window openings. The 6th and 7th floors, which had been set back, were expanded to provide additional accommodation after extensive discussion with planners and English Heritage. Original aluminium windows, a pioneering use and one of the reasons for the building’s listing, had to be replaced, but the far more efficient steel replacements carefully reproduce their profile, so that externally the building looks little changed.