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How a mixed-use project preserves Edwardian architecture

Emrys Architects completes its latest project in London’s Fitzrovia, encompassing 75,000 sq m of future-proofed office, retail and public realm space.

07/03/2024

2 min read

Photography: Alan Williams

Following a collaboration with Schroders and Berners-Allsopp Estate, Emrys Architects has completed its transformation of two urban blocks in central London. Berners & Wells (a portmanteau of Berners-Allsopp Estate and its home on Wells Street) was envisioned as a contemporary mixed-use scheme which, despite catering to modern expectations of flexible, future-proof commercial interiors, still respects the building’s original character. While the redevelopment may have started by demolishing certain parts of the Edwardian façade, the majority was preserved and enhanced with a self-described “contemporary flair”, helping the building blend more harmoniously with neighbouring Grade II* listed buildings such as the Sanderson Hotel.

Inside, the third floor is dedicated to user-oriented office space. Tenants are welcomed by a clean, minimalist reception space complete with concrete accent walls, exposed pipes, wooden panelling and a combination of large, circular light fixtures and low-hanging pendants. These circular motifs continue to reappear throughout the rest of the building, with wall fixtures resembling portholes punctuating the hallways. The resulting interiors are light-filled and pared-back, with warmer and more vivid palettes gradually introduced through accents such as the rust orange and teal furniture that decorates the coworking areas.

Working alongside artist Tess Jaray, Emrys also incorporated a façade of patterned glazed bricks on the building’s curved central walls, which are repeated as welcome pops of teal blue within roundels at the entrance and selected walls throughout the interiors. Other nods to the building’s early 20th century aesthetic include more raised brickwork and chimneys rebuilt during the redevelopment, which – along with the two-storey Portland stone arches with their teal brick detailing – serves as an ornate entranceway to the retail spaces across the ground and first floors. According to Emrys, these features (as well as an expanded entrance for improved visibility) were introduced in hopes of activating the surrounding high street and establishing Berners & Wells as a landmark destination known for its lively storefronts.

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