Lyons O'Neill

Focus on: marrying contemporary use with classic design

There can be a misconception regarding modern architecture in that it’s all about sharp lines, minimalism and smooth, glass surfaces. Though on many projects this may be the case – take a look at our award-winning Red Bridge House for a stunning study – good design is all about working with and caring about the client’s needs and the historical and natural context of each project, whether it’s a new build or a refurbishment. Architects and engineers don’t just want to rip everything out and start again: the best know that combining expertise with the highest levels of creativity results in design magic.

Designing in the modern age doesn’t mean rejecting the detail and architectural features of the past which give a building due for a refurb its historical value and unique character. Though the word ‘refurbishment’ doesn’t sound particularly exciting, that’s another myth and some of our favourite projects have been refurbishments which married contemporary use with the structure’s original, classic design.  

For example, we were called in to help makeover Annie McCall, a former maternity hospital in Stockwell dating all the way back to the 1890s, transforming it into residential apartments. We carried out extensive research in the London Metropolitan Archives to ascertain the history of the site so we could respect the original structure and wouldn’t run into any issues once we broke ground. This research led to the discovery of a hidden basement which we then incorporated into our design. The project also involved two new build structures and we were careful to use light gauge steel frames, prefabricated in panels prior to arrival on site, to minimise disruption to the site and its surroundings. All this care and attention to detail more than paid off, however, as the refurbishment of Annie McCall took home Best Small Development By a Large Developer at the Evening Standard Homes Awards 2015.

Reviving an existing structure through a mix of refurbishment and new build was also the case with our work on Baylis Old School. Located in the heart of Lambeth, we were asked to help turn an old 1970’s school building into a £25m housing development and create much needed residential space. Again, it was meticulous research and preparation that made the difference. Research into the structure revealed the potential for High Alumina Cement construction, meaning a series of careful load tests and sampling had to be carried out so we could continue safely. This done, we could then progress with the project, which saw the original, 1970s design and its character respected yet repurposed to provide an array of beautiful apartments. Yet again, this formula translated into awards success, with the project winning at the Housing Design Awards in 2016.

Want to see examples of our other projects which marry contemporary use and classic design? Take a look at a selection of our portfolio here.