An ex-embassy in London's famous Grosvenor Square is now being turned into an upscale residential development
Architects don't usually dismantle entire buildings during a restoration – often they'll replace badly damaged stonework and focus on repairs and
structural enhancements. But when Eric Parry Architects was tasked with converting No. 1 Grosvenor Square, a regal Neo-Georgian-style building, into luxury residences, the job proved more complex than anticipated. To achieve the results the firm wanted, it needed to take the structure apart.
And so, over a period of 10 months, the architects dismantled the building and shipped more than 2,000 pallets of stone and brick to an offsite storage facility where the individual pieces are now being restored. "We took the building down stone by stone. It was a bit like surgery," says Justin Sayer, associate director at Eric Parry Architects.
Through a meticulous restoration, during which the architects will re-assemble the building more or less as it was, the developer, Lodha Group, sought to preserve the building's original masonry and create living spaces that meet the tastes of a discerning clientele. "We were adamant we wanted to use the original stonework and detailing that defined the building," says Gabriel York, director at Lodha UK. "But we also needed to ensure the design and the proportions of the residences were befitting of their prestigious location."
Central Mayfair has long been one London's most elite postcodes, and Grosvenor Square, located near Bond Street and Mount Street as well as five-star hotels such as Claridge's and The Connaught, has been known as the playground of the wealthy ever since Sir Richard Grosvenor, an ancestor of the current Duke of Westminster (who still owns the square) built a row of fashionable homes in the early 18th century. During the 20th century, several of the older houses, including No. 1 Grosvenor Square, were replaced with Neo- Georgian-style hotels and embassies.
But despite the building's notable history, first as the American Embassy (1938-1960) and then the Canadian High Commission (1962-2014), at the time of purchase the structure had become outdated and failed to meet current energy standards. An upgrade was necessary, and Eric Parry Architects looked at various options, including dismantling parts of the building and adding a modern facade.
"We thought: what can we do to make the most of this building and make it suitable for the future?" says Sayer. However, city planners rebuffed his early proposals. "They said they didn't mind changes as long as when you squinted the building looked like
This is an excerpt from the “Square Deal" article from the November 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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