GMW has just completed a new mixed-use building on High Holborn in London for developer Hines. Externally ‘280’ presents an elegant addition to the busy street. Inside the building the main focus, and the architects’ inspiration, is the continuous view of gentle, dignified Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the south. The 7-storey 64,000 sq ft development includes offices, a self-contained residential complex, and a ground floor retail unit.
The development was carried out in two stages due to the initial 2006 design being halted in the economic downturn of 2008. When the project was restarted in 2010, GMW and the client saw an opportunity to revisit the early designs to tune aspects of the scheme to changing market demands and to take advantage of sustainability advances. The revisions ensured that the development supports the most up-to-date workplace and environmental standards and the new building has been awarded BREEAM ‘Excellent’.
The building’s overall design is strongly influenced by its relationship with the surrounding buildings, as well as with the green space behind. Externally the new structure’s limestone-clad front façade sits in harmony with its midtown neighbours. GMW has also created a wide and light-filled pedestrian walkway that connects High Holborn directly to the Fields. The original 1960’s building formed a dark, narrow passage on the East side.
GMW improved this route by reducing the building’s original footprint, and adding additional floor area on the upper levels, thus giving valuable space back to the street for pedestrians whilst maximising lettable floor space. Partner John Jackson stated: "Our ambition for the re-development of this site was to create an attractive contemporary office environment, while also enhancing the urban grain, scale and texture of the building’s surroundings."
Internally GMW also designed the building to prioritise the leafy views behind the central London building. The entrance lobby and ground floor have been designed by GMW’s Interior Design team with subtle leaf and tree motifs. A 5m x 3m pixelated 3D art form of a tree canopy is the main focus in the lobby and is framed for passers-by by the sheer glass window to the street. A large specially-commissioned artwork by WallerHewitt in the form of an abstract array of felt spheres also responds to woodland and tree scenes. This theme is reinforced by the use of satin finished red elm on the walls. GMW intended the design to lift the spirits of the office workers, and to create a feeling of natural light and space.
On each office level the design prioritises the southern orientation, the calming views of the park and the sense of being outdoors. Finishings have been paired back and the views maximised with floor to ceiling glazing and open plan floor space, significantly improving ambient lighting levels for employees. Support column widths and mullions have been minimalised. As the building users exit the lift on each floor, they are greeted by a virtually uninterrupted view of Park and Sky.