Somerset House

Government Winner

Project: Somerset House | London UK

Firm: Forme UK | London UK

Design Statement

The idea was to develop this iconic Grade 1 listed building (once the home of the Admiralty and Nelson), from a series of jumbled and dilapidated spaces to adaptable new space accommodating university space in the East Wing, rented studio space at upper levels and public access space at lower levels within the East, West and ‘New’ wings so as to provide a seamless transition. A key aim of the project was to address the architectural openness, transparency and permeability of design in the way the building works for all users and in its key architectural relationship with the Fountain Court. Faced with a huge wreck rescue project, the designers gave a deft touch to this gem of a significant historic building (to bring it back to new life without obvious modern intervention). Joinery elements were carefully designed to incorporate pipework, ductwork and the vital IT arterial cabling, to tiny spaces below the full height sash windows along the entire perimeter wall. All without visual recognition of the design hand. Contrary to this however, the designers made a conscious effort to integrate contemporary lighting fittings and flooring elements into the ornate environment as a reference to the bold concepts and scale of investment by the current trustees, to what is also the new home of London fashion week, at the same time providing clues suggesting the confidence placed in the future of this historic building. In summary, the design objectives of this proposal were to repair and restore the interior of this important building after a long period of indifferent remodeling and limited maintenance of the fabric by the previous users. Our brief was to establish a process of rejuvenation of the estate using a light touch approach to refurbishment with a ‘non-intrusive’ solution through modern interventions. We have now created a series of inter linked room spaces that will be flexible in use over the long period, fulfilling a major objective of the Trustees, whilst preserving and enhancing the listed building.

While carpet was not a significant quantity in the project, the Flooring selected from Shaw Contract Group, Design Series 36, offered a classically, timeless solution that reflected the true heritage of this iconic historic building.

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