The Willett Building
Designed by Edwardian architect E. W. Mountford, the Willett building has long hosted the Sloane Square branch of WH Smith beneath luxury apartments. It has been a focal point of this prestigious area in west London for over a hundred years, its decorative inset columns and coursed Portland Stone masking masonry walls.
Working alongside PDP London, we set about removing non-load-bearing elements on the ground floor and basement to allow large areas to be let as retail units. With little in the way of original drawings, we undertook structural surveys of the existing building to gain an understanding of the building and determine which parts we could harmlessly remove.
The building, a ‘figure of eight’ shape comprising a single-storey basement, ground floor and five upper floors, including two lightwells, was a mixture of its original steel-framed structure and subsequent alterations. Masonry walls only supported their own self-weight, so could be removed. The floors comprised concrete jack arches with steel filler joists, and the roof was formed from clinker concrete infill between metal angles, with joists supported on frame arrangements.
In order to create a total of six new retail units, including a flagship Hugo Boss store, our proposals incorporated the removal of non-load-bearing walls as well as a single column within the ground floor structure. We lowered the basement slab after enabling works were undertaken to redirect any existing services likely to clash. We also introduced plant platforms on the roof, either side of the existing lightwells.
One of the numerous proposed residential lifts also required the diversion of an existing drainage pipe route. To enable these lifts to continue through to the basement we opened up the ground floor ensuring that there would be no structural implications, and underpinned existing footings in the vicinity of these openings to provide sufficient strength and stiffness.
Upmarket retail units and luxury apartments in trendy Sloane Square
£ 3.5 million