Abell & Cleland House

DSDHA was commissioned by Berkeley Homes in 2010 to replace two ex-government buildings close to Westminster, Tate Britain and adjacent to MI5, with a mix of private and affordable housing. 

The new intervention is informed by a rigorous analysis of the context, resulting in a contemporary scheme that embodies high quality design and craftsmanship. It comprises two separate blocks in dialogue with each other and with the surrounding city. The first, Abell House, offers 143 homes; a mix of two and three bedroom apartments, along with gymnasium and pool. Cleland House, on the opposite side of the street, provides 132 homes, over half of which are affordable. Each building is arranged around generous landscaped gardens and courtyards, with glazed lobbies providing tantalising views to the verdant gardens beyond, which enhance the passersby’s experience at ground level. 

DSDHA’s in-depth historic research revealed that Abell & Cleland’s site had previously been occupied by Peterborough House and its grand gardens. Known as “The Last House in London”, this was the main Grosvenor family residence in the 18th Century, before they moved to Mayfair in the late 1790s. This layering of history amplified our ambitions for the project, inspiring us to relate to the site’s cultural richness and embody high quality design and craftsmanship. 

Utilising analytical diagrams, which highlight the composition and articulation of the existing streetscape, our design makes reference to the proportions of the neighbouring buildings, particularly of Horseferry House and Thames House, and, in the case of Cleland House, St John's church on Smith Square. The curved forms of Cleland’s facade echo the grand porticos and towers of the Baroque church, with which Cleland has a direct axial relationship. The roofline gently recedes resulting in a classical “Casino”, or outside room, which offers delight and intrigue at high level, in much the same way as the towers of St John’s church take on an aedicular form that suggests occupation and animate the skyline. The inner layer of the façade is composed of vertical fluted semi-glazed ceramic panels and bronze anodised window frames, the refined details and crafted tactile quality of which is revealed as one nears the building. 

Abell House provides a transition between the ‘modern city’ and its immediate north, the Millbank Estate and Tate Britain to the south. The size and rhythm of its columns increase in frequency from ground to the upper stories. The proportional sequence of the horizontal precast banding breaks the elevations down to a classical composition of base, middle and top to create visual hierarchy. The facades of precast portland concrete are articulated by an inner layer of reflective semi-glazed ceramic tiles that responds to the human scale of making. 

Enabling Architect: EPR Architects 
Structure Engineer: Manhire Associates 
Services Engineer: URS Scott Wilson 
Landscape Architect: Wirtz International 
Production Landscape Architect: Spacehub Design
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