Abell & Cleland

DSDHA’s design for a new development (a total of 330.000 sq ft) in Westminster replaces two ex-government buildings close to Tate Britain and adjacent to MI5 with a mix of private and affordable housing. 

The scheme comprises two separate blocks, each arranged around generous landscaped gardens and courtyards. 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. 

DSDHA’s in-depth historic research revealed that Peterborough House and its grand gardens used to exist on this site. Known as “The Last House in London” it 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, such as 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 take on an aedicular form that suggests occupation and an animated skyline. The inner layer of the façade is composed of vertical fluted semi-glazed ceramic panels and bronze anodized 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. 

Both buildings have a series of lobbies which provide views to the verdant gardens beyond, enhancing one’s experience at ground level and encouraging visual permeability from the street. 

Production 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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