The former Westminster Fire Station is in the midst of a transformation. Development manager Alchemi Group – in partnership with Far East Orchard Limited, a Singapore-based property developer – is working to sensitively restore the Grade II listed Edwardian building into a neighbourhood address. Led by architecture practice Openstudio, the former Fire Station will, upon completion in Summer 2019, be home to a destination restaurant in the old engine bays, and six boutique apartments, whilst a new build Station House will house a further 11 apartments. Together, the buildings will frame a peaceful courtyard mastered by James Lee Design – a space where station engines and horses once resided – to create a tranquil landscaped enclave exclusive to residents.
Much like a number of its notable London neighbours, such as Buckingham Palace and St Pauls, Westminster Fire Station is a quintessentially English Edwardian interpretation of eighteenth and nineteenth century Baroque architecture. The 1906 red brick and Portland stone façade is a well-preserved example of an early 20th century London Fire Station building and remains largely unaltered from its original appearance, whilst the team have carefully selected the colours of the original paintwork to return the historical colour palette to the building. Internally, Openstudio has retained original elements of the Fire Station including the fireman’s pole, watch room – which will be used as a private dining room in the restaurant – and the original carriage doors that will form the main entrance to the building and restaurant.
Laura Marino, Founder and Creative Director at Studio L, London comments:
“Our vision for the restoration of Westminster Fire Station was to deliver a modern yet considered approach towards the building’s heritage, creating something that is thoughtful, sustainable and timeless. Having recently worked with Jennifer and her team at Openstudio Architects on another boutique project, she was on our radar from the beginning.
“Authenticity has been central to the design of the project – it’s what makes the residential space so special – and it was important to both Jennifer and I that the architecture subtly integrated a mix of raw and refined materials throughout the former fire station and additional new build element. Together we had a passionate vision to create something unique and beautiful, collating intricate details and ideas – that applied interesting motifs, nuances, patterns and use of ceramic brick – to ensure the buildings look good together, yet are each distinct in their own individual way.”
A modern and tactile interpretation of the London institution, the features, colours and materials used in the existing listed building have significantly influenced the design of the new build Station House brickwork façade. Handmade buff-coloured Danish Petersen brick echoes the colour of the Portland stone of the base of the Edwardian Fire Station, whilst a custom-made pearlescent glazed brick hand-produced by a specialist ceramic supplier in the Netherlands, was inspired by the interiors of the original engine bays and staircase of the Fire Station. Together the two materials are being used in the Station House to create a bespoke patterned brickwork effect, heavily influenced by the geometry of the rear of the original building, to reflect light into the courtyard garden. Set within the brickwork openings of the Station House are custom-designed layered brass screens, inspired by the original building’s cast iron handrails, which provide privacy and screening for properties overlooking the courtyard.
Jennifer Beningfield, founder of Openstudio comments:
“We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure we honour the building’s heritage, both in the redevelopment of the former Fire Station and in the construction of the Station House. The handmade brickwork and brass screens give the new building a rare quality – a sense of a contemporary interpretation of history, which enables the new building to offer the detail, depth and richness of the Fire Station it complements.”
“Westminster Fire Station is rich in history, not only as one of a notable series of Fire Stations built in the Edwardian period across London, but also in the milestones which have taken place in the building, one of which was the admission of women into the fire service in 1982. However, up until now it has never been open to the public. We are excited to be part of its transformation into a contemporary destination for the community to visit and enjoy, as well as a private city retreat for residents.
THE FIRE STATION EFFECT
Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year (February 2019), the hugely popular Chiltern Firehouse is now a refined, high-end hotel with an award-winning restaurant, in a celebrated area of Marylebone. The restored former Manchester Square Fire Station that was built in the 1880s, has pioneered the way for historic landmarks to be turned into vibrant destinations in their own right. Westminster Fire Station, along with its new culinary offering will create a similar sense of community, and a buzz among the neighbours and locals.
Fire Stations are proving increasingly popular sites to redevelop for the community, particularly since the decommissioning of ten former fire stations across London in 2014, not least because of the architectural intrigue of each site. The NHS has taken residence in the old Brompton Fire Station, whilst the former Millwall Fire Station building has been aptly- named Old Fire Station bistro and bar on Westferry Road.
Situated on Greycoat Place, in the Broadchurch and Christchurch Gardens Conservation Area, Westminster Fire Station will be home to a collection of 17 one to three-bedroom boutique apartments, many with private terraces. This bespoke collection of homes have been individually considered, with no two homes alike, each presenting a unique offering throughout the development. In the lower levels of the original Fire Station, a destination restaurant will be open to both residents and the public, creating a community hub for all to enjoy.