The project has two parts, a sensitive refurbishment and a new residential building. The new brick building needed to achieve a delicate balance with the historic structure, the city and changes in weather and environment. The architects sought to create a resolutely contemporary building within an historic context, that developed a dialogue with the existing building to create a sense of texture, depth and presence within the dense urban context. As the new garden courtyard is deep and narrow the contemporary building also had the opportunity to reflect sunlight, clouds and changes in the environment, and to connect its residents to the city and the sky. The building is embedded into and became part of its context, from material choice and details, to the scale of the city.
The external volume of the new building is stepped back, responding to the densely built-up local area. The varied form creates unique apartments, enhancing the sense of character and variation in both the existing and new buildings. Large glazed openings maximise light to all new floor levels, and are carefully positioned to protect privacy in this central London location. The horizontal courses of glazed brickwork refer to the late Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the local area, many of which incorporate horizontal courses of coloured brickwork. The pale handmade brick has light reflective qualities, as well as referencing the colour of the Portland stone of the base of the existing fire station. It introduces texture and shimmering light within the texture of the unglazed bricks.
The development has been created with sustainability in its core, delivering a 60% targeted reduction in carbon emissions.
The project demontrates how it is possible to achieve a cohesive and coherent environment, with two very different structures, through form, material and detail. The pattern and texture of the new building are related to the physical fabric of the existing fire station and enable the two buildings to be in harmony with one another without a direct transposition of details or materials. Triple horizontal courses of textured iridescent bricks trace the lines of the cantilevered fire station structure over and around the new brickwork, weaving old and new together in a delicate and subtle way that is not immediately evident. Vertical brickwork, set above these iridescent courses, lines up with the vertical cast iron railings of the old fire station, introducing another level of intricacy and texture into the new structure. The material palette was kept deliberately simple in order to focus the attention on the sculptural qualities of the building.
Westminster Fire Station is an unusual development which has resulted in the preservation of one of London’s most iconic fire stations, along with a sensitive and textured contemporary building. Each space, material, and detail has been considered with care. The result is the sanctuary that was envisioned at the outset, a quiet and special place in the heart of London.
Openstudio Architects was founded by Jennifer Beningfield in 2006. We create a sense of place specific to the context and history of each project, balancing complex sites, contradictory demands and challenging problems to form apparently effortless spaces that give joy. Openstudio won both the RIBA TW2020 competition to design prototype housing across the UK; and the 2020 RIBA Home of 2030 housing competition, delivering flexible and sustainable housing suitable for all generations. We have been short-listed for the NLA New Ideas for Housing competition, the WAN House of the Year award and the RIBA Birmingham Centenary Square competition. The practice has exhibited a film installation as part of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, and is featured in Architects’ Houses by Michael Webb. With sustainability at the heart of our practice, we design for longevity, to conserve resources, and to create buildings that are flexible and enable change over time.