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The UK retailer John Lewis Partnership (JLP) commissioned Sergison Bates architects and heritage consultants Purcell to lead proposals for repairing and enhancing the historic 1930's and 196'0s façades of the Peter Jones building, a John Lewis owned department store sitting at the heart of the Cadogan Estate and the Sloane Square Conservation Area in London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Impression of the restoration proposals. Image courtesy of Sergison Bates Architects

The Peter Jones store inhabits an entire city block comprised of Grade II* and Grade II listed buildings. JLP undertook a major programme of refurbishment to the site between 1999 and 2004, and since then limited work has been undertaken to the façades which are now in need of extensive restoration.

In addition to the restoration and enhancement of the facades, the design team was invited to develop proposals aimed at ensuring all buildings on the site continue to fulfil their viable and sustained use as a leading retail store and valued civic forum. As a consequence the proposals place emphasis on providing greater access and amenity for the public to the upper two storeys of the site.

Both the proposals for the façade works and the upper floors were informed by the detailed research on the entire site and its history and context.

The building in 2019 before the latest work commenced. Image courtesy of Sergison Bates Architects

CHALLENGES

Due to little recorded history of building, the initial heritage statement produced by Purcell is likely to be the first comprehensive body of work that compiled the available information on the development of the building and its place within the cannon on Modernist architecture in the UK. JLP undertook a major programme of refurbishment to the site between 1999 and 2004, and since then limited work has been undertaken to the facades, which needed extensive restoration. The building was also constructed over a period of 30 years, from the 1930's and 1960's and therefore understanding the change in materials, construction methods and the up to date demands of retail buildings was important.

DESIGN SOLUTION

Understanding that the Modernist façade was designed to facilitate change and express activity was key to unlocking the brief. Research revealed how the original architect designed in features so that the building could easily be maintained and even changed over time. These included devices such as all the windows being openable so they could be cleaned easily, but also show activity on the facades. There were also openable panels over the concrete floor plates which could be painted different colours. It was these inherent features of this Modernist building that allowed the design team to come up with a set of proposals to not only restore the façade, but change it in ways to express activity and reflect the surround built environment and current retail environment.

All images courtesy of Sergison Bates architects.

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