Old War Office transformed!
Restoring Heritage: The Old War Office Transformation
Preserving the Past, Creating the Future
The Old War Office, a masterpiece of British architecture, has stood as a silent witness to the ever-changing tides of history since its completion in 1906. Designed by British architect William Young, this grand Baroque-style building occupies a prominent position on London’s Whitehall.
Once the heart of British military administration, the Old War Office has been a sanctuary for notable political and military leaders who have left their mark on the world. Among these are Winston Churchill, whose grand suite of offices occupied a space within the building when he served as Secretary of State for War from 1919 to 1921, and Mansfield Cumming, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service and the real-world inspiration for ‘M’ in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.
Later, the building served as offices for the Ministry of Defence before receiving protected status. In March 2016, the Hinduja Group acquired the Old War Office building with plans to transform it into a luxury hotel.
After years of meticulous restoration, the Raffles London at the OWO hotel has opened and is welcoming the public for the very first time.
Enter Paye Stonework and Restoration, renowned experts in heritage restoration and preservation, whose team played a pivotal role in the Old War Office project.
Paye’s involvement began with enabling works in 2017 and 2018, marked by the careful dismantling of entrance columns and balustrades to make way for the remainder of the ambitious project that lay ahead.
In February 2020, the full-scale transformation of the Old War Office into a new luxury hotel began. The first phase involved an extensive cleaning of the building, where Paye used traditional techniques, including nebulous, to remove years of grime and reveal the original stone and brickwork beneath.
Paye embarked on a comprehensive masonry repair programme, meticulously examining every stone, cataloguing its condition, and undertaking repairs where necessary. Whether it was the remediation of stone or the careful reinstallation of existing mullion and head stonework, Paye’s attention to detail was unwavering.
Wherever existing stone could not be salvaged or was deemed beyond repair, Paye ensured that the new stone closely matched the original in terms of bed and aesthetic qualities. Their approach considered the practicality of cuts for installation and aesthetic purposes, ensuring a seamless integration of old and new. Paye used redundant stones salvaged from the lowering of parapets on the north and east elevation and cut them for use on the new build quadrangle openings.
The Old War Office’s beauty lay in its intricate details. Paye restored and replicated ornamental elements such as balustrades, bottle balustrades and dia blocks within the quadrangle. Their work extended to carving new decorative Portland stone capitals and reinstating the original portico. The façades, including the majestic Portland stone and glazed brick finishes, required painstaking attention to detail.
Paye effectively coordinated their efforts with other subcontractors and structural engineers to ensure the seamless execution of works. Paye also worked closely with Ardmore and Toureen to safeguard the seamless transfer of stonework required for restoration.
One of the defining aspects of the project was striking a delicate balance between preserving historical authenticity and integrating modern luxury amenities. The Old War Office’s transformation demanded careful consideration of preserving heritage elements like the marble staircases, ornate mosaic floors, detailed architectural mouldings, and soaring ceiling heights while introducing contemporary comforts. The result is a harmonious blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication, creating a unique experience for guests and visitors.
The restoration of the Old War Office revealed the true extent of Paye’s craftsmanship. Preserving historical integrity required meticulous attention to detail in matching original materials. Salvaged stone was used wherever possible, and new stone was carefully selected to replicate the existing architectural elements, ensuring a seamless transition between old and new.
Pediments, with their intricate detailing, were a mammoth undertaking with four stone masons working diligently for nearly ten weeks to rework the pediment mouldings and carve out roses, ensuring historical accuracy throughout.
A monument to history
The Old War Office’s reimagined future, led by the Hinduja Group and partnered with Raffles Hotels & Resorts, encompasses 760,000 square feet of luxury hospitality. This transformation includes 85 branded residences, 120 hotel rooms and suites, restaurants, bars, amenities, and a spa.
With ceiling heights soaring over 12 feet and full-length windows, the interiors reflect classic Edwardian architecture adapted for contemporary living. Each residence bears a unique stamp, tailored to its location within the building with interiors that marry timeless luxury with modern functionality.
The Old War Office’s restoration and transformation into The OWO Residences is a shining example of heritage preservation. The project has successfully upheld its historical significance while embracing the comforts of modern luxury living.
Bringing a project like the Old War Office to fruition takes huge dedication, teamwork and world class craftsmanship, and the results have secured The Old War Office in its rightful place as a timeless London landmark, ready to inspire awe and admiration for generations to come.