Restoring the Grandeur of The Whiteley
A Testament to Historic Preservation and Modern Luxury
The Whiteley London project is a remarkable achievement in restoring the historic stonework of one of London’s most iconic buildings. Originally conceived as London’s first department store by William Whiteley over a century ago, The Whiteley has a rich and dramatic history. Now, redesigned by Foster + Partners, the building is set to embark on a new era, combining meticulous restoration with contemporary luxury.
In 1851, inspired by The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, William Whiteley envisioned a grand department store like no other. Four years later, he returned to London with £10 in his pocket and a determination to turn his vision into reality. The first Whiteleys store started as a small drapery shop at 31 Westbourne Grove and steadily expanded over the years. By 1867, it boasted 17 departments, famously claiming to provide anything from a pin to an elephant. The store’s reputation grew, earning an unsolicited Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1896 and another from King George V.
Unique challenges on the road to restoration
Paye’s restoration role on The Whiteley began in 2018, as the building closed its doors to undergo a transformative redevelopment aimed at redefining modern living and restoring its former glory. The masterplan conceived by Foster + Partners focused on meticulously restoring the century-old facade while creating individual apartments that shared aesthetics and abundant natural light.
The restoration process brought forth unique challenges. The ornate facade, listed for preservation, required careful cleaning, repair, and preparation for new windows. Significant architectural features, including the north and south cupolas, clocktower, entrance screen and glazed dome were given special attention.
The heritage stonework of the south cupola, clocktower and entrance screen had to be adapted and combined with new elements to meet the requirements of their new purpose, whilst the north cupola was constructed entirely from new Portland stone to mirror its southern counterpart.
The large steel frame supporting the glazing to the heritage dome received intricate repairs and painting prior to installation on site. Striving to meet stringent fire regulations, the project team avoided combustible materials and found innovative solutions, such as using lead on GRC (Glass Reinforced Concrete) to the cupola roofs in lieu of more traditional timber structures.
Paye collaborated with Foster + Partners, Buro Happold, and the Laing O’Rourke project team to navigate the technical challenges of the restoration. Coordination between various teams and stakeholders, including the complexities of working with tower cranes and inner-London large site logistics, required meticulous planning and collaboration. The design process considered structural movements between the new and old sections of the building, harmoniously integrating historic preservation with modern architectural interventions.
The restoration of The Whiteley stands as a testament to the commitment of the entire project team to preserve the historic significance of this iconic building. Skillfully repurposing the internal structure, repairing and restoring the facade, and incorporating modern luxury features, The Whiteley is poised to reclaim its position as a global hub and a beacon of modern design.
The project’s technical challenges, including innovative material usage, bespoke glazing, and heritage steelwork, showcase Paye’s expertise and dedication to reviving a cultural landmark. As The Whiteley project nears completion, it marks a significant milestone in the regeneration of the surrounding area, breathing new life into this historic area of London.