Abell House

On the edge of two significant Conservation Areas in Westminster, DSDHA’s design for Abell House, together with its sister building Cleland House, responds to the unique location and context, with proportions, massing and materials in keeping with the surrounding high quality buildings. 

The building is certainly one of the most complex and challenging buildings with a ‘layered’ light stone façade cladding a 13 storey building with an expressed supporting frame or ‘exo-skeleton’, an inner façade, and inset balconies providing sheltered private amenity space  in the same light stone finish to give crisp stone bands on the façade. 

129 apartments are carefully arranged in the sophisticated 13 storey building over a triple level basement car park served by a car lift. The impressive landscaped gardens can be viewed from the street through a generous triple height entrance lobby.  An exclusive leisure suite, comprising of gym, pool and sauna, is located on the lower ground floor. 

Work began in 2010, with DSDHA appointed to develop initial proposals. Manhire Associates worked closely with DSDHA addressing the challenges of the design and particularly the frame, balcony, set-back and cladding interfaces. 

Manhire Associates carefully investigated the building and façade form and explored the relationship between the frame and the façade. Understanding the movements of dissimilar materials and elements was critical. The building and apartment layouts are bespoke and irregular and both frame and façade proposals were carefully developed so that the expressed ‘exo-skeleton’ stacked and could be restrained laterally whilst allowing it to expand and contract in front of the inner façade which was independently supported at floor level.

The columns at the south of the building support transfer structures over the car lift giving access into the basement car park and Manhire Associates carefully developed designs utilizing steel cast-in elements to avoid heavy bolted connections or in-situ stitches.

The frame design incorporated ‘spun’ and ‘off-set’ or ‘walking’ columns to accommodate the irregular layouts. Some transfer slabs were required at set-backs and to support the stacking ‘exo-skeleton’.

The frame is founded on a 1200mm thick raft with the lined reinforced concrete walls to the perimeter secant piled walls. The basement works were sequenced around a shallow sewer diversion, with a hybrid ‘top-down’ approach adopted avoiding propping. 

The project was selected for the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition in 2012.

ClientBerkeley Homes
Architect:DSDHA & EPR Architects
ContractorExpanded, Techcrete
Sectors
  • Residential
Challenges
  • Brownfield
  • Deep Basements
  • Expressed Structure
  • Facades
  • Geo-Environmental
  • Ground Movements
  • Party Walls
  • Planning
  • SUDS
  • Underpinning
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