Low-impact steel addition to hotel brand The Hoxton's 18-year-old building floats above the existing plant, explains co-founder Alex Holloway in the first of a new series on retail and hospitality
Who is the project for and what was the client’s brief?
The project is for hospitality company Ennismore, which owns the Hoxton Hotels. It houses a restaurant operated by the Soho House Group called Maya. Ennismore was the primary client.
We had done a couple of unsuccessful pitches for Ennismore, and it was keen to work with us. It gave us the very loose brief to come up with an idea for the rooftop at their Shoreditch site. If it liked the idea, it would proceed with it. Our proposal was for a low-impact extension that would stand a better chance in the context of planning restrictions.
What was the existing building like and what work have you done to it?
The existing building was constructed in 2004, and has been a hotel since its conception. Our proposal was for a new single-storey extension to the property. The challenge was retaining all the existing roof mechanical plant so the extension effectively floats above the existing plant and is open to the elements on all sides. Our aim was to activate the dormant commercial potential of the roof space.
What was the planning situation?
There had been a previous pre-application for additional bedroom levels, which was not well received. The primary concern was that the roof plant would be very visible on the roof of the new extension.
The planners also wanted any extension to be set back from the existing parapet lines, reducing the footprint to the extent that you could not get two rows of rooms at that level.
The cladding of the new dedicated lift-core added the most visible bulk from the existing street level and so the planners asked for a number of iterations.
Explain the external treatment of the project
We wanted to differentiate the new extension from the host property by using steel cladding, instead of brick. The extension level was conceived as a large greenhouse or orangery, following the same principles.
The new window bays mirror the rhythm of the existing bedroom levels below. The proportion and breakups on the fenestration echo that of a train carriage and it evokes that feeling from inside.
How have the interiors been designed? What were you inspired by and was there a theme?
The interiors have been designed with an emphasis on planting. The perimeter of the internal and external parts are lined in planters, and natural tones are used throughout to reemphasise the connection with nature. Rich terracotta flooring is paired with timber panelling and touch-textured micro-cement for the bar front and bathroom vanity units. Neutral calico fabrics for the drapery help create a calm backdrop with the view being the main event.
As a hospitality project, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge, apart from jumping through a number of planning hoops, was to retain the hotel’s operational functions throughout construction. The only way the financials of the build would stack up was if the client didn’t have to remove any rooms from service. So we had to make the whole scheme additive to the existing and ‘plug-in’ to the host building’s existing dormant service and structural capacity.
How has the project been received, how has it helped the client’s ambitions?
The project has been well received as an exemplar of how to maximise the existing commercial potential at roof level. In a way, it’s like a mansard or loft conversation but at a much larger commercial scale.
It has helped by adding a new standalone venue that can be separate directly accessed by the new lift-core from Willow Street.
As a model for sustainable development, it works well because it tapped into the existing embodied carbon of the structure and existing MEP services while being designed to be ‘additive’ to the existing. We designed it in such a way that there was very little demolition required, reducing construction waste and maximising what was already there. We also designed the rainwater harvest system. The external stormwater drainage is directed to serve the 40 m-long planter that runs along the external facade.
Alex Holloway is co-founder and creative director of Holloway Li
GIA excluding terrace: 272 sqm, GIA including terrace: 343 sqm
The space is fully DDA accessible.
Seated covers internal: 75
Seated covers external: 50
40 metres of external linear planting
Contractor MY Construction
FF&E Procurement Soho House
MEP Engineer (pre-construction) MY Hoare Lea
MEP Engineer (construction) MY Construction
Structural engineer Pure Structures
Fire engineer Hoare Lea and WSP
Interiors Ennismore Design Services and Soho House