Being a next-door-neighbour of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) could have been an unnerving experience for the designers of 10 Weymouth Street, when they came to create their boutique scheme of 28 flats on the Marylebone-Fitzrovia boundary.
Acutely aware that the most powerful and knowledgeable body of architects in the country would be able to watch the rise of the new apartment block from the RIBA’s restaurant terrace, niche developer Ridgeford felt compelled to impress. So the company commissioned one of the brethren, architect Ken Shuttleworth, to come up with an arresting design; daring but so aesthetically pleasing that it would win over their critical hearts.
The result is an architectural tour de force. The only shame is that not more people will see it. Tucked away in a mews, the main bulk of the building forms a dramatic "rear façade", clad in shimmering brass-and-copper panels that are pieced together in a Piet Mondrian-like pattern. This new element wraps over an older building on Weymouth Street to provide a new penthouse level and roof terraces.
'The bold design ends architects' affair with the glass wall'
An immediate endorsement came from the Architects Registration Board, which has moved into offices at the building.
Shuttleworth, who worked with Norman Foster for 30 years creating designs for iconic buildings such as the Gherkin, set up his own practice, Make, in 2004. Make has a reputation for breaking the mould with funky, bright, geometric designs.
"Weymouth Street is the sort of project we enjoy: intricate, difficult and challenging," he says. "The bold design ends architects’ love affair (including his own) with the glass wall that has been so fashionable in recent years," he adds.
As well as looking glorious, the brass cladding is more energy efficient and is recyclable. "It’s a natural material and has a luxuriant surface, which over time will patina to what I think will be a very beautiful finish."
Already, reddish tones and darker hues are visible when the sun strikes the surface. "So slick is the design that photographs of the real thing look like computer generated images," says Chris Murray, Ridgeford’s managing director.
Ridgeford had buyers waiting in the wings for the four penthouses, which sold for £1,450 a square foot, a record price for the area.
For the time being, the remaining flats (one-, two- and three-bedroom) are available to rent from £800 to £1,400 a week. Smart interiors have walnut floors, white walls, Poggenpohl kitchens, and there is a 24-hour concierge. Call 020 7307 1820.
Also in the neighbourhood...
Fitzrovia Apartments is a nearby scheme being launched in October.
This is a redevelopment of the listed Royal National Orthopaedic hospital on Bolsover Street, and comprises a new medical out-patients facility for the hospital plus studio offices and 86 flats around a landscaped courtyard.
It is being built in two phases, with the first homes due to be ready at the end of 2009, and the second phase completing in 2011.
The project is a collaboration between Ridgeford and Manhattan Loft Corporation. Here, Spanish limestone has been used for the exterior - a more restrained look designed by HOK Architects - and a welcome visual distraction from the Holiday Inn hotel, a concrete carbuncle opposite. Prices start at £650,000. Call Hamptons International on 020 7758 8479.
- © Mamta Kapoor
- © Alex Lentati
Fitzrovia goes Marylebone
Bounded by Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street, Great Portland Street and Euston Road, Fitzrovia used to be the centre of London’s rag trade.
Today, it is more popular with media companies, with a relatively small residential community.
Local agents claim the area has never commanded the status it deserves given its location at the very heart of London. One reason is the absence of grand period architecture. Fitzroy Square stands out as the best address, yet even this Georgian garden square is a mixed bag of offices, houses and flats, and has a certain shabby chic.
But a Marylebone-style makeover is well under way. Mid-market hotels are giving way to smart establishments, especially around villagey Charlotte Street, which is packed with fashionable restaurants and bars and is the real hub of the area.
QUBE is a new 100,000sq ft shopping and office zone, which includes a handful of flats on Whitfield Street, developed by Derwent London.
© Martin Black
Rathbone Lofts is a handsome brick-façade building with warehouse-style interiors. "They are really cool pads that have struck a chord with local creatives," says Laurence Glynn of estate agent LDG. Rentals start from £575 a week. Call 020 7580 1010.
The area’s major talking point is former Middlesex Hospital, which Candy & Candy proposed transforming into a residential complex called Noho Square (with designs by Shuttleworth). That dream is now dead. The three-acre site is owned by an Icelandic bank, which has developer Stanhope on board.
New plans, with the emphasis on office space, are being drawn up but well-connected Fitzrovians, including Griff Rhys Jones who lives in Fitzroy Square, have mounted a campaign opposing a chi-chi scheme they feel is out of keeping with the district’s bohemian character.
He told the Evening Standard. "We like the Bengali community on our doorstep and the housing associations."