Located in the centre of Mayfair, London, No.1 Grosvenor Square is set to open early next year – after having the former US Embassy’s historic facade painstakingly removed and re-constructed. Charlie Walsh, sales director at Lodha UK, spoke to Housebuilder & Developer’s Jack Wooler about a project with exceptional attention to detail.
No.1 Grosvenor Square from Lodha UK is a 45 residence luxury development situated in one of not just the UK’s, but the world’s most iconic addresses.
Set to open in early 2020, the former US Embassy will offer residents opulent apartments, but also round-the-clock bespoke concierge services, state of the art security, valet parking and reportedly “unrivalled” lifestyle amenities.
In order to adequately retain and enhance the project’s rich history, the design by award-winning British architects Eric Parry included the meticulous deconstruction of the building’s neo-Georgian facade, to then re-build it brick by brick, in order to produce all the benefits of classic design allied to modern construction methods.
Alongside the architects, Yabu Pushelberg has created contemporary interiors to complement the building design, with frequent nods to the heritage of the building and impressive attention to detail.
Location and history
One of the largest garden squares in London, near equally prestigious Mount Street and Bond Street, Grosvenor Square gives immediate access to some of the world’s most desirable streets, boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants and exclusive private members’ clubs. Originally a popular address among dukes and earls, the square continues to attract an international crowd.
Charlie Walsh, sales director at Lodha UK, explained why this site was chosen for the project: “Grosvenor Square is the jewel in the crown of the Grosvenor Estate and the very heart of Mayfair, and the heritage of the square and the building is so important to us. There are only a handful of residences actually on the square, and these very rarely come to market.”
He continued: “Owners of such residences prefer to hand them down to the next generation rather than see them come to the open market. This is the only building to have served as the U.S. Embassy and then the Canadian High Commission, and this rich depth and history is really important for us to maintain.”
This history stretches back to the eighteenth century, when aristocrat Sir Richard Grosvenor commenced developing Mayfair – constructing Grosvenor Square in 1731. No.1 Grosvenor Square was home to John Adams, appointed US Ambassador in 1785, prior to his becoming the second President of the United States. A young JFK lived there when his father Joseph P. Kennedy was appointed US Ambassador to the UK in the 1930s. Reportedly, No.1 Grosvenor Square is the only building to have served both as the US Embassy and the Canadian High Commission.
When the team first arrived at this historic site, the building’s quality had dipped significantly from its grand roots. “The building was in somewhat of a tired state, having been used as offices and an embassy for a number of years, and therefore required a significant amount of stripping out before works could be undertaken,” said Walsh.
One of the most complicated parts of the planning process was to bring this entire building down, brick by brick, creating a new frame, and then replacing the original bricks back in the right order and sequence – as Walsh puts it, “effectively bringing the old building back to life.”
After securing planning permission for the structure, Lodha UK appointed Mace, one of the UK’s largest construction firms, to construct the development. Following this, reconstruction and restoration of the facade building began.
More than 2,000 pallets of stone and brick were removed and transported to a secure off-site location for storage during the deconstruction process. Reconstructing the facade in this manner allows for ceiling heights of between 3.1 and 4.2 metres, which reportedly will be among the highest of any new residential scheme in London.
The deconstruction process also meant that the remaining work did not have to be done behind the retained facade, giving the team much greater flexibility in terms of layouts. “When designing the layout,” said Walsh, “discretion and security were at the very heart of our design process. For example the drop-off area is extremely discreet and secure, under cover and away from any prying eyes.”
It was an important part of the design process that the building’s history be retained. Walsh explained how the project put this at the core: “Mayfair is about discreet wealth, and we’ve tried to interpret that in our design and build. We’ve taken the look and feel of the original building and combined contemporary interiors with a classic English house.”
He added: “Lodha’s recognition of the rich history that No.1 Grosvenor has from its time as a US Embassy is meticulously maintained through period features, such as keeping the replica Oval Room – built by the Kennedys – as an important feature for residents to enjoy and use, while reminding them they are in a very special building with amazing history.”
When designing the building, the architects have carefully considered this heritage, maintaining the proportions of the neo-Georgian structure to ensure the rooms’ gracious sizes, and that period features are retained throughout.
The main structure is built using post-tensioned concrete slabs which are typically thinner than traditional reinforced concrete – maximising the floor to ceiling heights.
A lot of complex details also were required to integrate the original brick and stone facade with the new concrete structure, while also bringing it up to modern standards.
In order to enact this detailed design, “the supply chain for the project is truly global,” said Walsh, “from traditional sash windows and slate tiles produced in the UK to stone sourced from Italy, Portugal, Turkey and Brazil.”
This global supply chain of course extends to the development’s interiors. Project interior designers Yabu Pushelberg used their “unique creative ability to source the most interesting materials in the world for their compelling interiors,” described Walsh, including “rich Italian marble and American black walnut.”
He continued: “Their exceptional attention to detail delights the most discerning of tastes, and by selecting an exceptional variety of textures and a light contemporary palette, the understated elegance showcases effortless luxury within each home of the development.”
When completed, No.1 Grosvenor Square will offer more than just thoughtful design; the project will boast views across the London skyline as well as a dedicated lifestyle floor with a 25m pool, state-of-the-art gymnasium with a personal training room, private spa and treatment rooms, private screening room, lounge bar with billiard table, on-site restaurant operated by a world-renowned chef, private library and business meeting room, secure off-street gated parking, 24-hour concierge with full lifestyle services.
With all of this on hand, as well as its prime location, historic background and lavish qualities, the building is well aimed in the luxury market as a grandiose building with suitably grandiose surroundings.
Walsh concluded on the team’s ethos for the development: “We felt it was very important not to simply re-create another ‘5-star’ hotel, but very much focus on creating a ‘home’ for our buyers that they will be proud of, and will enjoy showing to their family and friends.”