An architectural insight into Oxford House, W1

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Oliver Richards of Orms gives an architectural insight into Oxford House W1, GPE’s new building at the eastern end of Oxford Street

The design - a strategy created by lateral thinking  

Having won planning consent for a major refurbishment, we have now designed a prime quality new building worthy of its location opposite the Elizabeth Line Station. This maximises value with un-compromised retail space below office floors. 

In comparison with the refurbishment, there are fewer, better, bigger and taller floor plates with a stunning shared roof terrace. This design strategy has supported Piers Blewitt of GPE in negotiating with the two adjoining owners to allow construction to start and offering:

  • fully flexible retail space on 2, 3 or 4 levels, with a 60 metre Oxford St frontage
  • large sub-divisible office floors from 2nd to 7th floor with a communal roof terrace
  • a space efficient, shared delivery yard with turntable 
  • a more appropriately located and quieter Newman Street office entrance

Elevation - sets the tone and expectations

The elevation needs to be functional yet visionary - elegant, buildable, maintainable, affordable and sensitive to the scale of its much smaller neighbours. We are enhancing the office entrance with David Murphy’s seven metre high sculpture panel 

This is the tallest building at this end of Oxford Street. Our aesthetic challenge was to design a highly transparent base for maximum retail visibility while keeping a unifying control of the whole building’s appearance and being sensitive to its context at street level. 

The upper façade is more subtle and more solid. With its curved glass corners, it is conceived as a ‘weave’ of elements - both vertical and horizontal. Decorated, perforated and curved sun-shading panels will allow a full length glazed facade and minimise the problems of solar gain. 

Sustainability - holistic design

We believe that real sustainability comes from an holistic approach to design – durability, flexibility, operational and energy efficiency. 

Oxford House has been designed on the principle that the most flexible buildings have simple plan forms, generous ceiling heights, good quality natural light. They have ‘lovable’ elegance, humanity and visual appeal. These are the buildings which stand the test of time and are flexible for the needs of a future age. 

The choice of materials , facilities and energy use are designed to create an environmentally friendly building which will minimise its carbon footprint. We are targeting a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for the office element with potential to achieve ‘Outstanding’. 

Quality of life  - designing for people

A good building must be enjoyable to use and should lift the spirit. The architectural journey is a sequence of experiences - facade, reception, bike centre, core, interiors, roof terraces. It will give subtle messages and perceptions about building quality and thoughtfulness. 

The lifts will open directly onto the office floors with daylight on all 4 sides. Avoiding the ‘vanilla’ of a flat ceiling, we will completely expose structure and services. This approach maximises the feeling of height, space and daylight. It also reduces the waste of new material to be thrown away during a tenant fit out and gives a visual interest for people to enjoy. 

A large roof top terrace of linked spaces - for use by individuals, yoga classes or for parties - will have protection from the wind and sun with its green walls and a retractable canopy. There will be fabulous views over Soho and Westminster.