Design at Hotelympia

07 February 2008
Design at Hotelympia

Dealing with English Heritage can be a complicated, arduous and prolonged process - just ask any designer. But working with them, as opposed to against them, can provide splendid results, as Duncan Mackenzie explains

Landmark locations and buildings do add a certain something to an occasion, don't they? To my mind, what is most appealing about historic structures, whether city, town or country, is that they come with their own, sometimes unique, history a wealth of detail, that could be prohibitive in today's financial climate or a great sense of place by virtue of a local vernacular style and a fantastic atmosphere. Interestingly, these are the components that most imaginative designers strive to create for new destinations: a story, a look and an atmosphere.

The listing of buildings in the UK was begun by a provision in the Town & Country Planning Act 1947, and today applies to about 500,000 buildings and structures. There are three grades: Grade I - of exceptional interest Grade II* - important, of more than special interest and Grade II - of special interest.

Buildings are selected because they are of historic or architectural interest and, in some cases, this can comprise groups of buildings. The purpose of listing structures is to protect the best of our architectural heritage and has much to do with finding new uses where the existing use is no longer serving any purpose.

Commercial and leisure uses for historic structures are often the most viable and desirable, affording public access to spaces that might have previously been inaccessible sometimes also presenting the last opportunity to save a building at risk.

Listed building consent is required if you intend to make any alterations that affect the existing fabric, character and, in some cases, setting of the building or buildings, depending on the property and its surroundings.

Applying for listed building consent

The local planning authority deals with all listed building consent applications. Important cases are referred to English Heritage. The first step is to contact the local authority before you make any formal application and discuss your proposals with the conservation officer.

You will need sufficient information about your property to be able to show clearly what you intend to do. It is a good idea to employ an architect who is used to working with listed buildings.

Once you have some comment on your proposed work, then appropriate drawings, photographs and reports can be prepared in order to submit an application to the authority. The documents required might include both planning and listed building consent applications in respect of change of building use, for example.

English Heritage is empowered to protect the best of our architectural heritage while making sure that buildings continue to be put to good use rather than fall into decay. It can be your greatest source of inspiration in the satisfactory completion of a meaningful project. The Buildings at Risk register has a greater number than ever before of Grade I and Grade II* properties seeking new and interested owners.

Duncan Mackenzie, Mackenzie Wheeler Architects and Designers. Tel: 020 8785 5000. Website:

Case study 1: The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons Hampshire hotel, located on the 500-acre Dogmersfield Park Estate, occupies a Grade I heritage-listed manor house, originally built in 1728 but partly destroyed by fire a few decades ago. What was preserved has been painstakingly restored over a four-year period and has now become the hotel's north wing, incorporating the main entrance, reception and library. Much of the hotel is, in fact, newly built, although it is done in sympathy and in the style of the original building. Mackenzie Wheeler was lead consultant through the design development stage, responsible for scheme design to planning, and for gaining listed building consent. Richmond International is credited as interior designer.

Case study 2: Hankridge Arms in Taunton

Originally a 16th-century farmhouse, the Hankridge Arms in Taunton, Somerset, had been used as a reeve court in the 17th century, thus establishing a long history of public use. This derelict listed building was acquired for conversion into a traditional pub, restaurant and conference facility. Mackenzie Wheeler provided detail design and project management services, utilising local traditionally skilled craftsmen to repair the structure and fabric of the property. Stone mullion windows, inglenook fireplaces, oak and elm panelled partitions, stone floors, lime-washed walls and rare decorative plasterwork have been carefully retained and repaired.

Case study 3: West India Quay Warehouse buildings

Seven of the nine West India Quay Warehouse buildings in London's Docklands, originally built in 1802 at the apogee of the slave trade to store sugar, rum and coffee from the Caribbean, were destroyed during bombing raids during the Second World War in 1940.

Number Two Warehouse is now home to a series of popular midmarket bars and restaurants at ground-floor level and also houses two storeys of retail, with residential units above.

A new luxury bar, Dion, has recently opened within this listed property, and designer Spence Harris Hogan Associates has sensibly created the venue around the building's unique original features, exposing many that were previously hidden.

Open brick walls, cobbles, flagstones and magnificent timber columns take centre stage in this venue, and they all benefit from dramatic modern lighting.

Working with listed building

What to do

  • Obtain a copy of the building's listing.
  • Research the history of the building, including previous occupants and its social history.
  • Consult with the local authority conservation officer at an early stage of design.
  • Minimise intervention with the existing fabric.
  • Work with, not against, the features of the property.

What not to do

  • Make alterations without consent.

The three grades

  • Grade I of exceptional interest
  • Grade II* Important, of more than special interest
  • Grade II Of special interest

Design at Hotelympia

Mackenzie Wheeler Architects and Designers specialises in providing architecture, interior design, design consultancy and project management to the hospitality, entertainment and leisure sectors. It is a regular visitor to Hotelympia and has previously given talks at the Design Link seminars.

This year it has designed the Design Link feature stand, giving young designer Louise East the daunting task of creating three themed areas: the seminar theatre, the designers' gallery and the Champagne bar.

Design Link is once again organised by the team at GS Magazine, who have put together a stimulating and entertaining seminar programme, highlights of which include:

• The Green Awards, hosted by Dr John Forte, will take place on Tuesday 19 February at 2pm. The five Considerate Hoteliers Association award winners will discuss their conservation and money-saving initiatives, and a new Sustainable Building Design award will be launched. Learn how to save your business thousands of pounds.

• Raymond Blanc will be discussing sexy design, his likes and dislikes, and revealing the secrets to his success at 3pm on Thursday 21 February.

• One of the industry's most successful entrepreneurs and businessmen, Luke Johnson, will take the stage on Sunday 17 February at 3pm to talk about many of his previous and current restaurant businesses, including Pizza Express, Strada, the Ivy and Giraffe.

• Mary Fox Linton, one of the design world's most respected figures, will be illustrating how to create an "instant design classic" by selecting colours, fabrics, furniture and accessories to magnificent effect. She speaks at noon on Thursday 21 February.

• Mark Fuller, Andy Taylor and chef Gary Hollihead, the team behind the phenomenally successful Embassy Club, will unveil their swanky new Piccadilly hotel, destined to become the latest celebrity hot spot. Mark & Co will describe their work on Wednesday 20 February at 2pm.

Details of the full Design Link seminar programme can be found on the newly launched GS Magazine website, Further details about Hotelympia, including how to register, are available by visiting

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