Adaptive Reuse: AMANO

“Change of use requires confidence and clear vision.”

Once a tired 1980s office building, The Hotel AMANO revives a rare site to create a vibrant, 141-room offering that reconnects Drury Lane to the ongoing buzz of Covent Garden.

From front door to rooftop bar, the transformation imparts a cool, carefree vibe that makes a stay at the AMANO an experience defined by a genuine connection to London. Making the most of panoramic views and prestigious neighbours, the building reconnects with its heritage setting to prove that a simple, elegant approach to adaptive reuse far surpasses the temptation to demolish and start anew.

What was the approach?

An incredible location, space for multiple rooms, high percentage of quality materials and an appealing-if-outdated design define the ‘good bones’ that made building a textbook contender for an office to hotel conversion.

Set on the iconic Drury Lane, the once-impressive building hadn’t been adding much to the heritage environment and needed an approach that better suited its context. The aim was to reposition the building, giving it a new lease of life as a hotel, and achieving public activation at both rooftop and ground level.

By creating a public face at ground floor, through the hotel lobby and restaurant, the team established a more composed object within the city – providing a new and exciting user experience for locals and visitors alike. Today, there’s an active ground level and a rooftop with unparcelled views, including the landmark Drury Lane Theatre, both of which contribute to the vital West End night-time economy.

Why was it better than defaulting to demolition?

Put simply, it was the right thing to do. Opting for an adaptive reuse approach made use of the building’s good bones and was the best fit for the locality.

In this case the appeal was clear: adaptive reuse was quicker on every construction phase and worked out to be more economical than a new build. Beyond that, the building’s irreplaceable character and preserved history created a feeling that could never be replicated – this is a cool, compact hotel that draws you in with its charm and makes you stay with its comfort.

“Expertly balancing the oft-opposing roles of great host and respectful neighbour.”

Lessons learnt/problems solved?

There were three main takeaways from the Hotel AMANO:

The key to the Hotel AMANO’s success lies in its simplicity. Strong communication and open commitment from all parties early on meant that there was an overarching goal to keep to a streamlined approach. As a result, all project stages were completed on time and economic modelling matched the eventual reality.

The Hotel AMANO needed to balance the oft-opposing roles of respectful neighbour and entertaining host. To appeal to all users as well as suit the surrounding area, the AMANO needed to manage noise, maintain privacy, increase access, and introduce better coherence with the neighbouring buildings.

The decision to design in a publicly accessible rooftop bar meant that provisions needed to be made to pro-actively manage noise and ensure privacy for neighbours. As a result, acoustic insulation and noise limitations are in place (bargoers wishing to stay later can migrate to the basement bar) and the amount of screening to the north, east and west of the hotel terrace has been significantly increased to prevent overlooking. Respecting nearby residents, the entrance and lobby was repositioned further west along the more commercial Russell Street.

To introduce better coherence with the neighbouring buildings, significant enhancements were made to the building’s mansard, façade, and windows. The existing high-quality brick and stone was renovated, and metal windows and Juliette balconies inserted to give the building a timeless character that suited one of the most historic boroughs in central London.

Services require strategy. A conversion from office to hotel needs an approach that considers how to win space back for services without that being at the cost of enjoyable spaces. Committed to a light touch, designers considered how the insertion of restaurant back of house, heating, cooling, hotel-grade fire safety, laundry, bathrooms, and lobby services could be neatly designed into the hotel.

“All people, at all hours, have been considered.”

What needs to change in your city for adaptive reuse to stay?

We’ll always need to keep evolving, but the most important thing to remember is that it’s people that create change. When it comes to adaptive reuse, many global cities have seen local authorities grapple with policy – which of course needs to be updated to reflect our developing understanding of what our cites need. But policy follows people, so we do need more people to get behind the ESG agenda and embrace the idea of being a part of a building’s history – not its whole story.

That said, the completion of Hotel AMANO was very much a race against policy. The opportunity for a hotel was obvious – the right size, incredible location, quick construction times and doubled value – but local authorities were considering a change that would stop the change of use and keep the building strictly for office use. As a result, time was a driving factor in the project – with all parties looking to create a swift, simple and direct path to a quality outcome.

The result is a project that, as well as providing visitors places to stay, gives its community spaces to meet – looking out across panoramic views of London.