January 28, 2020
Building Magazine, the UK’s premier publication for construction professionals on the industry’s news, expertise and intelligence, included The Londoner as the main feature for its third issue of 2020. Focusing on the restrictions within the historic neighborhood, the article does a deep dive into the engineering and feats that went into realizing the 15-story hospitality project—more than half of which are underground.
To get a full idea of what was required of the design team, the magazine interviewed Project Leader and Senior Associate Helen Taylor, Architect Jolanta Lidwin, Associate Fabrizio Cazzulo, Senior Designer Banu Oksuz and Architect Vasiliki Kyriopoulou. Each Woods Bagot expert worked on the various aspects of the project, including the basement, façade design and guestroom designs, respectively.
“The difference between our basement and all others [deeper than 31.2 meters] is ours is fully habitable and mostly front of house. We think it is the deepest inhabited basement in the world,” Taylor told the publication about the Woods Bagot design conceived with engineering firm Arup. These other underground constructions are primarily used as parking garages. This is where The Londoner stands out. Once realized, it will boast two underground cinemas, restaurants, bars, wellness spaces and an event space all placed along a central, vertical spine.
As the article mentions, London’s rising land costs and difficult planning constraints have brought on a construction trend of “mega basements,” or more commonly referred to as “icebergs” for residential projects. These constructions are classified as at least three stories in-depth under the footprint of a house or two stories in depth and extended under a garden, according to a study conducted by Newcastle University. But commercial initiatives push these novel structures even further.
In The Londoner’s case, the only way to fit all of the amenities within the allowable 31-meter-space was to extend it to the above-ground building footprint while moving underground infrastructure—such as electric, gas and plumbing —to adjacent streets as well as excavating 75,000 cubic meters of soil.