60 Parker Street, Holborn

Historic former coach works converted into modern offices

Industrial conservation 19th century. Finding new uses for old. A new glazed stairwell at the rear of a utilitarian building from... Read More.

Historic former coach works converted into modern offices

Industrial conservation 19th century. Finding new uses for old. A new glazed stairwell at the rear of a utilitarian building from the 1820s transforms a semi-derelict building into energy-efficient, modern, high value offices with a historic feel. An example of lateral thinking which can be applied to a number of nineteenth century buildings in inner city locations. Natural light, ventilation and a roof garden incorporating deciduous solar shading ensure workers are aware of the seasons and the time of day and connected to the natural environment in Covent Garden, central London.

Sixty Parker Street is an industrial building in Covent Garden, dating from the 1820’s. It was originally a coach works, and then a printing works, making use of the north facing strip windows at every floor.

Its owners, GMS Estates, had intended to demolish it and rebuild. However, in conjunction with Camden’s conservation officer, Colin Wilson, it was decided to retain the original building and renew it. It was listed Grade II during the planning process, and an alternative approach was developed: to restore the four floors of accommodation within the main body of the building, but to strip out staircases and services, which could be accommodated in a new addition in the light well behind.

The new staircase was created within a glass enclosure, and a slot of light was established behind the original rear elevation of the building throughout its four storeys and up to the glass roof. Walkways at first and third floor level are made of galvanised steel gratings, and the second floor walkway is structural glass, acid etched, and lit by blue cold cathode ray tubes.

The office spaces are designed to ventilate through to the stairwell, with thermostatically controlled vents at the top. The stair flights which are constructed of folded steel plates with reconstituted stone treads, are heated, to temper the space, and solar shading is provided by deciduous vines, which are designed to form a mat of leaves in summer across the south facing glass wall. Within the offices, the floors are English oak.

Kitchen, shower, and WCs are contained within a curved, glass mosaic clad drum, which extends the full height of the building, modulating from light to dark turquoise as the drum rises up.

At each floor the services: heating/cooling, electricity, and communications, traverse the stairwell space in three stainless steel tubes.

The stairwell is the social heart of the building, designed for easy interchange, gossip and overhearing.

Beale insists that the choice of gratings was as much an acoustic consideration as a visual one – a lesson the practice learned on loft extensions.

At the entrance, the existing pavement was too narrow to provide a wheelchair turning space, so the pavement was extended into the building, leading onto a glass doored lobby, and here again the glass mosaic appears, this time in a richer dark blue and gold colour, and this time in a concave curve, to create a welcoming feel to the entrance.

The piers, cornice and entablature framing the shop front are retained and repaired, the joinery between removed. In the right hand bay of the shop front the existing stall riser at low level is retained.


New work: Stairwell is enclosed in clear glazed patent glazing with a grey PPC finish. Bathroom pods are clad in glass mosaic. Roof terrace is paved, and incorporates deciduous solar shading – vines growing up the facade. The roof garden includes places to sit. The new party wall at the south is rendered block work with a reconstituted stone coping.

Front Elevation – Existing Building

Brickwork where repaired or repointed is in materials matching the original construction. New coping stones are reconstituted stone. Existing windows first floor and above are stripped back, repaired as necessary and repainted in oil paints. Shop front at ground level. New windows and doors are plate glass. Floors: existing original floor construction from first floor upwards to be repaired as necessary. Existing bressummers and joists are to be repaired and used structurally. Floor boards are replaced with new timber boarding in Oak. Ceilings are underlined in plasterboard for fire protection.


A new roof covering of natural slate is provided over new insulation over the existing roof structure. The existing truss bearings are repaired.

Rear Elevation

The elevation, currently in poor structural condition, becomes an internal wall. The existing coping is replaced in reconstituted stone. The existing cant wall in 4.5” brickwork from second floor upwards is removed. Elsewhere, existing openings in the rear wall are retained.

The overall effect of the building is light, dramatic, tactile, inventive.

The building’s first tenants moved in in May 2002, and some of the comments from its users were:

“I look forward to coming to work”

“I didn’t realise Holborn had anything like this.”

London, UK

GMS Estates
Project Architect
Marcus Beale Architects, Caitriona O'Connor
Job Architect
Andrew Dobson
Roxwell Limited
Quantity Surveyor
Pierce Hill
Marcus Peel Photography