New Scotland Yard
AHMM’s design for the Metropolitan Police Service’s new headquarters is a radical remodelling and extension of the Curtis Green Building, a 1930s building on the Thames Embankment, which was an earlier home of the MPS.
The core of the brief was to deliver a landmark development and to:
-create flexible, efficient office environments and extend the floor space in the Curtis Green Building;
-create a highly visible entrance and reception area;
-create an enhanced connection with the public and enliven the external realm
use good quality, durable materials from sustainable sources;
-employ a holistic, layered security strategy to protect the building’s users and visitors.
The design has transformed the building with the addition of an elegant curved glass entrance pavilion and rooftop pavilions and a reworking of the existing accommodation. The scheme has expanded the building’s floor area from 8,691sqm to around 12,000sqm through extensions to the rear, roof and front concourse; the contemporary design of these complements and enhances the architectural features of the original building and the materials, colours and proportions of neighbouring Whitehall buildings.
Inside the original building, AHMM has created a flexible office environment to facilitate collaboration and interaction. The rooftop extension provides multi-use conference space and terraces, and is illuminated to give presence at night, symbolising the 24/7 nature of the building along with its civic purpose.
A brick ‘carpet’ in the landscape outside the entrance references the distinctive striped brickwork of the neighbouring Norman Shaw North building, while the commemorative Eternal Flame has been set within a contemplation pool south of the entrance pavilion.
The Curtis Green Building and the neighbouring Norman Shaw Buildings were the location of New Scotland Yard between 1887 and 1967. The MPS then moved to 10 Broadway, which has been their headquarters ever since. However, by 2013 it was clear that the building was no longer efficient or fit for purpose, and it was sold as part of the Met’s estates strategy. The Met are now returning to their original home on Victoria Embankment, the refurbished Curtis Green Building: a physical return to a historic location.
The competition to find an architect for the refurbishment was managed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) during 2013. Following the prequalification stage, a shortlist of five practices was chosen to visit the site, have a full briefing from the client and develop design ideas for the building.
The main objectives in the client brief were to:
-Achieve good value for money;
-Create modern, flexible and efficient office environments and extend the floor space within the Curtis Green Building;
-Facilitate agile working methodologies and interaction within the building;
-Create a highly visible entrance/reception area appropriate to a corporate headquarters;
-Deliver a landmark building to enhance the ‘Scotland Yard’ brand;
-Achieve a better connection with the public, and in so doing enliven the external realm;
-Use good quality, durable materials from sustainable sources;
-Employ a holistic, layered strategy to security to protect the building’s users and visitors.
The architects were actively encouraged to consider development opportunities for the building alongside refurbishment issues, in particular raising the roofline and creating an infill to the rear. Following presentation interviews and a public exhibition at City Hall, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris was announced as the winner of the design competition in October 2013.
New Scotland Yard sits on the Victoria Embankment, a road and pedestrian promenade along the north bank of the River Thames between the Palace of Westminster and Blackfriars Bridge. Until the 1860s there was no route along the Thames frontage, which was a permeable, tidal landscape of expensive riverside properties and commercial wharves. That changed with the construction of the new stone embankment, which reclaimed one hundred metres of land from the river, and protected a new main sewer for the city and an underground line. It was topped with a road and a linear public garden, which was laid out in 1875 and is now home to a series of memorials including the Battle of Britain Monument.
The building occupies a prominent position on the Embankment, sitting among a number of Grade I and II listed buildings within the Whitehall Conservation Area and close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. It is at the heart of the government estate, surrounded by ministries and military buildings, and there are high levels of security in the area.
The existing Curtis Green Building was one of very few in the Whitehall Conservation Area not to be listed. However, it is identified as a building of merit, and described as “a stone fronted neo-classical building which retains its original windows and has a symmetrical composition to the river front”. Its designer, William Curtis Green, was a reasonably successful architect of his day, becoming a Royal Academician and picking up a series of high profile commissions in the capital. His early projects, such as a Quaker Meeting House in Croydon, are in the Arts and Crafts style but – due in part to their grander scale and context – his buildings of the 1910s and 1920s are far more imposing and often employ a classical idiom. Projects from this period include The Wolseley hotel and the National Westminster Bank, both on Piccadilly. In his later years, he adopted a more austere, stripped back style, as seen at the Dorchester Hotel, the Queens Hotel in Leeds and the now-demolished Fortress House on Savile Row – and these all provided clear precedents for the Scotland Yard building at Victoria Embankment.
Curtis Green’s New Scotland Yard is a neo-classical building in Portland stone, with neat proportions and a symmetrical front elevation. However, the plan is not symmetrical as the building is the only realised part of a larger scheme which was intended to be completed at a future date. Further elements were intended to sit on a site to the west (now occupied by Richmond House), the complex of structures enclosing a central courtyard which would have been accessed from a more imposing entrance opposite that to the Ministry of Defence building on Richmond Terrace to the north.
The building falls into a strategic viewing corridor and several protected views. Seen from the South Bank opposite, the building forms part of a great riverfront panorama of historic buildings and memorials, from the gothic revival Palace of Westminster to postmodern Charing Cross Station. It can be seen from Vauxhall upstream to Temple Gardens downstream.
It is also a building with impressive neighbours, sitting in sequence along the north bank of the Thames with Portcullis House, the Norman Shaw building (formerly New Scotland Yard), the main Ministry of Defence building, and Whitehall Court and the National Liberal Building. This more immediate townscape, and the broader cityscape with its protected views, were important factors in the development of the design.