From home of James Bond to London’s new Raffles: Old War Office gets a refresh
The OWO, London’s Old War Office, gets a makeover that blends modern style with the original Edwardian Baroque architecture, which inspired James Bond and was once used by Sir Winston Churchill
London’s Old War Office (The OWO) is the stuff of British architecture legend. Not only has it been home to historical figures of the magnitude of Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Kitchener, but it was also the inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s James Bond series (and, more recently, a location for five James Bond films).
Conceived while Fleming was working for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division, 007 and his adventures were born from this very building – the majestic, large-scale structure that occupies a whole block on Whitehall, just opposite the famed Horse Guards. Now, The OWO’s heritage architecture is about to be given a new lease of life, as it’s being redesigned into private residences and the first Raffles hotel in London.
Old War Office to host Raffles hotel and residences
The OWO was created between 1898 and 1906 by Scottish architect William Young, and, after his passing, his son, architect Clyde Young. More recently, EPR Architects was appointed to take on the task of restoring and redesigning the historic building, which will include 85 private residences (including two penthouse properties), ranging from studios to five bedroom homes. The architects had to work with a wealth of features and original detailing in the 580,000 sq ft building, as they transformed it into state-of-the-art 21st-century domestic spaces and the hotel, as well as a selection of hospitality and retail offerings on the ground level (there will be five restaurants and bars operating independently from the Raffles options).
The residential interiors were created by design studio 1508 London and British furniture maker Smallbone of Devizes, which is behind the bespoke handcrafted kitchens and joinery in each unit, complemented by integrated appliances by Gaggenau and Miele. Everything was created with the building’s architectural heritage and James Bond-worthy style in mind. The structure’s quirkiness and variety helped in that respect.
‘The intricate William Young architecture ensures no two residences are the same, each with unique proportions and floorplans,’ says 1508 London design principle Lucy Savanis. ‘In light of this, we have tailored each residence to suit its location within the building, whether that be a voluminous three-bedroom apartment overlooking the residents’ garden or the two residences incorporating their own private octagonal turret. We worked within the existing fabric of the building and exposed its unique features; extraordinary 3m-wide corridors on some floors have been showcased as a central feature at the heart of the home, and grand entrance hallways bring back a sense of ceremony to modern living, a feature unique to the OWO residences.’
From ornate mosaic floors to detailed architectural mouldings, the interior promises richness and depth. Special features include The OWO’s former mailrooms (also known as ‘messenger screens’, a way of communicating messages internally during the war), which have been incorporated into some of the residences and transformed into home offices or family rooms. Green, open spaces coexist with the period architecture in the shape of internal courtyards and terraces.
The original Old War Office’s Edwardian Baroque character is preserved and restored, while interiors are carefully adapted to the 21st century. ‘The design transcends generations and is respectful of the building’s rich history,’ concludes Savanis. Construction is currently underway with completion planned for the end of 2022. §