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34 PROJECT REPORT: HOTELS, RESTAURANTS & BARS


like you’re walking on eggshells doing something to an old property, but I felt we were doing a real service to this building by ripping everything out of there.” At the centre of the three buildings was what was formerly a small closed-off ‘street’ (Galbraith Street, leading onto Princess Street). However it had been covered with a glazed steel-framed barrel vault in the previous renovation, which also closed off the access with glass doors. Grzywinski says: “It did feel a bit defensive, like maybe it was turning its back to what was considered a hostile neighbourhood at the time. We wanted to open this building to neighbourhood that was coming back to life in a lot of ways.”


Addressing the atrium was one of the first interventions the practice identified, and set about removing previous alterations and simplifying the barrel vault roof structure. Matthew explains: “The main roof structure stayed, but everything below the barrel vault came down.” A new, simple rectangular steel structure increased transparency throughout the space, opening up views from the internal facades of Central House and Dominion House into the atrium.


Matthew admits the previous renovation’s addition of salvaged cast iron columns supporting the vault were complementary– and as such were retained, partly also out of structural practicality. The atrium was one important ‘threshold’ the architects identified in the project – while blending the inside with the outside by being re-opened to Princess Street, it also included the new reception, a bar, and a granite paved floor, that “brought back some of the feeling of the street.” Removing the tiles and drylining revealed the internal facades of Johnson and Central House, and these were restored with ‘period’ doors, although this raised accessibility challenges. “Doors were tricky because of budget combined with DDA and Part M, we couldn’t really do period glazed steel-framed doors, but we tried to do the best we could.”


The project uncovered “further thresholds between what are now public spaces,” says Matthew – “Beaver Street, Princess Street, the canal, all these connections, some of which were uncovered because of safety concerns, but some which we wanted to create so you could enter the building from all three streets.” The ground floor of Johnson House, which was “literally full of rubbish” previously, with “lots of weird level changes


WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK ADF MAY 2019


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