The Rowe completed & shortlisted for AJ Retrofit Award

28 February 2023
  • AHHM
  • AHHM
  • AHHM
  • AHHM
  • AHHM
  • AHHM

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris



United Kingdom

Former art school conversion creates office space with public realm upgrades

The Rowe - designed by Tenderstream member Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHHM) - has been shortlisted for an AJ Retrofit Award in the Workplace (£10m and over) category. Completed last autumn, the project retains and extends the former Central House building that previously housed the London Metropolitan School of Art, Architecture and Design. The building provides 150,000 sq ft of office space with retail and public space at ground floor and improvements to the surrounding public realm. 

Located opposite the Whitechapel Gallery, the design takes inspiration from Rachel Whiteread’s Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar square, adding to the existing six storey building with an equal volume above. The new build element mimics the horizontal banding and the rhythm of the panels of the 1960s concrete building, but adds contrast with a steel structure and dark metal palette.

Tension between the old and new sections of the building is highlighted by an inhabited gap, marked out by a playful piece of public art by Yinka Ilori. This space forms one of several external areas, including a large planted terrace at roof level and shared multi-amenity space for the building users.

At ground floor, a generous reception connects the building to its surroundings with a café. Above, the existing building is refurbished to provide large open plan offices punctuated by retained elements of raw concrete structure, as a reminder of the building’s industrial past. The upper floors feature an exposed steel structure with large 10 metre spans and generous floor to ceiling heights, defining a much sharper aesthetic compared to the floors below.

Two additional buildings connect to The Rowe, completing the urban block. On White Church Passage, a break in the street is infilled by a three storey brick building; meanwhile, above the service yard at the rear, a five storey metal building with cantilevered balconies addresses Manningtree Street.

Organised by the Architects’ Journal, the Retrofit Awards celebrate retrofit and reuse in the built environment. Previous winning projects by AHHM have included Television Centre and the University of Amsterdam. This year’s winners will be announced on 30 March.

Lucy Nordberg
Tenderstream Head of Research

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