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The Old War Office

London's newest transformation

The Old War Office

whitehall, london

What a marvellous insight into the building and its connection with the past that we have experienced during the works at the Old War Office. The Hotel and Residential sides are two completely separate and massive projects in their own right. The introduction of a new double-height basement and height extensions adds impressive dimension to the existing 54,000m² footprint, with around 1100 rooms and 2.5 miles of corridors.

The building will largely be retained, with the complementary Edwardian Baroque exterior cleaned up and kept in the stylistic Renaissance style with its iconic decorative domes atop each of the four corner towers, originally included in the design to mask the irregularity of the building’s shape.

DATE
October 2019

CLIENT
Ardmore Group

PROJECT TYPE
Commercial

FIRE SYSTEMS
Honeywell

Its location in the heart of Whitehall attracted developers from across the world and a keen bidding process ensued with a leasehold sale of £350m for 250 years to the Hinduja Group in partnership with Obrascón Huarte Laín Desarrollos, in late 2014. The sale completed in March 2016 and the building will become the OWO Hotel, 57 Whitehall.

MW Fire are proud to be part of the restoration of this Grade II* listed historic building where we have designed and are installing a full Fire Alarm System for the hotel. The project started for us towards the end of 2019 and is predicted to finish towards the end of 2021.

DATE
October 2019

CLIENT
Ardmore Group

PROJECT TYPE
Commercial

FIRE SYSTEMS
Honeywell

DATE
October 2019

CLIENT
Ardmore Group

PROJECT TYPE
Commercial

FIRE SYSTEMS
Honeywell

What a marvellous insight into the building and its connection with the past that we have experienced during the works at the Old War Office. The Hotel and Residential sides are two completely separate and massive projects in their own right. The introduction of a new double-height basement and height extensions adds impressive dimension to the existing 54,000m² footprint, with around 1100 rooms and 2.5 miles of corridors.

The building will largely be retained, with the complementary Edwardian Baroque exterior cleaned up and kept in the stylistic Renaissance style with its iconic decorative domes atop each of the four corner towers, originally included in the design to mask the irregularity of the building’s shape.

Its location in the heart of Whitehall attracted developers from across the world and a keen bidding process ensued with a leasehold sale of £350m for 250 years to the Hinduja Group in partnership with Obrascón Huarte Laín Desarrollos, in late 2014. The sale completed in March 2016 and the building will become the OWO Hotel, 57 Whitehall.

MW Fire are proud to be part of the restoration of this Grade II* listed historic building where we have designed and are installing a full Fire Alarm System for the hotel. The project started for us towards the end of 2019 and is predicted to finish towards the end of 2021.

Concept impression of the new Old War Office hotel.

A Brief History of The Old War Office

Within this facade two World Wars and the Cold War have ensued since construction in 1906. Lawrence of Arabia, Lord Kitchener, Winston Churchill, Lloyd-George and Profumo, all once worked here. The building’s purpose was a War Office to service the British Army in the form it had largely operated since the 17th century.

Following World War I it was appreciated that better co-ordination between the three military services was necessary but it wasn’t until Winston Churchill formed his government in 1940 that he appointed himself Minister of Defence to oversee the Chiefs of Staff and to co-ordinate defence matters.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee continued the arrangement of overseeing the War Office, Admiralty and Air Ministry, until the Ministry of Defence Act of 1946, and in 1947 the first appointed Minister of Defence took over at Cabinet level as formal military representation on behalf of the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for Air.

Between 1946 and 1964 the various departments of defence, continued to operate in separate buildings until 1964 when they merged and took over the Whitehall Gardens Building (facing Downing Street) that had previously been occupied by the Board of Trade.

When the present form of the Ministry of Defence was established in 1964, the War Office became the Old War Office. It was mainly used for administration but fell in to disuse for many years. This grande Grade II listed building was left to retire ungracefully, until talks emerged for an ambitious restoration.

Parliament recorded in April 1910 that the full cost of the new War Office was £1,229,128. The level of detail had been incredible, with 26,000 tons of Portland stone and 3,000 tons of York stone, and 25 million bricks. The first brick having been laid in 1901. Sculptured figures line the roof symbolising Peace and War, Truth and Justice, Fame and Victory.

The first major refurbishment was agreed in 1979 so that the building could remain administratively functional well into the next century. Staff moved out in 1985 in preparation for the works leaving behind just a trace of occupancy. And then in December 1992 it re-opened as the new headquarters for the Defence Intelligence Staffs (DIS).

Within a few years most staff had relocated to other MOD buildings with a yearly saving of £8m and the Old War Office was left largely unused until new interest sparked from developers. It once again rises to architectural recognition on a world scale where this ‘old’ building deserves to be.

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