Assembly Hotel, London

An office to boutique hotel conversion for city trippers and weekenders

Central London

About the building

Originally built in 1937, Alhambra house was constructed at the same time as the Odeon Cinema at Leicester Square. At nine storeys tall, the modernist, concrete framed building has remained head and shoulders above its neighbours for over 70 years. Its prominent proportions were a device to conceal the (now demolished) fly tower that once served the cinema behind. We were tasked with transforming this building into a boutique hotel for the 21st century traveller.

A tricky scheme

A number of challenges were presented to the design team when looking to repurpose this office building as a functioning hotel.

A busy neighbourhood

Sandwiched between a cinema and a busy London Street meant that acoustics were high on the agenda. The product is ‘sleep’ so it is imperative that guests wouldn’t be disturbed during their stay. We underwent extensive consultation with the acoustician and key stakeholders to ensure that we achieved our brief to achieve the >44dB attenuation requirement, the team also negotiated with the cinema to relocate their speaker system.

An old frame

As with all old structures there was a lot of deviation in the building’s form to address. The in-situ cast concrete frame was so far out that we had to offset the new cladding system entirely from the original structure to achieve the clean lines we were looking for. This resulted in the deep window reveals that we then used to ventilate the guestrooms. By hiding the ventilation system in the window soffit we were able to provide a discreet solution to a big challenge.

The low floor plates and the constraints with the building height made creating new servicing routes a challenge. This was overcome by decentralising the bulky ventilation equipment and serving each room individually from the façade.

A giant with tiny feet

Despite being a tall building, the footprint was so small that, with Barclays bank occupying two thirds of the ground floor (and staying during construction!), just 139m² was available for both front and back of house operations – a tight squeeze by any standards. To overcome this we installed a goods lift, linking directly to the basement, easing pressure of deliveries at ground floor, to ensure that the available space serves the customer.

A great view

When confronted with the dramatic views enjoyed from the building’s roof we redesigned the restaurant and bar with full height glass walls to ensure that we made the most of the unique vantage point. The rooftop bar benefits from uninterrupted views of the London skyline from Nelsons Column to the South and the BT tower to the North and all that stands in between.