citizenM Tower of London features in the Architects Journal

21st November 2016

The article appeared in the current issue of the AJ (10.11.16) as well as online here, which can be accessed for free if you register on the site.

The Architects Journal (AJ) has published a nine-page feature on Sheppard Robson and Concrete’s designs for the new citizenM hotel next to The Tower of London.

Edited by the AJ’s architecture editor Laura Mark, the in-depth study includes accounts from Sheppard Robson associate George Poppe and also Robin Chadha, chief marketing officer at citizenM. The project team discusses how the emerging brand’s largest hotel to date uses the citizenM’s interior modular concept to create its own take on affordable luxury. The architectural brief for the flagship project revolved around harnessing the benefits of modern methods of construction to create a piece of contemporary architecture that respects the building’s historic setting whilst negotiating the inherent technical challenges of the site.

Discussing the project, Sheppard Robson’s George Poppe said:

“As well as the Tower of London immediately to the south of the site, the project is also in a conservation area with several listed buildings nearby and adjacent to the historic Roman London Wall. In addition, the project negotiates the technical and logistical challenges of being located above a London Underground Station (Tower Hill).

“The architectural design is a response to this remarkable and complex urban setting. Although the design of the interior spaces revolved around citizenM’s stacked pod design, the modular construction techniques does not define the architectural character of the building. Our design moves away from a repetitive grid, helping the hotel sit comfortably within its historic setting.

“The facade of the building is characterised by the use of Portland Stone, a material that is in-keeping with the adjacent Trinity Square. The frame is animated by vertical GRC fins that are intersected by horizontal aluminium projections, the lightness of which act as a counterpoint to the robustness of the stone. The vertical array of fins has been carefully placed to provide shading and contribute to the building’s BREEAM Excellent sustainable credentials.

“The compositional form of the building has a coherent relationship with the adjacent Georgian terraces, in that it is formed of four horizontal parts: a distinct base that grounds the building; a larger middle and smaller upper section; and a recessed top. This carefully considered hierarchy reduces the overall mass of the building and helps to integrate it within its surroundings.”

Discussing the technical detail drawings covered in the article George Poppe, commented:

“A material palette of Portland stone (Jordan’s Whitbed and Jordan’s Base bed), GRC, anodized aluminium, double glazing, and curtain walling is used for the elevations of the hotel. Horizontal and vertical hand-set Portland stone piers, supported on stainless steel frameworks, establish the primary façade grid on the east, south and west elevations, and slender anodized aluminium extrusions provide horizontal division at each floor level whilst maintaining the vertical emphasis.

“An irregular distribution of dark grey GRC fins, formed in a U-profile with an anodized aluminium back plate, is accommodated between the stone and aluminium components, and is supported on stainless steel bracketry; this provides a counterpoint to the warm hue of the Portland stone, and enhances the quality of the natural material whilst concurrently softening the regimental grid of the bedroom modules. GRC is also used horizontally within the recess created between the horizontal stone bands. This lightweight product achieved significant weight savings over precast concrete alternatives and simplified the installation process.

“The cladding is connected directly to the bedroom modules via galvanised steel fixing brackets which are welded to the hot-rolled steel members within the module frames prior to delivery to site; these provide flanged connections to which the secondary stainless steel frameworks are connected.

“The aluminium framed windows are factory-fitted to the bedrooms and feature a backpainted and insulated panel where the bed meets the glass. Horizontal and vertical anodised aluminium cover plates are installed between the windows once the modules are installed.”

Projects facts

citizenM Hotel, Tower of London

  • Location: Trinity Square, Tower Hamlets
  • Contract value: £30m
  • Completion: June 2016
  • Area: 9,500m² NIA
  • Construction methodology: Modular
  • Keys: 370 (including 38 accessible)
  • Floors: Nine (including basement)
  • Cladding: Portland stone and GRC
  • BREEAM rating: Excellent (pending)