Historic art deco icon, transformed into a flexible workplace for the future


Recently completed for Strandbrook Ltd, the contemporary and complementary additions to the iconic Grade II Listed Art Deco ‘Shell-Mex House’, have transformed this London landmark into a vibrant and flexible multi-tenanted space to meet the needs and desires of the modern worker..'

Originally designed in the early 1930s by architects Messrs Joseph, the building had served as Shell-Mex and British Petroleum’s headquarters until the companies vacated the premises in 2020. The building holds a commanding position over the River Thames with the southern elevation home to the UK’s largest clock face, making it instantly recognisable. The building historically had no street frontage on the Strand, with access gained via an archway through, what was previously, the Cecil Hotel (the back of which was demolished to make way for Shell and BP’s new HQ). Previously used as the trade entrance, a key change has been to create a landmark arrival experience, transforming the entrance and public areas to connect right through to the Strand and reposition this river icon as a Covent-Garden-connected, healthy and desirable place to work.

Architects, PDP London, developed the design from detailed concepts and drawings prepared by architect Duncan Mitchell, structural engineer Simon Bennett, and the client, Strandbrook. Together, the team created a courtyard entrance experience with a glowing and carefully crafted pavilion, setting the tone for people to enjoy the building. Sited through the archway, this new pavilion entices people into the entrance courtyard, animating the space by providing glimpses of light and the activity within.'

Now, when approaching from the Strand, visitors arrive into the tranquil inner courtyard and enter the building through the glass and steel pavilion: a contemporary jewel nestled between the existing listed fabric. The courtyard itself has been revitalised, offering a welcoming space for people to meet, with new planting and tranquil water feature installed to aid contemplation. The pavilion intentionally touches the existing structure lightly, respecting the existing fabric - whilst providing a contem­porary counterpoint - with a form which is expressive and reminiscent of early 20th century architecture. The structure of this vault was carefully engineered by structural engineer Simon Bennett with specialist Seele UK, to avoid the need for horizontal ties interrupting the volume. The glazed elements of the roof have a frit which emulates the structural bracing at the edge of the dome, which, together with the steelwork and a large chandelier, form a diamond pattern that is a contemporary nod to Art Deco motifs found in the building’s interior.


A great deal of care has been taken to improve the  legibility and flow of the spaces for occupants and guests, in answer to the challenge of welcoming some 6,000 people through the entrance spaces during the morning and evening rush hours. The entrance façade houses five entryways, including three grand revolving doors, standing at 4.3 metres tall. Beyond, the building reception, lift lobby and inner courtyard spaces flow seamlessly, connecting the length of the building to the Embankment level access. Previously tired and institutional, these entrance spaces are now contemporary and luxurious, boasting high quality materials and finishes.

With interiors in collaboration with Carter Owers, the fully glazed entrance pavilion sets off a series of double height welcoming spaces, providing a sense of scale and grandeur to the arrival experience. Here, design elements include undulating brass screens and a new, intricately detailed stone and glass reception desk which, together with visitor seating, lend the space a fresh and modern feel while clearly referencing the building’s 1930s heritage.

Moving through the space to the lobby, stylish lounge areas sit beyond the pavilion reception, creating a community hub with a place for people to meet, socialise, relax and work informally and flexibly. High level polished stucco plaster panelling, decorative metalwork, restored stone walls and a family of geometric fluted glass and bronze wall and ceiling light fittings reinforce the design language. The adjacent conference room provides a setting for occupiers to hold more formal meetings away from their own spaces, whilst also providing an element of income in the form of a bookable shared amenity space. These communal areas were consciously designed to provide a zero-touch experience, allowing entry through the building and access to the office floors without touching any surfaces - a key consideration for our post-Covid world.

Beyond these spaces is a new café, which offers workers and visitors a chance to socialise away from their office floors. Consistent with the language of the new reception furniture, a rounded stone bar with fluted detail hugs one side of the space, from which coffees and pastries will be served, while a custom bench with seating on the opposite wall offers space for visitors to sit and work, or meet.  Inspired by the original stonework detailing of the historic building, relief panels in polished plaster flank the walls and anchor the café in an otherwise transitory zone between lift lobby and the Embankment Level access. These modern facilities blend seamlessly with the aesthetic and quality of the retained existing fabric, which in itself has been significantly upgraded as part of the works.

Sitting at the centre of the public floors is a second courtyard lightwell. Inserted here is the ‘Glasshouse Garden’, an elegant landscaped sanctuary which sits at the heart of Eighty Strand’s transformation. Here you will find double height conservatory-style extensions, creating an indoor/outdoor communal space with seating, dining and meeting areas. Biophilic design sees landscaped greenery and lush vertical planting introduced to promote both wellbeing and biodiversity. The atrium is a bright, communal area to be enjoyed by those who work in the building as well as providing a place in which to welcome guests. Working alongside both the MEP and structural engineers, this unique and valuable landlord space was created by altering the floor slabs and stripping out and relocating building service equipment to provide level access, allowing the spaces to flow, and making this lightwell accessible to building users for the first time in 90 years. This new space provides a strong, legible link between the Embankment entrance and the Strand entrance level three floors above.

In addition to the transformation of the public areas, the project also sees the complete refurbishment of four floors of office accommodation, some 160,000 sq ft, which will compete with the best that the London office market has to offer with an occupancy of 1 person per 8 sqm. Internally, the open plan interiors have been stripped down to the steel columns to reveal the authenticity of the structure. The riveted columns which are a testimony to the construction methods of the time are now celebrated, rather than hidden by white plasterboard. Exposed services have been designed to be complementary to the existing building fabric, installed so that the full height and design of the original ceilings can be appreciated, whilst providing an elegant, minimalist and accessible installation for the upgraded ventilation, heating and cooling systems. Secondary glazing has also been added to improve the building fabric on these floors.

The on floor tenant washrooms showcase high quality craftsmanship and continue the design language established on entering the building. The floor tiles here are in two tones of terrazzo, a nod to the existing Art Deco material, and textured, bespoke curved wall tiles have been designed to reference the form and finish of the existing crackle glazed tiles of the original staircases which still remain today.

Hotel-quality end-of-trip facilities in the basement provide visitors and tenants with premium showering and changing facilities and extensive cycle parking. Luxurious changing rooms bring together leather seating, oak cabinetry, custom terrazzo floors and vanity benches whilst large, floor to ceiling illuminated mirrors visually extend and open up the subterranean changing rooms. Comfortably sized shower cubicles in ceramic, black metal and reeded glass enable users to dress and shower in privacy.

From a distance this iconic Art Deco edifice, which is an integral part of the London riverside skyline, still appears strong and dependable with the original design intent of solidity and permanence apparent. As you draw near and engage further with the building, the ‘adapt and repurpose’ approach has reset this heritage icon, transforming it for the twenty first century: oriented towards people, comfort and wellbeing values.

‘The interventions and new spaces created are giving the building a new lease of life for generations to come. The work achieved on the design of the front pavilion is a tour de force, marrying the existing art deco icon with a crafted glass and metal work element, sitting like a jewel at the gate of the new ‘Eighty Strand’ experience.’
Marion Baeli, Partner, PDP London

‘The new and improved entrance and public spaces will  transform Eighty Strand into a cool place to work, in a great location between Covent Garden and the river.’
Andrew Davidson, Partner, PDP London

‘It’s been great to work on proposals that will breathe new life into this monumental landmark building by introducing a range of front of house amenities that benefit both users and visitors.’
Duncan Mitchell RIBA, Duncan Mitchell Architects



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