Sea Containers House, London

Warren Platner
Date Built
Upper Ground
Sea Containers House is a building that was intended to be a luxury hotel but by the time it was completed the economic climate made that impossible.  It was used instead as an office building and in fact it got its name from the global company that occupied it.  Perhaps ironically, the building reflected the style that its architect had applied to his famous Windows on the World restaurant in New York, so was more appropriate for a hotel than a shipping company's office. 

The "" website says of the building that, "...Sea Containers House was built as a concrete frame structure but one whose unprepossessing grid-like elevations concealed extraordinary structural complexity. The elevations are subdivided into a series of bays separated by masonry mullions of polished reconstituted stone. Behind each mullion full-height concrete walls extended 2m into the space beyond to stabilise the structure. On the lower three storeys, the fins increase significantly in length up to 7m to help transfer loads to the ground and form a structural base for the building.  Even in its previous incarnation as an eighties office block, this bizarre structural configuration placed extraordinary constraints on the building interior. Internal flexibility and river views were heavily obscured by the fact that the space alongside external walls was segregated by projecting walls every 3.5m.  This situation was also a serious impediment to refurbishment and conversion but it is one which has now been cleverly integrated into the redeveloped building."

The redevelopment referred too was completed in 2014 when TP Bennett refurbished the building shell and Tom Dixon created the interiors for the new 359 room Mondrian Hotel, that occupies the first three floors of the building.  The remaining 350,000 square feet of the building are still being used as office space.  Reflecting on a visit to the Mondrian a report in the Standard said that, "... it’s as if you are in a liner on the river, and it is from the golden age of cruise ships that designer Tom Dixon’s Design Research studio takes inspiration for his first top-to-toe hotel interior.  There are ship models throughout, and porthole curves to basins, baths, mirrors and light fittings. There are also stylistic nods, particularly the use of metal detailing, to the building’s American architect, Warren Platner, and to its history: the original S&C logo is in a private dining room, the original reception desk, bisected, is in the spa.  Dixon’s most dramatic thematic flourish, though, is a curved, handcrafted copper hull, which sweeps from the Lazarides gallery by the “front” entrance, through reception and round to the public spaces..."

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