Transforming London’s Historical Old War Office Building
Situated in Whitehall, the Old War Office is a magnificent building that is one of London’s most powerful and historically important addresses. Originally designed by British architect William Young and completed in 1906, the Old War Office (OWO) has seen a wealth of world-changing events and played host to influential British political and military leaders. Now, the OWO is marking the next stage in its history, becoming part of the Raffles family, which starts with the sales launch of The OWO Residences.
“There are so many facets and stories surrounding the building,” says Charlie Walsh, head of residential sales and marketing at The Old War Office Project. “It’s beautifully ornate and is very precious, a national treasure almost. There are so many threads running through the building – it’s pretty much shaped the Britain we live in today. [Winston] Churchill had his office here when he was Secretary of State. It was also where David Lloyd George held office.”
“In fact, the British Intelligence Service was founded in the building,” Walsh continues. “There was a chap called Mansfield Cummings who lived opposite the War Office, he was appointed to be the first chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. It was just him and one other person. Before he was a writer, Ian Fleming was the liaison between the foreign office and the war office – he was in and out of the building all the time. Operation GoldenEye was a real operation… You can understand how the building inspired Fleming to write James Bond.”
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At around 750,000 sq ft, the Old War Office is one of the largest single buildings in the city of London. It was owned by the British Ministry of Defence until 2014 when it was purchased by Hinduja Group to become the Raffles’ first UK-based project. Not only is the building going to become home to 85 OWO Residences by Raffles, but the London landmark will also feature Raffles’ first London hotel, comprising 125 rooms and suites, an immersive spa and a collection of restaurants and bars.
“I think the government say this beautiful, behemoth of a building and recognized that it needed a new lease of life,” says Walsh. “You can imagine the characters involved in this kind of conservation and modernization – Historic England and the Museum of London Archaeology, for example.” Overseeing the complex redevelopment is EPR Architects; hotel interiors are being designed by New-York based designer Thierry Despont.
The monumental transformation of the Grade II listed Old War Office has been taking place over the last five years. The building’s regeneration is set to complete in 2022, at which point both the hotel and residences will be ready to welcome guests and new owners. For those interested in purchasing part of this iconic London building, however, sales of the OWO Residences by Raffles have already launched.
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Situated to the rear of the building to allow for more privacy, there are a total of 85 homes available for purchase, ranging from studios to five-bedroom apartments. Due to the nature of the building and its intricacies, each of the residences is unique and specifically designed to suit its location on the site, whether this is a duplex, lateral or penthouse residence. There are also two residences that feature turrets, elevated above the London skyline and offering unparalleled views of the city.
“There are a lot of heritage features that have been retained and these feature throughout the design of the residences,” explains Walsh. “For example, there was an old telegraph room within the building that is now a listed feature, so we’ve incorporated that into the apartment. We’ve also documented every piece of mosaic that needs to be restored and replaced. It’s amazing to see the level of detail that has gone into the refurbishment, which has resulted in some really exciting features throughout the apartments.”
Although each of the residences is individual in its layout and size, there are some elements that are similar. Part of these is thanks to the grand size and stature of the building around them, which have resulted in high ceilings – with some heights reaching 14 ft – and full-length windows. All the residences have interior proportions that reflect the Old War Office’s classic Edwardian architecture but have been adapted for modern living.
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The interiors of the Old War Office Residences have been designed by residential design specialists, 1508 London. Kitchens have been handcrafted by British brand Smallbone of Devizes, including finishes such as Onyx marble and Waterworks brass ironmongery. Features such as mosaic flooring and oak paneling have been incorporated throughout, allowing the heritage of the original building to shine through and create a space that effortlessly blends the OWO’s history with the contemporary amenities expected of a luxurious 21st century property.
As well as being able to purchase a residence within one of London’s most exciting residential offerings, owners of the OWO Residences can benefit from all the facilities and amenities offered within the new Raffles hotel, including nine restaurants and bars and an expansive spa. While these facilities will be on the residences’ doorsteps, homeowners will not have to compromise on the level of privacy and seclusion they experience in their home, as the residences are securely separated from the hotel and public spaces.
“I think the addition of the restaurants and bars anchor the Old War Office as a destination, and as a resident, you get to enjoy the history and excitement of what you’re buying into. It’s super exciting,” Walsh says. “For me, what’s most amazing is that for the last 100 years, no one’s been allowed to go inside the building; it’s been top secret, full of British spies and government departments… But as of next year, this extraordinary building full of heritage and history will be open for homeowners, hotel guests and the public to enjoy.”