A new Brief was explored and a general proposition emerged for the building to be more introspective, giving a greater sense of enclosure and ensuring a sense of comfort and cosiness in Winter, while retaining an open aspect in Summertime.
This lead PKS to propose an approach in which the ground floor was conceived as an extension of the Embankment walls and ground works utilising robust materials with gravitas. This would then act as a ground floor base and provide the setting for a single storey glass pavilion at the first floor level. This concept was worked up and submitted for Planning Approval.
In discussion with the Planners it emerged that the groundworks approach fell in naturally with the Planners ambitions for the building to address a wider context than just the site itself.
The Planners suggested extending the site towards the river by incorporating some of the highway adjacent to the site and this was eventually achieved by a Stopping Up Order. The Planners wished to see a public building in this key riverside location which is achieved by the riverside elevations opening up via major glazed sliding doors at ground floor level onto the riverside terrace and similarly at the first floor by fully glazed sliding doors which when open turn this level also into a terrace.
The Plan/Form and Design Form
The site is at its widest next to the Star & Garter and narrows towards Putney Bridge. providing a natural face for the building at its eastern end which addresses a wide sweep of pavement creating a convenient setting down point.
Arrival at an entrance on Lower Richmond Road would have obstructed traffic and yet an entrance on the Embankment itself would inevitably be at a lower level and would require a stair up into the building.
The entrance at the eastern end presented a problem for the Client who wished the Restaurant first floor to be entered at a central point.
This was resolved by positioning the main stair up to the Restaurant towards the centre of the building creating a generous lobby at the entry point. This also acts as an entrance off the terrace and now contains a statue by Elizabeth Frink which animates the building at the point of arrival.
The ground floor bar is set beyond the stair to the Restaurant and affords views of the river through deep recessed windows intended for alcove seating which give the desired sense of enclosure and cosiness whilst still addressing the river.
At the far end of the bar the floor is sunken to form an area which acts as a Brasserie and
Cafeteria. The lowering of the floor responds to the widening of the plan at this end of the building and this is further developed by the large sliding glass door leading to the terrace and also provides a further separate entrance to this area which could, otherwise, only be accessed from the bar.
The three entrances at ground level serve spatially interconnected functions of different character and establish a feeling of openness and permeability from the Embankment.
The first floor is divided in two by an arrival counter and point of bon acceuil. The front eastern end is dramatised by a conical window, the focal point over the entrance, which continues down to the ground floor entrance visually linking it with the Restaurant above. This link is reinforced by a pair of double height steel columns supporting the oversailing roof which flank the cone and frame it.
The relationship between the glass cone and the ground floor stone cladding panels creates a natural batter to the stonework emphasising its massiveness.
The principal area of the restaurant is split along its length to form two distinct levels ensuring that the interior views across to the principal panorama toward the river are not obscured. This establishes a sequence of terrace elements from the interior to the edge of the building and culminating in the terrace formed from the main elevation when it is opened up.