Alexander House was a 1960s office building in Ely midway between the market square and the riverside. The building is in a key location along this route and has a dominant presence on the street. The dark brown brickwork was of its time and the street elevation, made up of a repetitive line of bay windows, appeared as a single bulk oversailing the pavement. It was an unsightly and imposing building, out of scale and out of character with the surrounding historic setting.
We explored various options for a new residential building on the site which might break up the massing to create a scale more in-keeping with the character of the Conservation Area, but the cost of demolition and rebuilding proved prohibitive, so instead we had to find a way to reuse the existing building. The challenge here was to find a way to break up the massing of the existing bulky forms and introduce a delicacy to the frontages which might reflect the scale of the surrounding buildings, with materials which would help the repurposed building settle in more comfortably with its neighbours.
The riverside was historically a bustling commercial area, with an old tannery once on the site. We were able to deal with the mass of the existing building by altering the roof and bay windows to introduce forms reminiscent of these historic building types. The bay windows are broken up with a filigree of surrounding structure which supports balconies on the upper floors. This softens the street-front and introduces life and activity which will further animate the street scene.