Ministry of Defence Main Building
Local Authority: Westminster
Owner Type: Government
Funding Body: Ministry of Defence / PFI
Year of Intervention: 2004
Summary: MoD Main Building in Whitehall was built as government offices between 1939 and 1959, and is now the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence. A complete refurbishment of the building was completed in 2004, procured through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), providing a modern working environment while retaining and enhancing the original architectural features.
Main Building is listed grade I on account of its unique design and the historical features preserved from the earlier buildings that are retained within it. The Government Historic Estates Unit was involved from an early stage to supply the historic buildings brief, and worked with the design team throughout the project to ensure that the architecturally and historically important parts of the building were respected. The refurbishment has retained and enhanced the Historic Rooms (salvaged from demolished Whitehall residences and incorporated in the Vincent Harris design) and the grand Pillared Hall, which is now used for conferences and press briefings. Occasional access by special arrangement to the ‘Henry VIII wine cellar’ has been maintained.
The original building was typical of government offices, with a strong sense of hierarchy, long corridors and numbered cellular offices. Visitors unfamiliar with the layout found it difficult to navigate around the building. This has been addressed by the installation of specially commissioned artworks, including banners of differing colours in the lightwells. There is now capacity for some 3300 staff to work in Main Building, as compared to 2600 before.
Despite the building’s age and its listed status, efforts have been made to ensure it is an energy-efficient building. The installation of new lighting and services required some ingenuity because of the low ceiling heights.
Keywords: REPAIR, RECONSTRUCTION, RESTORATION; RE-USE; SUSTAINABILITY