When the Wickham family planned their eponymous department store on Mile End Road in the late 1920s, just one of the existing businesses on the site refused to move – a jeweller named Spiegelhalter. Hoping they might eventually be able to buy the holdout unit, the Wickhams built their grand, Beaux-Arts-style building around him, leaving a ‘missing tooth’ in the colonnaded façade.
When Wickham’s closed in 1965, the building was divided up into smaller units, leaving a warren of spaces behind the now-precarious original façade. With the Elizabeth Line station due to open at Whitechapel, our clients, Schroders, saw an opportunity to return it to its former grandeur, reworking the internal spaces to suit a mixture of uses including offices on the upper floors and shops and leisure facilities at street level.
We loved the David and Goliath story of Spiegelhalter and the Wickhams, and so decided to retain the holdout unit, making this the heart and soul of the building rather than the thorn in its side. It is now the entrance through which all users pass on their way to the reception and core behind. Inside, the upper levels of the building have been remodelled and unified into large, flexible workspaces. The shell and core fit-out is very simple, a canvas onto which the new tenants can project their own identities. At ground level, the existing retail tenants have retained their units, with the awnings and fascias above rationalised to unify the grand front elevation.