Breaking into the former NatWest HQ was the easy part. Ripping the heart out of it to create state-of-the-art offices while preserving the listed facade, banking hall and directors’ suites, and shifting 1000 lorry-loads of rubble without disturbing the heavyweight neighbour – well, that needed something like a plan … we cased out the joint

Externally, the original Portland stone was cleaned and repaired and the original bronze windows were waxed and polished.
Externally, the original Portland stone was cleaned and repaired and the original bronze windows were waxed and polished.

“This is really three projects in one,” says David Nott, operations director at contractor Wates. “I don’t think there are many projects around with all these elements.” Nott is trying to convey the complexity of turning this former bank in the City of London into modern office space. He has had to retain the bank’s grade II-listed facade, rip out the guts of the building and rebuild it. All this without damaging the imposing, marble banking hall and the wood-panelled directors’ suites. “The biggest challenge was removing 15,000 tonnes of material without affecting the banking hall or the directors’ rooms,” says Nott. Finally he had to convert former vaults in the three-storey basement into plant rooms – a tricky job, given the very limited headroom. It was made even trickier by having to punch openings for services through 600 mm thick strongroom walls.

Extensive works were needed to bring the 1930s building up to date. Formerly the NatWest Bank’s headquarters, it is located in the heart of the City at 41 Lothbury, across the road from The Bank of England. After The Royal Bank of Scotland bought out NatWest in 2000, the building became redundant. So, RBS partnered with developer Grosvenor to turn it into a contemporary, 14,900 m2 speculative office with the added twist of City history.

To make the development financially workable a floor has been added and extra space has been created in the top three storeys by building out over the directors’ rooms that are located on one side. A mezzanine floor has been added to one side of the banking hall and an atrium has also been created to bring light deep into the building.

The tight central London location has made the intricate refurbishment even more complex. “We couldn’t upset our neighbour The Bank of England,” says Nott. “The bank didn’t want builders hanging around when bullion was going in and out.” The 1000 lorry-loads of demolition material had to be carted away between 6pm and 8pm each day and noisy work was restricted to two hours on, two hours off. As the heart of the building was being ripped out there was virtually nowhere to store materials – a problem resolved only with the most meticulous planning.