Dominic Bond. Architect at Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson
The Telegraph Hotel is the latest project of several we have been involved with in the city in recent years.
We designed a scheme on Far Gosford Street for Unite Students who we have worked with for several years. The site was brought forward by CDP – who are behind the Telegraph Hotel Scheme – and that was the first time we had worked with them.
We then went onto work on Millennium View, again for Unite and CDP, before working on the outline planning consent for the Telegraph Hotel site including the student accommodation at the rear.
It was our extensive student accommodation experience that led us to be commissioned on the project, and it is a bit of a departure for us as we do not do a huge amount of hotel work although in many ways hotels are not dissimilar to student accommodation buildings.
It is a fascinating project to be working on. We have worked with existing buildings before and it is always different and presents challenges.
With a new-build you always know where everything – such as utilities – are is supposed to go and you can co-ordinate things accurately whereas with an existing building there are always surprises. You take down ceilings, raise floors, remove boxing from around columns and you never know quite what you are going to find.
You don’t really know how the structure has been altered in the past and how much space you really have to work with. Even if you have the most comprehensive survey there will always be surprises, the older the building, the bigger they are!
All of the above is true with the Coventry Telegraph building. It is an interesting building in terms of its construction and certainly not the sort I have ever worked on before. It is mostly steel frame but level, means you do not know how large the steels are and cannot really measure them unless you chip the concrete off.
So anywhere we have altered the design and added additional loads there was quite a bit of investigation to be done. Floors are also made out of clay blocks with a screed on top which is not something we tend to use now in construction, although you do see it on the continent.
I can probably sum up in two words the design brief we were set by the client – Mad Man. They want to create a hotel which has the cool, 50’s, Mad Men vibe and that is what we have done.
Fortunately, there were a few great features which were perfect for that, such as the terrazzo flooring, the marbled clad pillars in the reception, the directors’ dining room with the timber panelled walls, and we have kept all those.
For the rooftop bar we have rescued some Mid-Century iron railings from elsewhere in the city, all the stair balustrades have been refurbished but to still reflect their vintage and the metal windows bars restored.
We do a great deal of commercial projects where the client is not as interested in the aesthetic. They have a corporate image they want to maintain but the drivers are functionality and cost, whereas CDP have a very strong interest in the deign aspects and that makes it a great project to work on.
There was a planning approval to knock the building down and build a 20-storey hotel, and CDP certainly would not have wanted that and I suspect that was one of their drivers in purchasing it.
The building does lend itself very well to a hotel. We went through several different design variations for the ground floor but think we have created a stunning bar and restaurant while the blocks lend themselves very well to hotel room layouts.
It is a really fascinating project to work on. It is unique in the city – and possibly the region – and will bring something new to Coventry, which will hopefully be a draw.