Somerset House is one of London's most important 18th century buildings and is located on a Thames-side site adjacent to Waterloo Bridge. Since the formation of the Somerset House Trust in 1997, the complex has been transformed from the home of the Inland Revenue and the Records Office into a centre for culture and the arts. We provided engineering and specialist services for phase two of the works, which focused on the south range, river terrace and central courtyard.
Built of loadbearing stone and masonry, with timber floors and a timber truss roof, the six storey south range has two levels of basement, featuring cross vaults and open light wells around the perimeter of the courtyard. To enable the creation of new gallery spaces, and associated restaurant and catering facilities, significant re-arrangement of internal walls was necessary, along with the stiffening and strengthening of the floors.
The installation of new building services into the south range posed a significant challenge. We undertook an extensive survey of the existing fabric and used this information, working closely with the design team, to coordinate services and structure.
Somerset House's central courtyard has been cleared of parking and opened up as a public space. We engineered a below-ground services area to serve the courtyard, providing toilets and ancillary spaces to cater for the estimated 4,00 people that may use the space at any one event. To enable construction, temporary works were carefully detailed to avoid any lateral movement of the building's wings, which surround the courtyard — all of which have settled considerably historically and are distorted.
To meet disabled access requirements, new lifts and ramps have been sensitively incorporated into the existing complex. Most notable are the curving ramps from the courtyard that cross the light wells to the south range.
We also provided archaeological assessment services and undertook an archaeological watching brief.