Old Admiralty Building


BDP was appointed by the Department for Education to refurbish the Grade II listed Old Admiralty Building, a 20,000 square metre, 6-storey building built in three phases from 1888 to 1905, located just south of Trafalgar Square, London.

The project transformed a cramped, cellular floor plan of more than 660 rooms into a modern, open-plan working environment to accommodate the Department of Education’s considerable staff, departments and visitors, and the Government Art Collection, including gallery and display spaces, library, conservation workshop, art stores and offices.

As a co-project lead, Thomas worked across both the enabling and fit-out phases of the project to deliver:

  • 400 high-grade office areas providing increased connectivity, while retaining the building’s significance.
  • A complete upgrade of all building services, with new plant rooms, heating and cooling throughout, and suspended service rafts to preserve the fabric of the building.
  • Areas for the Government Art Collection (sub-tenant), providing new display areas, storage, workshops and a library.
  • Enhanced building security,
  • Wayfinding to assist movement through the building, and its enjoyment, and
  • Conservation of as many original elements, materials and finishes as possible.


As co-lead within a five-person architectural team, Thomas was involved across the project from 2016 to 2018, and responsible for:
  • Overseeing all works for the Government Art Collection.
  • Preparing technical design information including. drawings, schedules and specifications for doors, windows, sub-floors, ceilings, partitions and demolition works.

  • Managing all building investigations (160+), incl. commissioning and tracking investigations; updating drawings, specifications and existing building information; handling RFCs, RFIs, and sub-consultant packages raised in response.

  • Managing the discharge of planning conditions (main and listed building consents), preparing Listed Building Consent applications, and Design & Accessibility reports.

  • Negotiating, budgeting and administering change orders for additional work following discoveries or client requests.

  • Issuing instructions, requests for rectification, and site reports. Communication with the client, principal and sub-contractors, contract managers, and internal teams on all matters.


The building presented extraordinary challenges for the design team.  Principal among these was how to transform a cellular arrangement of over 660 rooms into a contemporary workplace that supported clear communication, to overhaul its entire system of electrical, mechanical and hydraulic services, and to vastly improve its acoustics and security – all while maintaining its historic fabric and character.

The key lay in rationalising and adapting the building’s layout – of long, paired corridors around large lightwells – to provide for a variety of workplaces that supporting collaborative and connected working practices.

Regular and transparent engagement with Westminster’s Conservation Officer and Historic England provided constant review and refinements to the range of design interventions.
Key elements of the design included:

  • creating new structural openings to provide connections between rooms and with the axial corridors,
  • opening up junctions between corridors to create lively, engaging social spaces for informal meetings and breaks, and to assist in orientation,
  • enclosing all services in suspended rafts running alongside corridors to preserve key historic views and spaces,
  • creating new, consolidated plant rooms on the roof or within internal areas in the top floor, and external service runs disguised between perforated metal panels,
  • using secondary glazing to provide enhanced thermal and acoustic performance and security, all carefully designed to fit within the existing historic frames of over two thousand individual windows, and
  • revealing and restoring historic features, materials and finishes, from sculpted timber and plaster, colourful mosaic and terrazzo, cast iron access panels and ornate marble mantlepieces


In all, the successful refurbishment of the Old Admiralty Building responded to the global need to preserve and adapt existing buildings – particularly pressing in the commercial sphere.  The project delivered world-class offices while minimising resource use, carbon emissions and embodied energy, and preserved a nationally iconic building for the next chapter of its life.

Aerial view of the site and vicinity.


Left: Restored lanterns over a lightwell, with new Right: Ground floor corridor with restored ‘nautical’ tiled
metal screens over service runs behind. floor, timber dado panels and decorative plasterwork.
Photos courtesy BDP.

The project created new informal meeting areas, which provided tea points, printing stations and seating.
Photo courtesy BDP.

Wherever possible, original materials, finishes and textures were uncovered and restored in the course of works.
Photos courtesy BDP.

Get in Touch

We’d love to hear from clients interested in new build, refurbishment and conservation projects, whether in Australia or Europe.

Contact us

PO Box 1494
Bowral NSW 2576, Australia

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