London’s School of Historical Dress had been looking for a permanent base from which to teach and house its archive of historical clothes for a number of years. It eventually settled on 52 Lambeth Road, a listed 19th century building that was in a state of disrepair, but incorporated an array of good-sized, light-filled rooms. A programme of light-touch refurbishment has been undertaken, including remedial works relating to damp ingress, flashings, masonry pointing and plaster cracks. This has conserved, rather than replaced much of the original building fabric, which fittingly complements the client ethos.
The client organisation discovered that the original building had been designed by Sir Sydney Smirke – younger brother of Sir Robert Smirke, architect of The British Museum and Imperial War Museum (formerly Bedlam Hospital). Careful observation revealed that the internal door architraves closely resembled those of the Imperial War Museum opposite. Given that the two buildings had been designed by the same architectural practice it was reasonable to assume that number 52’s original doors – now lost – would have been similar to those that had survived within the Imperial War Museum. The dimensions of the panelled Imperial War Museum doors were reproduced for new doors at number 52 Lambeth. The sympathetically designed doors, which now include modern fire resisting equipment, have transformed the building’s internal appearance.