20th January 2023

Glass engineering excellence at the former Whiteley’s department store

Perega’s highly-skilled team of structural glass engineering consultants have played a pivotal role in the highly publicised redevelopment of the former Whiteley’s department store in Bayswater, London.

Originally built in 1911, in its heyday, Whiteley’s was one of the UK’s most famous shops, held in the same esteem as Selfridge’s, Liberty’s and Harrods. Synonymous with luxurious living, the site was purchased by real estate investor Meyer Bergman to convert into a high-end mixed-use development combining commercial, leisure and residential units.

An ambitious retrofit commenced in December 2018, gutting the building’s interiors whilst keeping the original Edwardian facades intact.

Former Whiteley's department store

With an ornate and intricate structure, the historic facades comprised a combination of steel-framed windows, cast iron facings, column cladding and natural stonework. With so many different features and elements to consider, the lead architect Foster and Partners, and contractor Laing O’Rourke, realised they would need to assemble the A-team of subcontractor specialists to achieve success.

Perega was brought onto the project by architectural glazing experts Propak, as part of a £10m package to replace the hundreds of windows across the site. Long-time partners, the two businesses had a keen understanding of ensuring seamless delivery from the outset.

Furthermore, a large rotunda, located at the southwest corner of the site, presented a further challenge. As with the rest of the façade’s frame, the original feature’s steelwork could not be solely relied on to support the greater loads of the new systems. This led to Perega designing new curved steel structures, to transfer the rotunda loads to the existing support points of the existing structure – avoiding the need to apply extra load to the existing riveted steelwork.

Street level view of former Whiteley's department store

This integral part of the project required the installation of the latest thermally broken windows across the facades, taking into account the brief’s stipulation that all the original castings had to be retained. This required a distinct lightness of touch to ensure the listed façade’s structure was not damaged and undermined during removal and reinstallation.

Furthermore, with so many different systems to consider (25 in total), it was important to carefully catalogue each and every casing that was removed. Once this had been done, they were removed offsite for safe storage before being returned to the site during the reinstall stage.

Former Whiteley's department store

However, during this process, our team identified a few issues needing remediation to guarantee structural integrity. Perhaps the most prominent of these was the traditional cast iron detailing across the façade which, it was soon concluded, could not be relied on to support the new window systems.

This led to the project engineers working closely with Propak and a specialist metallurgist to create an alternative solution. This saw the glazed elements fixed directly back onto the natural stone façade, via new secondary steelwork hidden within the original castings.

Installation of the façade’s glazed elements is now nearing completion.

To find out more about Perega’s glass and ventilated facade solutions, visit our “Glass and Facade Engineering” page.