BONHAMS have unveiled proposals for a £30m redevelopment of their Bond Street headquarters in London.
The scheme, which goes to public consultation this week and is
being funded wholly by the auction firm itself, is a bid to create
the world's best saleroom complex in the heart of the British
The two-stage development, which, if approved, would see the
gutting and refurbishment of the Grade II listed Blenstock House on
Blenheim Street, followed by the demolition and replacement of the
rest of the complex, should take two years to complete if
Westminster planners give it the go-ahead.
Three major salerooms that can be reconfigured into seven when
required, state-of-the-art facilities for all departments, a more
welcoming experience for buyers and sellers and the opening up of
Haunch of Venison Yard into a vibrant arts/café hub are all key
elements in the plan for a ground-breaking, purpose-built leading
international saleroom for the 21st century.
Natural light, fresh air and an open, easy-to-navigate design
that preserves client privacy and security: that has been the brief
for award-winning London architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandlilands
(www.lds-uk.com), the Hammersmith-based firm whose long list of
projects include the restaurant at Liberty's, Harvey Nichols in
Dubai, Edinburgh and Manchester, the new-look Hungerford Bridge
linking the South Bank complex to Charing Cross station, and
Olympic projects for 2012.
"Every stage of the development must be better than the previous
one," said Bonhams chairman Robert Brooks, who brought in his
department heads to advise on the design brief.
Alex Lifschutz, the architects' senior director, is taking on
the scheme personally. His team and Bonhams have been in detailed
talks with Westminster Council prior to going public with their
proposals, as Mr Brooks acknowledges that permission for his vision
is no foregone conclusion. The public and business must have their
say and the project must answer the council's requirements.
There are two particular challenges to be met if they do win
approval: the project must be completed in stages so that the Bond
Street sales programme can continue in as uninterrupted a manner as
possible; and the demolition of the main complex, followed by the
installation of the new basement slab - the early second stage of
the project - must be completed by October 2012 to fit in with the
Crossrail development, which runs directly under the building. Any
delay on this second point could mean having to shelve the scheme
Having said that, if all goes according to plan, the new-look
Bonhams would be ready to take advantage of the hugely enhanced
connections to Heathrow Airport and the City of London once the
Crossrail station opened in nearby Hanover Square.
So far an application has been made for listed building consent
to convert Blenstock House. Permission for this part of the project
is the lesser hurdle. Once approved, it would allow sales to
continue in the rest of the complex while some staff move to
Bonhams' Knightsbridge base for the duration.
Meanwhile the application for the rest of the scheme is being
prepared for submission by the end of June with a decision expected
on permission early in the Autumn.
Completion, if the plans are approved, should come in December
Robert Brooks has been considering his ambitious scheme for
several years. He told ATG that it was driven by several factors:
the need to improve on the existing constraints of the complex
behind the Bond Street façade - a warren of at least five separate
buildings that were not entirely fit for purpose despite some
refurbishment in the last few years; the desire to take
auctioneering into the 21st century, with the Bonhams brand leading
the way, coupled with the need to capitalise on the progress the
company has made in the past few years to match market leaders
Christie's and Sotheby's; the decision to make a commitment to
London as Bonhams' global headquarters - "We're a British firm
operating on the global stage" - and the hope of building something
that will last for 100 years.
"We just had to have this," he divulged. "If we are to fulfil
our plans for the future we need a new space to provide our
customers with the improved quality of experience we believe they
It's certainly the saleroom he will need if he is serious about
challenging Christie's and Sotheby's over top-end Contemporary art,
having set up a department for the purpose in the past year or so.
But he also pledged to continue focusing on the lower to mid-range
value items eschewed by the big two auction houses - particularly
Sotheby's - in recent years.
The plans can be inspected in the Atrium at Bonhams Bond Street
on June 14 and 15 from 3pm to 7pm.
By Ivan Macquisten
the new designs
of how Bonhams' scheme would take shape