For Londoners and all the visitors from around the world who love this great city Admiralty Arch has a special place in their hearts. It’s not that London is short of fine buildings – the medieval masterpiece that is Westminster Abbey, the grandeur of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hawksmoor’s “haunting” churches all these and many more have their assured place in our history – but Admiralty Arch is special.
Firstly it was conceived as an act of love – commissioned by King Edward VII as a tribute to his mother Queen Victoria as well as an acknowledgement of the esteem in which he held the British Navy. “In the tenth year of Edward VII,” reads the inscription on the top, “to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens,1910.”
And then there is its position – like a beautiful, brilliant but essential full-stop it helps define and contain The Mall, lending a ceremonial grandeur to its importance as the main processional route leading up to Buckingham Palace itself. All part of a grand project to turn The Mall into a stately royal boulevard (we marvelled at its use during the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2016) and to provide a suitably majestic barrier between Trafalgar Square and the Palace link, it was designed by Sir Aston Webb, who was also responsible for renovating the façade of Buckingham Palace.
It is a masterly work, seemingly symmetrical, in reality anything but. Its grace and grandeur have caused it to be given Grade I listed status and those who have been privileged to live in its spacious rooms all testify to the fact that its interiors are one of the great unknown treasures of London’s architecture.
It has been home to some of our greatest national figures – Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty wrote some of his great war-time speeches there whilst Lord Mountbatten and Lord Hailsham in their time used it as their official base. When Ian Fleming came to dream up the dashing James Bond it had to be from Admiralty Arch that he set out on his many adventures.
Through its grand arches – the middle one of which is only ever opened for ceremonial occasions – have passed some of the world’s most notable figures, grand dukes and duchesses, political leaders, emperors, dictators, kings and queens. It has witnessed coronations, royal weddings, grand state occasions and presidential visits.
But whilst its history is rich and fascinating, woven almost into the very stones, today the building is in the middle of a grand transformation, one that will open it up to all Londoners and fascinated visitors from near and far. Prime Investors Capital is the inspiration behind making this the finest hotel in London.
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, June 1953
Rafael Serrano, the man behind the Bulgari Hotel in London, was appointed preferred bidder by HM Government and has been leading the renovation of Admiralty Arch since he purchased the 250-year lease in June 2015. He is one of the few business leaders able to bring together the fantastic team of leading British companies restoring the building.
Work has now begun on the restoration, which will create 100 bedrooms, a state-of-the-art spa, a private members’ club and several restaurants with some of the most awe-inspiring views in the capital. Up to four serviced residences are being created and are already available for some lucky owners to buy. The residences will be in the north wing of Admiralty Arch where the great political and naval leaders lived and worked, so the owners will be buying not merely some fine central London real estate but a living part of its history. Expert architects, interior designers and artisans with a fine knowledge and respect for architectural history have been asked to create these special homes preserving the fine tall ceilings, the intricate crests, the original fireplaces and fittings. Each is wonderfully spacious, including many apartments as well as offering access to all the amenities of the hotel itself.
The Mall is at the heart of major royal, political and social events such as the annual Trooping of the Colour, June 2016
And as if all this weren’t enough the views, seldom seen but now to be opened to all who stay and visit the hotel as well as to the owners of the serviced residences, are some of the loveliest in the city. To the north east lies Trafalgar Square, to the south west The Mall stretches down to Buckingham Palace, with St. James’s Park and Green Park laid out on either side. Admiralty Arch has had a glorious history and now it is set to be transformed in a way that will give it new life and a glorious future.
The restoration of Admiralty Arch is being steered by 20 leading British companies, including Blair Associates, MHZ, WSP and MOLA. The first stage of the project involves creating a model suite comprised of three fully functional bedrooms and bathrooms, and a large sitting room. This will allow Prime Investors Capital to showcase its vision for the building and provide a benchmark for the high quality of execution and luxury that will be implemented throughout the building.
The marketing suites are being designed by leading interior designer, David Mlinaric, and his team at his former studio, MHZ. The design has been carefully formulated to complement this iconic Grade I Listed building and restore many of Aston Webb’s original features which have been removed and degraded over the past 100 years. When designing the interiors and choosing the furniture for the model suites, the design team has focused on working with well-known British companies to mix modern furniture with antiques to help combine the historical appeal of the building with the ethos of reviving the building and bringing it back to life. An Admiralty Arch lamp has been created which represents the character of the building, using a historical design, which can be replicated for the remaining 100 rooms and public areas of the hotel.
Significant time spent going through the National Archives by the design team has revealed original elements of the building, as designed by Aston Webb, which are being reproduced for modern use, such examples include the original door handles which will be replicated for the hotel.
Original design for the First Sea Lord’s door handles, Admiralty Arch 1911
Sir Aston Webb (1849 – 1930) was one of the greatest architects of his era, highly regarded by contemporaries and historians alike. He served as President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, President of the Royal Academy and founding Chairman of the London Society, a group of luminaries who, according to their website, debated key issues about the future of the capital – housing, roads, railways, the channel tunnel, bridges and airports – all high on the agenda today.