A listed former grammar school is transformed into a boutique hotel by EPR Architects and Archer Humphryes Architects


Occupying the grade-two listed former Saint Olaves grammar school on the South Bank, Lalit London is 70-bedroom boutique hotel designed for the Delhi-based hotelier by EPR Architects and Archer Humphryes Architects. Intended to celebrate the heritage of India and the Edwardian Baroque school, the project retains much of its original fabric. Additions include a new basement, upper floor and extensive spatial reconfigurations.

Designed in 1894 by EW Mountford, architect of the Old Bailey, the building had lain empty for 15 years prior to refurbishment and was in a poor state of repair, writes EPR Architects. Inserting twenty-first century services into a nineteenth century building always presents difficulties, so early consultation with services engineers, Hurley Palmer Flatt and Hoare Lea, was critical in the planning stages. This ensured items such as new lifts, large ductwork routes, air conditioning and sophisticated IT networks could be incorporated without damaging the building’s original features.

Trial pit surveys and an appraisal of the existing foundations resulted in shorter service routes through the foundations to buried ducts in the forecourt, and beneath the proposed bar and lounge rooms into the cental Great Hall. This not only provided benefits in terms of crossovers and gained headroom, but also simplified the maintenance strategy, as the services only require access from back-of-house areas, rather than the valuable spa and gym spaces located in the new basement.

One of the main challenges was how to heat and cool the Great Hall while retaining the room’s historic fabric and appearance. Existing underfloor services trenches – revealed during the survey – are used to run new ductwork to the fan-coil units. The latter were placed within old radiator recesses and clad with panelling. The original high-level clerestory windows have been replaced with new opening lights that closely resembled the original units, and are linked to the BMS system.


The facade refurbishment work included replacing damaged masonry with matching imperial bricks and lime mortar. The roof was completely stripped, with rotten joists cut out and new timbers spliced in. Insulation, modern membranes and ventilation were then added. The intention was to re-use the original slates, but petrographic testing demonstrated that this would not be possible. Instead, new matching Westmoorland slates were sourced and installed.


Restoration of the bell tower involved removing and replacing rotten timbers, replacing the leadwork, copper roof and flashings, and renewing the bell, clockface and mechanism. Internal moulds were taken of the original plaster cornices, dados and mouldings, with all damaged items replaced. Damaged and blown plaster was replaced with new lime plaster. A proportion of the original parquet flooring was carefully lifted, stored, cleaned and re-used for the new bars.

The top floor of the building originally housed double-height classrooms and a gymnasium. A new steel and timber floor has been inserted into the space, providing additional accommodation. The existing trusses were strengthened with steelwork and the skylights replaced with an insulated slated roof. Southwark’s conservation officer initially objected to this proposal, but historic photographs revealed that the skylights were a later addition. To allow additional daylight in and views out of the third floor, dormer windows have been added, replicating the original ones.

The walls, windows and roofs have been upgraded thermally and acoustically wherever possible and without impacting the historic fabric. Solar hot water panels provide around 17.57 MWh/year. The building emission rate is 488.19t CO2/year (based on NCM values and assumptions made by the assessor) and the project has a BREEAM Very Good rating.

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EPR Architects
Interior designer, architect,
Archer Humphryes
Hurley Palmer Flatt
The LaLit Suri Hospitality Group

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Longden Doors
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Sash windows
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