Savoy Circus

Student housing delivered in just 12 months within a local conservation area


The construction of Savoy Circus, known as Chapter White City, is another addition to the series of student housing schemes designed by HTA and delivered by Vision Modular Systems. It sees the redevelopment of a site vacant for over 20 years with a contemporary building that sits sympathetically within a conservation area, with references to the famous cinema that once sat on the site. The building provides 306 student studios, social space, a cafe, administration and a gym on the ground floor. The basement contains laundry, bike storage and servicing, and a large common room opening onto a sheltered landscaped courtyard. Designed to optimise the benefits of the Vision Modular system, the project was delivered from concept to completion in 30 months, with work on site completed in 12 months.


How did the project reflect the characteristics of the local vernacular?

The elevational expression of the building demonstrates how modular construction technology can be used to represent a London vernacular of traditional materials.

The building comprises two six-storey flanks fronting Westway and Old Oak Road with a taller seven storey corner element announcing the building with the main entrance. The lower flanks have dormer windows within top floor modules.

Not only does the design knit sympathetically into the Old Oak and Wormholt conservation context restoring the street frontage but it provides local residents with the opportunity to remember the previous building on the site.

Architectural details include corbelled brick corners, reconstituted stone window surrounds and glazed brickwork. The material palette has been influenced by the immediate context and draws on the prominence of red and London stock brick in the area.

Landscape Design

How has a visually engaging landscape with year-round seasonal planting been achieved?

The Savoy Circus courtyard concept is based on using linear bands of both hard and soft landscape treatments to create a visually engaging landscape which has year-round seasonal planting interest and creates an attractive backdrop for residents.

The design intent is influenced by a series of programmatic and contextual factors. Adjacent to a high traffic road, the internal courtyard seeks to provide respite through the use of soft seasonal planting and audial and visual amenity provided by the proposed water features. In order to maintain privacy and screening from neighbouring properties to the East, the courtyard design responds with a high ratio of soft planting material to hard landscape, including light canopy trees.

Visual interest from the proposed units above is created through the use of patterning of hard and soft materials at the ground plane, including a combination of shale and pavers, and seasonal variation through planting. Linear planted rain gardens provide both points of interest and help to manage surface water run-off. The building edge is softened through the provision of raised planting beds that will be planted with mixed perennial shrubs and groundcovers to create a colourful, seasonal edge to the streetscape.

Sustainability & Building Physics

What innovative strategies were implemented to optimise the site's development potential?

Although the site is in a typically challenging urban location in a conservation area directly adjacent to streets with varying levels we adopted a challenging but successful design approach where by relocating the transfer slab from the usual location at first floor to street level and building part of the non-residential areas at ground floor in modular we were able to build residential accommodation at ground floor and for 2 further levels in the south facing sunken courtyard area at the rear. This ensured that we maximized the development potential of the site and the vast majority of the building was constructed using volumetric offsite techniques with all the advantages of speed and quality that enables.

This offsite approach was extended to the plant area also. The plant installation was designed to be procured, assembled and tested offsite then disassembled into smaller units for transport and reassembly on site.


How does Savoy Circus exemplify a contextual response to a site’s history and surroundings?

A concept of memory and nostalgia played an important role in the design development.

The design of the building with the success merging of modern and traditional materials has resulted in a building that provides significant benefits to the conservation area.

HTA’s planning team led on negotiations with the Local Planning Authority. Discussions focussed heavily on an appropriate heritage led response for a landmark building in a Conservation Area.

At the time of planning negotiations on the site the Conservation officer was preparing a new conservation are character profile, so securing a building with a high quality design on this prominent site was a high priority. The Hammersmith Heritage and Conservation team provided significant input into the design to create this new heritage asset.

Comments from the Hammersmith Society included:

“We feel this development would make a very positive contribution to the local scene.

The new application specifically includes some art deco elements evoking the original 1931 Savoy Cinema, in a way we consider satisfactory. The elevation facing Savoy Circus, rising above the wings of the building and with strong vertical detailing to the windows suggests cinema design of that era.”

The positive support for the building from the Hammersmith Society has confirmed that the new building has a significant positive and enhancing impact on the Old Oak and Wormholt Conservation Area and has filled the hole in the street made by the demolition of the original cinema 20 years ago.

The careful design of the building in this prominent location provides an important new gateway building to West London to traffic traveling east along the A40 toward White City and the West End.