Inn The Park Restaurant, St James’ Park, London, Westminister

Introduction

Inn The Park is a new restaurant in St James' Park, the oldest of London's Royal Parks. The brief from the client, the Royal Parks Agency (RPA), was ‘to create a high quality and low-profile building which must nevertheless advertise its presence'.

In this beautiful and historic setting, Hopkins Architects set out to create a modern building that respected Nash's original design, blending into the landscape while at the same time discreetly advertising its presence to potential customers - a complex architectural challenge. There was also a clear desire to demonstrate sustainability - the RPA is seen as a flag-bearer for sustainable development.

Inn the Park was short-listed for the Wood Awards 2004 and received a Civic Trust Award in 2006.

 

Project description

The new building curves in both plan and section, reflecting the undulating topography of the park. The public restaurant area is shaped like a teardrop with a colonnaded café terrace along the front, curving to follow the sweep of Nash's lakeside path alongside and seating 120 people. The terrace leads through fully retractable glazed doors into the timber-lined interior of the more formal 100-cover restaurant. The kitchen and stores at the rear are covered with a grass roof which slopes down to form a gentle hillock between existing mature trees.

The layout is designed as a series of layers to demonstrate ‘the different ways the building has to function as a public space'. The café frontage is screened with horizontal larch boards and lined with bench seating for public use, providing an intermediate space between outside and inside, and offering an unobtrusive invitation for passers-by to stop and enter; a few steps give a change in height and take the visitor up to the café terrace and beyond, to the main restaurant. Behind these public layers, the kitchen, store and service yard are set within the landscaped hillock. The rising contours at one end of the building accommodate steps to a roof-top walkway immediately above the terrace, leading visitors to a new elevated vantage point with views to Whitehall and beyond.

 

Structure

The main structure consists of a single storey in-situ reinforced concrete box, set back into an earth bank on the west side, and formed of roof slabs and ground floor slabs connected by walls and 250mm diameter circular reinforced concrete columns. The colonnade to the curved terrace on the east façade is formed of 250mm diameter circular glulam timber columns. They are restrained at their heads by flitched glulam beams which are fixed back to the timber walkway above; this acts as a diaphragm restrained back to the adjacent reinforced concrete structure. Each stainless steel flitch plate is bolted to the concrete slab at one end; at the other end it has a welded cruciform plate which slots into grooves in the head of the circular glulam column. An additional cruciform baluster is welded just above each plate to support the larch board balustrade to the external roof-top walkway.

 

Use of timber

The building makes extensive use of timber internally and externally, as a key contribution to the ecological aims of the design. PEFC certified Austrian larch was chosen for its long life span and for the fact that it can be used externally without coating. The warm, eye-catching colour of the larch cladding and balustrades helps to create an instantly visible building, but it will silver over time to blend more naturally with the surrounding trees.

Internally, larch has been used to create a series of subtly curving wall panels which line the main restaurant space. They have been sealed with environmentally friendly organic tung (China) oil. The wood floors are Junckers red oak oiled with modified soya oil.

The choice of timber for the structure and envelope of the building meant that the highest quality controls and exceptional craftsmanship had to be employed. The long curving teardrop shape of the building meant that long cuts of wood were needed, but it was equally important to maximise the use of each tree. Each cut had to be precisely taken to achieve this. The edge of the roof-top walkway required a long, curved larch edge beam and a laminated balustrade; to achieve this innovative manufacturing techniques were used.

Completion Date:

2004

Year Published:

September 2007

Building Type:

Café / restaurant

Location:

St James’ Park, London

Country:

England

Client:

The Royal Parks Agency

Architect:

Hopinks Architects

Structural Engineer:

Arup

Joinery & Structural Timber Sub Contractor:

Swift Horsman Ltd

Main Contractor:

Ashe Construction

Project Manager:

Bucknall Austin Ltd

Timber Element(s):

Laminated timber columns and flitched timber beam structures Internal and external cladding Flooring and balustrades

Timber Specie(s):

Austrian larch, Red oak floor

Award(s):

Short-listed for the Wood Awards 2004, Civic Trust Award 2006

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