At UPco, our team is passionate about the built environment, and we love seeing beautiful architecture come to life. We all have our favourite buildings – and this month, we asked Associate Joanna Jackson to tell us about one that’s special to her.

Can you tell us a bit about the building you’ve chosen, Jo?

Of course. Liberty of London is an iconic department store on Great Marlborough Street in London, just a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus. It’s a huge mock-Tudor building designed by Edwin T Hall and his son Edwin S Hall, and it was built back in 1924. Now heritage-listed, it’s a must see for any architecture buffs visiting London – and of course, Liberty the brand has become famous for its high-end fashion and homewares and distinctive floral prints.

What’s your personal connection to Liberty’s?

My mum actually worked in Liberty’s Oriental Department in the 1970s, which was situated on one of the upper floors. Her department sold really unique pieces; beautiful silks from Asia and Indian jewellery. I first visited Liberty’s back in 2007, and just found it magical. I love that the timber interior that’s there today would have been the same back in my mum’s day.

I still follow Liberty’s on Instagram and enjoy seeing the wonderful installations they have all year round. Not quite as spectacular as seeing them in person though, so I think I’m due for another visit!

What do you love about the building?

Liberty’s is such a grand building, but it has a true pedestrian scale. It’s five storeys tall but was designed around a central atrium and light wells, with smaller rooms that feel cosy and intimate. The façade is only a hint to the internal finishes, which were crafted from the reclaimed timber of two ancient battle ships… I love the wooden staircases, the timber detailing and the enchanting multi-level voids.

Somehow, the building manages to feel both old and new… the finishes have the well-worn patina that comes with age, but within this traditional setting you find a retail offering that’s really cutting edge. The closest thing we have here in Melbourne is probably the Myer Mural Hall, on the sixth floor of Myer Melbourne, which has been restored to be as close as possible to its 1935 state.

Why does Liberty’s interest you from a planning perspective?

Its heritage is the stand-out factor. Many clients seek to adaptively re-use heritage listed buildings, and retain unique features. These projects are almost always challenging, and no two are the same! But they can pay big dividends for the clients and end users who want a space that feels really special and distinctive.

Aspirations for new works to heritage buildings do vary, but in many cases the client and architects are looking to create a new life for the building – juxtaposing original fabric against contemporary features. I love that Liberty of London achieves this so successfully, retaining the building’s authentic character while delivering a brand experience that’s bang on current trend (if not ahead of it!).

Cover image © Copyright Alena Kravchenko