17th January 2024

The Elephant, Oxford Street project update


Our Associate Director, Simon Bennett, has been working on the refurbishment of the former House of Fraser building on Oxford St for the last four years.

The Elephant, at 318 Oxford Street has been a feature of London’s most famous retail street for decades. In 2020, refurbishment began to transform the building into a flexible mixed-use destination.

“We started on site nearly two years ago, but the scale of work is quite large, so only now are significant elements of the new structure visible,” said Simon. “The building has not had major re-working since its completion back in 1936. There were a lot of redundant services and layers of finishes to be stripped out before we could properly see the structural bones of the building.”

Simon emphasises that, although on the surface it looks as though a lot of the building’s original structure has been removed, Civic Engineers’ design involves the absolute minimum of demolition to give the building a sustainable future. One of the challenges of refurbishing the building has been removing asbestos and lead paint.

There have also been changes made to the building structure to allow for a wider range of uses. The top two floors of the building originally had quite a restricted headroom, so they will replace it with a 3-storey extension. The North-West corner of the building originally housed a combination of risers, lifts, and small stockrooms, will also be replaced with a more flexible open-plan space. The team has had to use their expertise to come up with creative solutions.

“The North-West corner previously provided most of the building’s stability. Opening the area up meant we lost that, so it needed replacing elsewhere” said Bennett. “Rather than demolish another area of existing structure to insert a new core, we elected to put the necessary bracing within the existing escalator void which in any case had to be infilled.”

Project Engineer, Finlay Gray, has worked on the project for almost as long as Bennett. Gray was responsible for the complex piled raft design under the new core and the steelwork of the project.

“It’s really exciting to see the steelwork for the new core being erected,” said Gray. “Now that deconstruction is largely complete, the dramatic double-height entrance space is visible. It will be a real wow factor for the building.”

The Elephant, Oxford Street project update