While recent decades have seen Woolwich Arsenal transformed from a near derelict munitions factory to become one of south London’s most iconic redevelopments, restoration and repurposing work continue apace, with a recently completed contract involving steel window specialist, ASWS, highlighting both the challenges and the opportunities the complexity of the buildings can present.
Aside from converted and new-build residential properties, the huge site has also seen numerous businesses and social enterprises established, including Woolwich Works, a creative quarter for the arts which includes spaces such as The Firework Factory, The Laboratory and The Cartridge Factory. ASWS has undertaken a number of contracts within the borough, leading to the local conservation officer recommending the company to Mace Interiors, which was awarded the contract to completely refit five separate buildings, with Bennetts Associates being the architectural practice leading the design work.
Within Buildings 19 and 41, ASWS was tasked with refurbishing over a dozen large steel windows, including 10 with semi-circular heads, and the removal of three others where the openings were to be blocked up or replaced by new doors. While the company’s operatives are well experienced at demounting very old windows without damage, these posed a particular challenge in that the outer frames had been deeply recessed into the brickwork to help withstand a possible explosion, from inside or outside, with the history of the building and its location.
The 12 windows measuring 2,400mm high by 1,500mm were removed to the London premises of ASWS for careful grit-blasting and the replacement of many heavily corroded sections. In part, this work was facilitated by the company’s astute decision to conserve the three unwanted frames rather than simply scrapping them. During the course of its project, this trio became the “Frankenstein” of donor frames for a number of repairs carried out by ASWS.
This reuse rather than the building industry’s default of recycling old metal offered the client significant cost savings and helped maintain the integrity of a truly historic complex which dates back to the end of the 17th century.
The Project Manager for Mace Interiors, Steve Hawthorne, commented: “The London borough of Greenwich recommended ASWS to us for the project and the company performed so well that we have got them on our database now for involvement in other projects. They can take old steel windows which are virtually ready for the skip and make them as good as new, and there really aren’t many people who can do work like that.”
The scope of ASWS’s work also included the repair and polishing of all the original ironmongery, in-situ decoration and re-glazing with 4mm thick heritage glass. The replacement glass was completed with mastic fronting to replicate the appearance of traditional aesthetic of puttying in glass.