Lester Bennett’s most memorable project

By Lester Bennett
September 9, 2020

Lester Bennettcurrent President of the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID)is an independent design consultant. Here, he remembers his work at West End Quay 

My most memorable project was a marketing suite for West End Quay, the first residential development to break ground in the Paddington Basin Regeneration Scheme. The site was in Praed Street, completed in March 2001. 

The client was a consortium of WestcityWates, of which I was Design Director at the time, Rialto Homes and ING Real Estate. 

The brief was twofold: To capture the quality of the new development whilst breaking new ground in the marketing of residential property; And, to serve as a flagship for the launch of the Paddington Basin Regeneration Scheme. 

It is memorable because it encapsulated so many firsts for me; my first scheme as Design Director for WCW; my first major residential scheme (nearly 500 apartments, 28,000 square feet of Retail); the first development of the PBRS; my first involvement in a major marketing campaign and one of the first of a new wave of retail experience marketing suites. 

To maximise visibility of the marketing suite both on Praed Street and Edgware Road, we built a 3,000 square foot, curved, 9m high glass fronted structure. To increase its presence at night, a kinetic solution was implemented including a theatrical lighting rig, bathing the interior in colour from blue to orange over a 30minute sequence, high level rotographics and back projected videos on the glazed elevation (which raked forward to minimise reflection).  

The presence of water was vital to our marketing campaign and so we built a rill alongside the facade, over which a bridge allowed access into the suite. A 5m high water cascade completed the task. 

We wanted visitors to feel relaxed and browse as one would in a shop. Seating was informal, there were no desks, and sales negotiators circulated with laptops.  

The interior space was divided into open bays displaying ‘slices’ of kitchen and bathrooms and specification elements, with demonstration rooms for smart home technology at the rear. Finishes to the marketing suite followed the development specifications, such as American black walnut and limestone flooring, and bespoke walnut doors with satin stainless ironmongery. 

The build of the marketing suite was a challenge as it was being constructed while the main site was operational, which required detailed logistics for cranes and road closures to enable our large steel frame to be erected. We managed the deadline by the skin of our teeth – cleaners and operatives were leaving by the escape doors as guests for the launch were arriving! Something we’ve all experienced I’m sure.  

One notable moment was coaxing our water cascade to flow as planned. With 20 minutes to go, the team were still on a tower adjusting the water jets. My CEO was hovering anxiously with me reassuring him, perhaps not convincingly, that all would be well. To our huge relief it suddenly sprang into life with just enough time for the tower to be wheeled out and the excess water mopped up. 

To sum up, I was very fortunate in having the support of a great team. The project was a massive learning process for me in terms of the technical requirements for structure, lighting and smart technology. It also taught me to be very careful when agreeing programme deadlines! 

And, the proof of the pudding – the suite was intended to remain for 18 months until all apartments sold. It was dismantled after only 6 months, having achieved that aim.