Kennington water tower, Grand Designs

Ambitious water tower conversion in London

The Kennington water tower was a 'crumbling giant' in need of two new-build extensions

By Karen Stylianides | 28 February 2017

The Grand Designs water tower, which Kevin McCloud referred to on TV as a monster, a beast, a crumbling giant, was built in 1877 and had been empty for decades, with gaps between bricks, trees inching their way through the walls, and hundreds of dead pigeons inside (plus the poo of many more, still alive). And Leigh Osborne and Graham Voce didn’t do things by halves, with an ambitious budget and timeline.

Large, bright living room of the Kennington water tower from Grand Designs

Photo: Jefferson Smith

Two extensions

There were two new-build extensions to incorporate into the renovation of the Grand Designs water tower: a four-storey cube for the kitchen-dining-living spaces, and a new tower for the lift and all the bathrooms, with a glazed link connecting it to the water tower.

And then there was the crazy deadline – 12 months’ access across vacant land owned by the freeholder, so trucks, cranes and a small army of builders could get on site – which was whittled down to five months by the time surveys, drawings and planning permission were in place. In the end, there was a bit of give in the agreement, and work was finished in eight months – but it was still a sprint of Usain Bolt velocity for such a complex project.

Inside the Grand Designs water tower in Kennington, with monochrome living room decor

Photo: Jefferson Smith