Construction

An exclusive look behind the scenes of Whitefox's work to bring out the best of Bobby's

By Sam Pither [email protected]

Published: April 2, 2024 | Updated: 2nd April 2024

Whitefox Chartered Surveyors on the South Coast, instructed as project managers and cost consultants for the Bobby & Co building in the heart of Bournemouth, have been working on the former department store, peeling back the layers of the modern veneer to reveal the true star character of Bobby & Co.

Whitefox logo

We chat with Whitefox MD Darren Frias-Robles to find out a little more about the journey to date working on the iconic Bournemouth landmark.

When did you start working with Bobby & Co?

Over the last 3 years our clients have developed their vision for the landmark building, Bobby & Co in the heart of Bournemouth.

We are now on the journey to implement their ambitions for a vibrant, mixed-use development that draws people into the town centre of Bournemouth.

Darren on roof with view over square

The mission that our client has set for the project team is to roll back to the original Bobby & Co look and embrace the character of the department store, which was established in Bournemouth in May 1915 and was once regarded as the ‘heart of the town and the community.’

We are keen to make it relevant for today and also satisfy the needs for the leading brands.

The design team have worked tirelessly to discover original installations, by taking down panelling and walls.

Our clients are passionate and keen to retain the authenticity and heritage and our team have been meticulous in looking at historical archives and sourcing many old photos to see what Bobby’s used to look like and what gems might still be there, to take it back to its former splendour through restoration and recreate the character and charm of the building.

To date, it has been a real journey of exploration trying to uncover what the history was. Sadly, a lot of it has disappeared but there are elements that we have discovered and found incredibly rewarding to restore.

The original brass shop front

When demolishing and removing the construction around one of the main entrance vestibules into the ground floor of Bobby and Co, we were surprised to uncover an original brass shop front.

At that point we advised our client and project architect to change the design and instead of the initial planned arrangement we’ve now restored the original brass work and installed new doors with leaded glass lights.

We also uncovered original reeded glass panelling along the shop front which again, in that area, we have restored. This is one of the highlights of the building and can be enjoyed by all visitors as they pass through the main entrance.

Lift

Looking through the historical archives we discovered that the original store had an open lift which ran full height through the building, encased in a metal cage.

Sadly, through our exploratory work we found that this cage structure had been removed but nevertheless the team designed an interesting space which rises up through the building, introducing elements such as brass work, timber panelling, brass lettering and plants, creating an art deco feel which is a nod back to the heyday of the building.

Original steel Crittall glazed Screens

The fourth floor has a lovely original single steel Crittall glazed screen feature.

This runs across the entire front of the building.

Sadly, it was in an extremely poor condition, very badly rusted, corroded and difficult to open.

We introduced a renovation specialist to the project who has painstakingly repaired the glazing and frames to each of the sections and, where necessary, replaced damaged parts.

It is a wonderful historic feature that our client was very keen and proud to retain.

Art Deco palette of materials

Now when you move through the building and explore the delights of Bobby & Co you are surrounded by a rich palette of materials, including living walls, the robustness of polished concrete & marble effect structures which have been painstakingly created by a team of artists.

Local craftsman have designed and constructed fabulous cabinetry, joinery, and timber work, which – when combined with carefully selected ornate light fittings and other key components – really do give you a feeling of moving through a very special space.

This is accentuated by the front and centre original sign for Bobby & Co in hard wood and engraved with gold leaf, sitting astride the double entrance doors.

Through our exploratory work uncovering hidden elements of the original structure, we uncovered sections of original terrazzo flooring, sadly much of which was in poor condition or had been lost.

However, this informed the architects who carefully selected decorative floor tiles to closely resemble those materials which would have been in place originally.

Cupolas – beautiful domes to the roof

To top it all off, the building is adorned at roof level by three proud Cupolas, which rise up above the roof.

Originally these would have contained large flagpoles from which the store would have flown flags, appropriate for key events during the building’s history, including the coronation of King George VI.

These delicate structures require careful repair, which is currently underway, and when completed will add to the overall splendour of the external façade.

These are important features as historically they are a working emblem of the proud status of the building and its importance within the local conurbation.

What challenges have you come across during the project?

I think one of the biggest challenges we face on a large project such as this is how to balance the competing interests between delivering a large construction project within an operational building with public access and the needs of incoming tenants as they move into spaces once they are completed.

This has to be managed carefully as Bobby & Co is also in Bournemouth Square, with so much going on in the immediately adjoining public realm – for example, the Christmas market and the busy tourist season.

It is therefore important to listen to and engage with all stakeholders and be proactive in terms of thinking ahead as to what the blockers could be for this project.

The year ahead…

2024 will be a very busy year on the project as we move towards completion.

We are maintaining the momentum of progress and are now working with the teams to complete the fit-out of their floors for the incoming tenants.

As they begin to take occupation and enjoy the building, the buzz and busyness of Bobby & Co will be a jewell in the crown for Bournemouth Town Centre, once more!

About Whitefox Chartered Surveyors

The practice brings together a consultancy team of talented, experienced surveyors who on a daily basis deliver successful cost-effective solutions to the challenges our clients face.

Our team is dedicated to supporting our clients to achieve their business objectives.

https://whitefoxgroup.co.uk/

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