The expert team at architectural specialist WindsorPatania has helped complete a major rebuild of Mill Road’s Taank Optometrists in Cambridge, with the shop unveiling its brand-new look in February this year following a fire that destroyed the property and other businesses in the Mill Road Conservation area in July 2019. Work on the property has been completed in record time thanks to in-depth architectural plans and an innovative space-saving solution drawn up by WindsorPatania.

WindsorPatania, which works on bespoke residential, retail and mixed-use design projects across the UK, created a design that allows the client private outdoor space and airy interiors, whilst adhering to strict fire regulations.

The original building comprises the optometrist shop on the ground, first and second floor of the building, and a separate flat to the rear of the first floor. The building has been a part of the client’s family history for more than 100 years, and so the team was keen to ensure this historical and emotional attachment was respected in the rebuild.

The WindsorPatania team stepped in before the building regulation phase, spotting immediately there was no fire safety strategy in place, leading to a complete redesign of the available space. Each room of the flat – including bedroom, kitchen and living room, plus the two-storey optometrists – needed clear fire escapes. At the same time, the client was very keen to keep as much open space as possible, so the WindsorPatania team needed to work to the millimetre to ensure every inch of the property was used effectively.

The team, led by Architectural Director Giovanni Patania and Senior Architectural Assistant Roberta Sanna, created a brand-new concept, which included the removal of a metal staircase outside and incorporated a hallway and ramp, which were fit for escape purposes. All specifications of the project are high end, offering modern, eco-friendly and luxurious spaces for both tenant and retailer.

The front-facing exterior has been restored to retain as many of the original period features as possible, in keeping with the neighbouring buildings along Mill Road. At the back of the building, the team were able to be more creative, retaining the building’s original features whilst also adding a modern element to the design.

WindsorPatania team members worked around the clock to finish the architectural phase in record time, with all approvals and designs submitted just four months after being granted the project. The short turnaround and attention to detail meant that tendering with local building firms began early summer of 2020, with building work commencing at the end of September.

The Taank Optometrists team was keen to reopen as soon as possible, given the potential impact on customer experience and sales, and the shop opened its doors again on 8 February.

William Mayes, Director at Layrd Design, acted as project manager and interior designer on the project. “We were extremely happy with the outcome of the redesign,” he said. “The client offers a high-end service and needed the interiors and the overall building design to reflect this. We wanted the end result to showcase a luxurious but approachable and comfortable setting.

“We achieved that through bespoke details like the addition of a coffee bar with high stools, where clients can enjoy a drink whilst waiting for an appointment or whilst their new frames are being fitted. We also included a new frame adjustment area, complete with workshop.”

Roberta Sanna, Senior Architectural Assistant and lead designer on the project, said: “It was a very intense few months, challenging but extremely satisfying. There were a lot of size constraints to take into consideration with the building, which is over 100 years old.

“We ran through many different scenarios to pass fire regulations such as incorporating sprinklers or outside fire escapes into the plans, but eventually came up with the ramp/hallways combination which is a rather elegant, tailored solution.”

WindsorPatania co-founder Ryan Windsor added: “After fighting to the centimetre to get the construction acceptable by building and fire regulation standards, and meeting all of the client’s needs, we are delighted to see the final result.”

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