M&S Oxford Street ideas contest longlist revealed

9th May 2024

SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the Architects’ Journal have announced the longlist in their ideas competition to find possible new leases of life for the Marks & Spencer building on London’s Oxford Street

Established practices Alma-nac, Avanti, Jestico + Whiles and Marks Barfield are joined by emerging talents such as Add Apt architects, Saqqra, Studio Chris Simmons, and Madeleine Kessler Architects with Nick Elias Studio.

The 13-strong list also includes student entries from Oxford Brookes University and the University of Westminster; a submission from Zhi Bin Cheah of Foster + Partners; a collaboration between Marion Baeli of 10 Design, Prewett Bizley, Kinrise and the National Retrofit Hub; and a bid from “retrofit only” practice Connolly Wellingham.

A final six entries will now be chosen from these to take part in a day-long charrette on 23rd May in London.

These six teams will be paid honorariums of £5,000 per team to further develop their ideas, with no overall winner selected.

The competition was open to UK-based architects, architectural assistants and architecture students, and called for teams to meet five key objectives including prioritising whole-life carbon design principles, preserving heritage, and recognising the challenges facing the world-famous Oxford Street, and potentially other high streets elsewhere in the country.

Speaking about the submissions, AJ editor Emily Booth said: “We’re thrilled with the response we’ve had to this exciting competition. The wide range of entries demonstrate just how much thought and effort has gone into considering a potential future for this landmark building that does not involve substantial and wasteful demolition.

“The breadth of ideas submitted has been truly impressive, creating models for potential reuse not just on this famous shopping street but in other high streets across the country. We look forward to hearing more from the longlisted bidders and seeing how these concept ideas are finessed and tested.”

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, added: “We’re really delighted by the response to the competition and the wide range and high quality of entries – all proposing different and imaginative ways to repurpose and reuse this landmark building on Oxford Street.

“From individual architects to well-established practice entries, we were particularly pleased to see some really exciting student submissions as well. With huge thanks to our judging team, we’re very much looking forward to the next stage of the competition.”

The re:store competition, which was free to enter and is being run independently of M&S, aims to tap into the creativity and talent of architects and others in the built environment to discover whether a “sustainable and pragmatic revitalisation” of the 1929 building might be possible.

The longlist in full:

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that both AJ sustainability editor Hattie Hartman and Eric Reynolds, chair of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, have joined the judging panel. Due to an unavoidable diary clash, property developer Basil Demeroutis of FORE Partnership – who is helping to fund the contest – has had to step back from the judging panel but will participate in the charrette day on 23rd May.

The Re:Store judges are:

The competition follows a protracted battle over the future of the building, which M&S is seeking to demolish and replace with a 10-storey office and retail block designed by architect Pilbrow & Partners. Earlier this year a High Court judge ruled that communities secretary Michael Gove must re-examine his decision to reject planning permission for the M&S scheme, which comes with an upfront carbon cost of almost 40,000 tonnes of CO2.

The AJ and SAVE worked together previously in calling on the government to launch a public inquiry into the M&S proposals on environmental and heritage grounds, something that Gove then ordered in June 2022.

Later that year, SAVE led the opposition to the M&S plan at the public inquiry.

Last summer, Gove rejected planning permission for the project on heritage and environmental grounds. However, he will now have to redetermine the case after High Court judge Mrs Justice Lieven ruled that M&S had succeeded in five out of six grounds of appeal.

The procedural grounds of the challenge concerned how the secretary of state had interpreted planning policy in reaching his decision, and how he explained his disagreement with the recommendation of the planning inspector to grant planning permission following the inquiry.

Last week SAVE again urged him to veto the proposals in a formal submission following the High Court judgement while M&S made a lengthy submission arguing in favour of planning permission.


Notes to editors: