The Normandie Hotel stood as a fine example of Edwardian architecture for almost a century, just a stone's throw from Harrods in Knightsbridge, London.
Previously recognized as an unlisted building of merit, its status was puzzlingly downgraded to ‘neutral’ in Westminster Council’s 2008 Conservation Area Audit.
The Normandie (building on the right) in 2009 shortly before its demolition. Source: Google Streetview
Puzzling, because buildings like 151-61 Knightsbridge, immediately adjacent and of the same style and quality were granted protected status in the same report.
When pressed on this discrepancy, Westminster Council conceded ‘the building was still of interest’ but offered a shameless defense for its downgrade - they had already approved its demolition.
2009: View from Hyde Park, across Victoria St looking south.
Before and After: Knightsbridge Road looking south in 2008 with the Normandie still standing (top) and the Bvlgari Hotel in 2015 (bottom).
A spokesperson writing “As the consent had been granted for demolition it would be retained [in the report] as a neutral building”.
So in May 2009, despite lying in a conservation area which should have afforded it protection, developer Prime Development, tore down the Normandie.
Before and After: View from Knightsbridge Road with the Normandie (top) in 2009 and the Bvlgari Hotel (bottom) in 2016.
In its place they constructed the 85 room Bulgari Hotel, a bulky modernist building framed in Portland stone.
Justifying her decision at the time, Rosemarie Macqueen, Strategic Director for the Built Environment, claimed the new building would actually ‘preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Knightsbridge conservation area’.
The Bvlgari Hotel website, showcasing the architecture of the conservation area
Ironically however, the hotel’s website showcases not the building itself, but the Edwardian architecture of the area.
Architecture they helped erase.