Moorfields Eye Hospital, King George V Extension

Faience Cleaning & Repair

Moorfields Eye Hospital is the leading provider of eye health services in the UK and a world-class centre of excellence for ophthalmic research and education. London Stone Conservation was commissioned to repair the faience façade without disrupting the Hospital’s vital work.

The King George V Extension was added to the famous red brick and stone building located on City Road, to house the expansion of the hospital between the wars. The hospital treats thousands of visitors and patients each day and is located on one of the busiest roads in London.

The King George V Extension of Moorfields Eye Hospital has a towering Art Deco façade made up of buff coloured faience clad on to a steel framework with crushed brick and concrete core. It was designed by the architect Alec Smithers in 1935 with a Portland stone apex sculpture, depicting Christ Healing the Blind, carved by Eric Gill. Faience, or glazed terracotta, was a very popular and cost-effective material in the first half of the twentieth century and was frequently used in the construction of public buildings.

The facade had suffered continuous vertical cracking and localised failures, caused by corrosion of the supporting metalwork. These structural failures had opened the building envelope to water ingress and in some areas individual blocks had become loose and unsafe. In early twentieth century terracotta and faience facades, untreated metalwork is often embedded within the building construction as beams, lintels, stanchions and fixings. Rusted steel has a much greater volume than in its uncorroded form, which then exerts pressure on the façade. After analysis of the underlying causes of deterioration, a scope and program were devised in close consultation with the Hospital and staff. The metalwork was treated to slow the rate of decay, the faience reinforced with stainless steel and repaired with a colour matched breathable lime mortar to allow for any continued structural movement. The project was carefully sequenced to prevent disruption to the hospital staff and patients, many of which are inpatients, whilst not impacting on the practical completion of such a complex repair schedule.