A newly formed property developer needed more space and asked us to refurbish a Victorian industrial space with a rich history of alterations. The building was ill-suited to office conversion, having high ceilings, hard surfaces, a large volume and very deep floor plate, features that present considerable acoustic, lighting and building services challenges. Since the client was to occupy it, the refurbished space had to embody their visions and reflect their cultural values as well as their immediate operational needs. In particular, they wanted delight and surprise at every turn.
We responded to the very tight 18-week programme with a playful manipulation of texture, colour, volume and light that amplifies the original fabric and sets the scene for the new. Our ‘floating’ boardroom and feature circulation elements add valuable extra net internal area. They are also fun, aiming to engage staff and precipitate collaboration. Reflective materials help to bring natural light deep into the space.
Overall, the 2785 m2 building functions as a flexible, contemporary workplace. As the client said, “It is an environment that has felt like home from day one.”
Architecture as a journey
A large central stair, ramp, perimeter mezzanine and suspended boardroom are organised strategically to adapt the original building for use. They create a journey from ground floor reception, gallery and auditorium to first floor office workspace and mezzanine; revealing the collaborative process of development and engaging the culture and community surrounding it. The effect is a varied sequence of narrow, long, tall, dark and light spaces to hide, discuss, meet and discover.
A New Architectural Layer
The new design reveals and amplifies the features of the original building. It does this by opening up and exploiting long industrial spans; revealing original Victorian details and further tailors the original fabric by embedding a new architectural layer into the space. The design also maximises natural light whilst introducing movement and intrigue into the existing volume through the insertion of bold architectural infrastructures.
Key architectural elements are defined through the use of a single material. Dark grey Valchromat expresses this contemporary layer and gives a strong and consistent response to the existing fabric whilst complementing the industrial finishes. Reflective materials are incorporated to extend the visual plane of rigorously coordinated exposed services, providing diverse readings of the space and forcing natural light deep into the plan. The dark Valchromat is constructed as a build-up of sheets giving thickness to integrate services, lighting, acoustic absorption, storage and archiving forming a holistic architectural infrastructure. This extends its performance beyond purely articulating space and circulation and allows the building to function as a flexible contemporary workplace.