25 Savile Row
The design of Derwent London's offices at 25 Savile Row was about finding elegance in the relationship of simple forms and natural materials. We were inspired by Scarpa’s mastery of materials, Dieter Rams economy of detail and the Japanese philosophy of ‘shibui’ a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle and unobtrusive beauty.
Built in 1937 and designed by architect Gordon Jeeves, 25 Savile Row’s exterior white render and grid of black steel windows lend the building a robustness and light industrial simplicity. Derwent London made the building their headquarters in 2000 and by 2014 the company had outgrown the fourth and fifth floors and began to explore the opportunity of a new home within the lower floors of the building. Following previous collaborations on Turnmill and The Copyright Building, Derwent London engaged Piercy&Company for the substantial refurbishment of the building and the design of their new headquarters on the lower four floors.
Through a detailed study of adjacencies within Derwent London’s structure we were able to create a three-dimensional diagram that ensured visual connectivity, a mix of quiet thinking and social collaborative spaces and a suite of formal and informal meeting spaces. With Derwent London we discussed the benefits of creating workspaces with different qualities of light, volume and scale: a place where you could be autonomous and choose your favourite table or environment to suit your task.
The primary intervention was the cutting of a three-storey void through the existing floors. This new dramatic volume, with the original windows retained within the three-storey facade, allows light to distribute through the heart of the building. An extremely delicate stair was suspended centrally in the space to facilitate vertical movement and stitch together the collaborative spaces distributed off the stair landing.
Derwent London’s offices and the upper floors are now served by separate entrances from Savile Row. The two entrances are visually connected by a new richly veined travertine facade and full height bronze doors. A sculpture by Hugo Dalton in a double sided glazed timber case playfully connects both receptions.
Derwent London’s reception is a long linear space bisected by the delicate steel stair. The perspective is enhanced by an end matched Tuscan Silver travertine floor. The ground floor also contains two critical components of the plan - the Architects’ Room and the Boardroom. While the Architects’ Room has a studio feel, with robust Douglas Fir Dinesen table and floor, the Boardroom is more formal, with timber lined walls and travertine floors framing an inlaid carpet.
The first-floor collaboration and dining spaces open out onto an unexpected winter garden - an almost double height glazed enclosure with the original window voids repurposed into recessed seating. More space was added on the constrained site through two sun-filled, roof-top glazed pavilions which are entered via dedicated sculptural stairs from the fifth floor.
On Savile Row, we were motivated by the potential of using our digital expertise in collaboration with traditional artisans and fabricators to explore the idea of digital craft. It was the work with architectural metalworker Chay Wheeler and structural engineer David Akera where the full potential of digital fabrication was manifested in an impossibly slender suspended stair. The stair is a hanging structure with a geometry that is entirely interdependent and so any changes have an effect across the whole structure. In response the team developed an algorithmic script that defined the geometric principles and allowed rapid iteration and feedback while the digital engineering modelling took place. The visual lightness of the stair translated into physical lightness - the entire structure was fabricated with less than 0.5 cubic meters of steel.
The geometry of the timber handrail was also developed algorithmically to take advantage of the milling capabilities of 5 axis robots. Designed to twist from a rotated ellipse ‘grip’ profile on the flights to a flat, widened ellipse ‘perch’ profile on the landings to encourage pausing for conversation.
At the Olivetti Showroom in Venice, Carlo Scarpa was exceptionally skilful in knowing how to combine a base material with a precious one, an economy of use which allows both material to be appreciated. Following Scarpa’s principle we refined the palette to a complimentary family of materials: timber, travertine, painted steel, bronze and leather.
We worked at many scales of fabrication from 80 square metre bespoke structurally glazed rooftop pavilions to digitally fabricated fluted oak panels by Benchmark. In a process that was uniquely collaborative from client to contractor, we designed furniture with Bill Amberg Studio and Benchmark; precisely cut and laid travertine with Unique Surfaces and Campolonghi; and fabricated beautiful bronze slim profile doors with Capoferri.