Location & Background
Perched beneath the purlins of a late 19thC warehouse on the Farringdon Road is a new workspace for the recruitment agency Represent. Designed and delivered by architects Alder Brisco and makers Constructive & Co, the works encompass the strip out, refurbishment, and retrofit of the warehouse’s 1000 sqft third floor plate. In addition, two large work desks were designed by the architects and fabricated by Timber Workshop.
The client’s project brief outlined the provision of open plan desk space, adjoining lunch, storage, and sanitary facilities for up to 16 members of staff, alongside two enclosed meeting rooms where they might greet candidates visiting for interview.
Relocating from a narrow space at the foot of a neighbouring building, the project is an expression of Represent’s growth and its drive to create a generous, lofty, and daylit environment where its team and their visitors might share professional development advice and opportunity. Just as Represent is renewed by its move, so the space itself has found new form.
Built as a speculative warehouse space in 1883, the original floor plate was populated solely by a staircase that rises across the southern wall in a long straight flight from the street front, while a goods elevator is located on the northern party wall. Whilst the lift car is long gone, the timber frame, gears, and large pulley wheel all remain intact – an odd looming exhibition of heavyweight Victorian engineering.
Reading the history of the building, the original tenants were found to be the manufacturers of the successor to the Penny Farthing, an equally ungainly model of bicycle, called the ‘Facile’. Meanwhile the pavement at the foot of the building was host for many years to the unfolding, mobile wooden stalls of the famous Farringdon Road book market. The goods lift, the Facile, and the market stalls form a rich historical cast.
The recognition of the site as host to this collection of Victorian oddities led the architects to extend the metaphor, forming new rooms as idiosyncratic independent entities nestled beneath the double- pitched warehouse roof. An attic of warm wooden curiosities.
With existing ceiling heights climbing from three metres at the valley to five metres at their peak, the new programme of spaces is arranged to celebrate the height of the inherited volume. By clustering the enclosed rooms around the stair void the plan gives over the entire street-facing bay to desk space, while half of the rear bay forms an open staff kitchen and communal dining area.
The two meeting rooms are positioned toward the centre of the deep narrow plan but climb vertically toward a large existing roof light ensuring the interiors are daylit. Two existing steel sections span the party walls supporting a timber portal that bridges the two meeting rooms. This threshold defines the juncture of spaces dedicated to staff and to visitors and is dressed with a clock face. The result is a new four-metre tall internal façade, where just as the pulley wheel crowns the adjacent elevator framework, glazed lanterns are propped atop the meeting room volumes.
The existing fabric of the warehouse shell is differentiated from its new timber inhabitants. The brickwork, boarded ceilings, and goods lift are all painted white, whilst the original pine floors are sanded and refinished with a whitening oil. In contrast, the new structures are built in spruce plywood with each volume distinguished by its
roof form and internal linings. The acoustically insulated meeting rooms are lined at low-level in a robust red linoleum whilst higher-level panelling is perforated to baffle sound throughout an interview. The bathroom lobby and cubicles run dark green tiling up to the same datum. The materials are selected for their economy, weight, durability, and renewable nature, with their successful combination reliant on the precision of the makers.
Each of the new volumes are formed with a series of panels and softwood frames, prefabricated and sized precisely by Constructive & Co to be lifted by hand up through the building before being fixed together into place. In accordance with this approach, the doors and glazed window frames are designed as surface fixtures to be appended to the outer face of the structures. The meeting rooms are accessed via large sliding plywood panels that close to settle beneath the clockface at the crux of the axial plan.
The plywood work desks seat up to eight people each with two slotted cruciform legs holding a tall central beam and perpendicular strut, which in turn support a linoleum-lined work surface. Timber Workshop fabricated the components at their shop before pegging the tables together on site with wooden dowels.