Since the mid-1990s, Henley Halebrown have worked on a number of London buildings requiring adaptive reuse.
De Beauvoir Block comprises a group of 33 workspaces over three floors ranging from 250 square feet to 3,000 feet designed and equipped to support individuals and businesses, particularly those involved in the creative industries. Known as ‘The Block’, the building is located in the nineteenth century neighbourhood of De Beauvoir Town, Hackney (East London), and is among the 350 commercial and residential properties leased by the Benyon Estate.
Edward Benyon of the Benyon Estate, whose family inherited the De Beauvoir Estate in 1821, commissioned the De Beauvoir Block from Henley Halebrown to provide much needed small-scale workspaces in this residential area. The Estate was keen to create a strong community feel within the building based on collaboration and conversation between individuals and businesses.
The shared courtyard has an adjacent cafe at ground level that serves as a meeting room and creates a convivial setting for the occupants of the building to meet and receive visitors. Above, a picturesque roofscape of timber structures wrapped in matt black EPDM rubber introduces a new silhouette to the scheme. These structures contain largely day-lit, naturally ventilated studios, with exposed rafters and plywood linings that open up to the new yard as well as to decks and terraces and views of the City.
Overall, the architects have adopted a robust and sustainable approach combining careful restoration with new construction. This is in keeping with the desire for a light industrial feel and units that feel “found” rather than being overly “manicured” studios. This is a quality that has long proved to be popular with artists looking for inexpensive studio spaces and, more recently, amongst those working in creative industries.
For Simon Henley, Henley Halebrown, the project represents a way of working with ‘found objects’, “When adapting buildings for reuse, the architect is in effect dealing with monuments of the unintended variety. That is, they exhibit ‘age-value’. We recognise these buildings have a voice and, that their conservation and reuse can strengthen that voice.”