The two-storey property had previously been neglected for years. The improper conversion from a warehouse to an office space as well as the lack of care and maintenance from previous owners led to the poor and ageing condition. The building received little natural light due to tight site constraints and small windows. The main emphasis of the project was to open up the building to more natural daylight, creating a bright and uncluttered office space using robust materials chosen for their longevity.
The first step was to gut the existing spaces, before adding a new storey on top. After grid ceilings and existing layers of plasterboard were removed, the layers of history started to appear. A unique patchwork of brickwork showing marks of buildings previous uses. Marks of bricked up door openings at first floor level, dating back to times when the street was filled with rows of warehouses and stables and these doors were connecting the building to its former neighbours. The cobblestones below ground floor slab revealed a glimpse of how the building operated back in the 1850’s when it was originally built. A loading door and a crumbling hoist were clearly visible from the street, although from inside the building looked like any other mundane office space.
These discoveries fundamentally inspired the design and all new additions were carefully considered as an impression of the history without faithfully replicating it.
Sliding timber shutters echo original stable frontage when shut, whilst also providing control of light and privacy to the ground floor of the office. The timber lining continues inside, concealing a small kitchen and WC. A new storey was added on top with a large central skylight that pours light down into the spaces below. The rooftop extension, which is clad in black standing seam zinc, is set back from the front of the building and is barely visible from the ground level. There are no openings to the street façade to avoid overlooking, with only a high level-window located at the rear, offering views of the treetops of the gardens behind.
To rationalise wasteful corridor space, the building is divided in two by a folded steel staircase that connects all three levels, defining more open and public spaces at the front and private spaces at the back that can be separated if required. Folded steel was chosen as a very deliberate reference to the building’s industrial past and it stands as a focal element against the otherwise simple material palete of oak, walnut and light grey painted plasterboard.
Due to tight site constraints and the extremely poor condition of the original building envelope, the project took almost two years from initial sketch to completion. Working on a tight budget, but investing time and most of the budget in ‘the invisible’ – such as safeguarding the original building and bringing it up to current standards, was a concrete decision. We carefully considered each step of the process to sympathetically adapt the existing structure whilst enhancing performance and functionality.
The historic building’s performance has been substantially upgraded, including the entire building envelope, heating, plumbing, electrics and lighting. The existing envelope was updated with high performance insulation and the existing roof was replaced with a green roof, increasing the longevity of roofing membranes and helping to reduce air pollution, whilst also improving the views from surrounding buildings. New thermally broken steel Crittall style windows and doors replace the existing louvre windows which were incredibly inefficient. The new rooflight is triple glazed and has an integrated roller blind to prevent overheating in summer months.
With an addition of only a small extension, the scheme promotes the opportunities to carefully repair and adapt historic buildings and demonstrates a sustainable approach to providing unique spaces. In addition, the combination of quality materials and highly adaptive design, the refurbishment offers longevity to the property, allowing the clients company grow in size. The new glazed elements at ground floor open up the building to more daylight and increase usable workspace, as well as promote cross ventilation. Opening up the building at ground floor level has brought a sense of excitement to a street that is very much closed off, with most properties having garage doors and closed facades.
Working closely with the planning officers, neighbouring residents, client, contractor, subcontractors and all other parties involved has resulted in a carefully crafted scheme which celebrates it’s distinctive historical features that make it truly special.