London’s Here East technology campus on the former 2012 Olympic site is a fast-growing creative cluster that includes entrepreneurs reimagining design through pioneering technology alongside a community of artists, designers, makers, and academics.
Having outgrown their previous facilities Plykea, a leading manufacturer of custom fronts and worktops for IKEA cabinets, commissioned Erbar Mattes to design their first flagship production studio.
The project transforms a vacant commercial unit, creating modern manufacturing facilities, independent working spaces for administration and design staff, as well as supporting welfare amenity and a showroom. Previously housed in separate units, a key aim was to bring staff together on one common floor, creating a non-hierarchical working environment that fosters interaction and a sense of identity.
Staff and visitors share the main entrance to a naturally lit manufacturing and assembly area accommodating CNC machines, belt sanders, mobile work benches and other equipment. Views in and out of the production area contribute to a pleasant working environment while activating the street frontage.
Accompanied down a shallow ramp within the busy workshop visitors arrive at the acoustically sealed studio space containing design, administration, and dedicated area showcasing the product range. A solid plywood stair leads to the separate meeting room, gained by repurposing an existing steel lift shaft structure to create a small mezzanine overlooking the workshop. Tucked below are further ancillary functions, including a staff canteen with views out to the manufacturing and assembly area.
One of the principal challenges was to establish a strong visual connection between the different spaces while containing the manufacturing noise. To achieve this, bespoke partitions incorporating generous sections of acoustic glazing span the full height of the unit. Their load bearing structure consists of open web timber studs. Composed of timber flanges plated together with metal webs, this system which is typically concealed in the construction of floors and roofs, is repurposed to form a rigid partition which resolves the complex acoustic requirements in a simple, characterful, and cost-effective way.
While the glazed sections of the screens allow through-views and interaction between the production and front-of-house spaces, opaque wood wool boards clad the top section, forming a highly sound absorbing surface that softens reverberations and dampens the noise of the manufacturing process. The light-coloured resin floor creates a unifying material language across the different rooms and contributes to the distribution of daylight deep into the plan. Conceived as an efficient and characterful work environment the project showcases the process of making and reflects the company’s ambition to create beautiful, practical, sustainable, yet cost-effective products.