A two-storey warehouse on the riverfront of London Docks has been converted into sustainable studio space by architecture practice JTP. In designing its own office, the practice was able to put the health and wellbeing of its staff and the existing building at the heart of the design.
Built in the early 1800s, when the docks were one of London’s biggest bases for the cargo industry, the Grade II listed building formerly stored luxury commodities such as spices, coffee and cocoa, as well as wine, rum and brandy. The warehouse closed in 1969 and was later used as the headquarters for News International media group. Now, Penning Street Warehouse is a key component in the revitalisation of the dock area as an ‘arts quarter’, due to be converted into a complex of shops, restaurants, galleries and 90 new artist studios as part of a 15-year-long conversion project.
Within the main warehouse, JTP’s new self-designed studio space activates the existing building with a number of insertions that adapt the interior for modern use while respecting the building’s history and retaining its architectural character. Subtle interventions increase
the functionality of the space by making the most of existing attributes, such as the inset arches. On the other hand, extensive structural work was required to break through into the vaulted basement, enabling the construction of a triple-height (14-m-high) atrium at the building’s heart, topped by a glazed lantern, that floods the interior with natural light.
Large, open plan and collaborative spaces are contrasted with smaller ‘quiet zones’ for concentrated work, providing a range of working environments. Shaped around the needs of its employees, JTP designed the interior space to be as flexible as possible, building on the openness of the warehouse building to facilitate communication and social interaction.
Significant targets were set to minimise the operational impact of the building: materials such as timber were chosen for their low-carbon impact and cradle-to-grave credentials; lighting uses smart systems to allow individual workspace control; and the retention of exposed brickwork provided high thermal mass.
In a move to match the architectural impact with the wellness of employees, ‘active design principals’ include accessible stairways and activity spaces – to promote physical activity – plus substantial integration of plant life and air purification systems that improve air quality and “support physical, mental and emotional wellbeing”, says the design team. “Acoustic barriers embedded into furnishings, natural light and sensory elements help improve cognitive accessibility.”
Photos | Craig Auckland (Fotohaus)