Repurposing a Victorian furniture factory in the London Borough of Camden, pH+ Architects has created a 10,500-sq-ft office that combines the existing building’s architectural heritage with the growing need for creative workspace in the borough.
Symes Mews sits within the Camden Town Conservation Area; an area known for its rich industrial and creative heritage, according to property investor and developer Fabrix, which acquired the building in 2018. The borough has reinvented itself, over the past five years, as a thriving hub for creative businesses. Not only is it home to the third-highest number of businesses in the UK but a large majority (86%) of Camden’s businesses employ fewer than 10 employees. Coupled with a 13.25% increase in new businesses in the past year, the transformation of the 150-year-old derelict building was not only a matter of preservation but of local need.
“As building owners, environmental impact and social responsibility are key drivers for us,” says Paul Hicks, Investment Manager at Fabrix. “We are always looking for opportunities to reimagine overlooked and underused urban space. The result is a wonderfully light and uplifting space which encourages creativity and collaboration and embraces the unique heritage of the building’s history.”
In need of extensive refurbishment, the two-storey building was stripped back to expose the original architectural features, such as timber trap-door openings, brick walls and timber lintels. pH+ Architects reconfigured the tired, expansive warehouse to create a new layout with five distinctive – but flexible – areas to satisfy a variety of occupiers. Where possible, materials were retained or reused and the introduction of new materials or structural alterations – such as the formation of new internal openings and the creation of light wells – were minimal but essential to the remodelling of the space. Internally, white-painted walls and exposed timber flooring allude to the building’s age, respecting and showcasing its heritage. As such, the workspace feels fresh and modern but remains full of character with bespoke details that are unique to the building.
Fabrix describes one of the project’s key elements as “resolving the confused collection of spaces and improving accessibility and wayfinding throughout the building” and design decisions focused on improving the occupier experience of using the space: an extended high-street frontage has been added with a dedicated reception area; an internal courtyard brings light into the interior and provides access to fresh air and green space; and shared lounges bring the building’s users together to create a sense of community.
Photos | Timothy Soar