53 Great Suffolk Street, London, United Kingdom

Thursday 3 May 2018
Credit: Jim Stephenson

Architects: Hawkins\Brown

Hawkins\Brown complete 53 Great Suffolk Street

Hawkins\Brown has completed the 40,000 sq ft refurbishment and extension of a Victorian warehouse on behalf of Morgan Capital Partners

Hawkins\Brown has completed the refurbishment and extension of a 1890s Victorian warehouse in Southwark, London, incorporating a new build extension that reinterprets the language of the existing building in a bold, contemporary way to deliver 40,000 sq ft of office space.

Seth Rutt, Partner at Hawkins\Brown, said: “Our approach to retain as much of the existing structure as possible stemmed from both a design and an environmental impact perspective. The subsequent challenge was to create a new building, which finds the right balance between complementing the existing structure and creating a strong, contemporary and contextual extension. The resulting building offers generous, adaptable spaces that have been completed by Architecture00 + Studio Weave´s fit-out, providing a versatile and future-proof place that inspires creativity and is enjoyable to be in.”

The project sits among a streetscape of industrial and cultural buildings in a creative neighbourhood that is home to Southwark institutions like the Union Theatre and Great Suffolk Street Warehouse. Through retaining the warehouse and creating a complementary extension, the historical street character was respected, while supporting wider enhancements led by Southwark Council to revitalize the surrounding area.

The exterior of the new extension showcases traditional manufacturing techniques, which were employed to produce durable hand-blended clinker bricks. These distinctive bricks have a natural variety in colour that gives the façade an understated liveliness. Hawkins\Brown underwent a lengthy selection process for the new external bricks to ensure they reflect not just the context of the building but encompass the broader design approach.

Hawkins\Brown’s decision to add an additional floor across the site results in the existing floor area more than doubling in size without appearing to increase the massing, an illusion created by the introduction of dormers at roof level. A cantilevered solution ensures very little of the additional weight is put on the original warehouse, instead directing it onto the new building’s foundations. The large apertures of the existing building are incorporated in the extension, allowing a high level of natural light to fill the space.

Energy efficiency was improved through the introduction of high performance glazing and a new highly insulated roof, resulting in a BREEAM Excellent accreditation.

A guiding principle of Hawkins\Brown’s interiors strategy was to avoid the use of painted plasterboard and instead allow materials and structures to be showcased separately and honestly. Exposed services are featured throughout the hybrid steel and concrete structure, referencing the raw nature of the former warehouse. A cantilevered raw steel staircase with brass fittings sits within a glazed enclosure, acting as a focal point for the office spaces on all levels.

Architecture00 + Studio Weave took on Hawkins\Brown’s approach when conducting the fit-out for GPJ, using a palette of high quality, crafted materials, such as timber and oak joinery, to give a nod to the organisation’s heritage of making.

GPJ’s former headquarters in Kingston upon Thames served as a homely sanctuary that celebrated the company’s design and maker heritage. The new headquarters combine this essence with an adaptive design that allows GPJ to reinvent the space continuously according to their needs, allowing the agency to focus on creativity, collaboration and community.

Ryan McLoughlin, Architect at Architecture 00, said: “In designing a new home for GPJ, the challenge of the brief was to accommodate this creative, people-centred organisation in an efficient and natural manner, whilst using their work environment to communicate who they are and what they do. As such, we have tried to create a workspace that does not constrain employees within a singular corporate style, but one that reflects the individuality, diversity and dynamism within the agency. We see the design as an invitation to all at GPJ to adopt, add to, and ultimately express themselves within.”

GPJ’s showmanship is woven into the fabric of the building. A reception space holds a flexible radial structure to host activities and cutting-edge digital and physical displays in the organisation. This showpiece ‘Roundhouse’ can be used to transform the space, depending on capacity requirements, and references the company’s heritage in creating innovative automotive launches.

Interaction and the free flow of ideas is supported throughout the interior design strategy. A multi-functional modular lab space with glass walls is used for building and testing new technologies, allowing passers-by to gain an insight into GPJ’s cutting edge work. Staff are further encouraged to use the open roof terrace and The Orangery, the social heart of the building, to relax, socialise and learn in an informal context.

Great Suffolk Street has been shortlisted for a RIBA London award 2018.

Nick Myall

News editor