Architect In Charge: dMFK Architects & Bureau de Change Architects
Client: ISA Holdings
Mechanical & Electrical: WB Sheils
Structural Engineer: Micheal Hadi Associates
Main Contractor: Faithdean
Text description provided by the architects. On behalf of I.S.A. (Holdings), dMFK architects and Bureau De Change architects have completed the transformation of an Art Deco building on Rathbone Street, creating a contemporary and flexible workspace in this vibrant corner of Fitzrovia. The Gaslight embraces innovative modern design, whilst celebrating the distinct design heritage of the building and paying homage to the area, famed for its history of artisanal workshops and craftsmanship.
The Gaslight, 29-35 Rathbone Street, was originally the Gas Light and Coke Company, a robust, utilitarian facility, with a wide, defining frontage onto Rathbone Street. Its current owners, I.S.A. (Holdings) have set out to reinvent this industrial building, amplify its volumes to create a dynamic new workspace that responds to its unique character. In response to this brief, dMFK architects have refurbished, reconfigured and extended the original building with an innovative extension, new core and roofline. Working in these new volumes, Bureau de Change has created the distinctive interiors; their bespoke materials, patterns, and geometries add an artisanal character into the fabric of the building, which is quite unexpected in commercial development.
dMFK’s elegant rear extension arches back towards the upper roof, inspired by the inclined glazed roofs found in artists’ studios and ateliers. Its faceted, pre-patinated zinc roof floods the new spaces with light and creates a series of distinctive internal volumes that unite the robust utilitarian aesthetic of the original building with the dynamic architectural intervention. The extension, which doubles the depth of the building, is stepped back along the width of the building, providing each floor with its own ample terrace, each overlooking a terrazzo lined planted garden at ground floor level.
At the top of the building, dMFK has added two new pavilions to bookend the main façade. The studio spaces combine high-domed ceilings and large atelier style windows, to offer expansive views across the rooftops of Fitzrovia. A dormer window inserted into the volume of the new roof allows for the insertion of a new mezzanine floor, which is flooded with natural light.
dMFK has fundamentally rearranged the building for multiple uses, reflected in three new entrances: a dramaticcourtyard entrance into a restaurant unit on the ground floor; a refurbished entrance in the original core for a lower ground floor gym, and a new entrance, in a new core, for the workspaces, designed to accommodate flexible working for multiple tenants. Throughout the main building windows have been enlarged and replaced to rebalance the façade; brickwork has been restored and the original decorative metalwork reinstated.
‘‘We've had the rare chance to work with the family who've owned this unique building for decades, who were attuned to its art deco history, but also not afraid of change. This attitude has given us the freedom to radically alter the building to meet the needs of the market, whilst restoring and reinventing it’ says Julian de Metz, founder of dMFK.
Drawing on the building’s art deco character and the area’s rich heritage of craftsmanship Bureau de Change architects have created a cohesive visual narrative that runs throughout the building. At the centre of their scheme is an innovative sculptural intervention in the new circulation core, that connects the four floors of offices. The two layers of bespoke, bronze-colored filigree mesh generate a moiré effect that obscures the building’s concrete core. Underneath the suspended stairs that wrap around the core at the ground floor, the top layer of pleated mesh peels away to reveal the intricate pattern beneath. This intervention conveys a sense of hand craftsmanship, whilst using industrial materials and fabrication. The cladding’s distinct character continues into the lift interiors, with details etched on the mirror and a bespoke pentagonal blue leather handrail.
‘We wanted to test the idea of using typically industrial materials and fabrication techniques in a way that is more craftsmen-like. The lift core and stairwell use 85 burnished bronze panels each laser cut and folded to create an intricate framework. We worked with 1:1 mock ups - testing every corner detail to ensure the filigree pattern is consistent throughout the buildings’ says Bureau de Change architects.
This attention to detail continues throughout the interiors. In the bathrooms, Bureau de Change uses a bespoke terrazzo paneling - a contemporary reimagining of the original interior’s traditional timber paneling. Wayfinding in the building uses extruded bronze signs in a distinctive ribbon font, whilst the numbers for the building’s main entrance are shaped into the metal railings on the restored wooden gates. The hand-turned timber handles on the external entrance doors have a tactile quality that imbues a sense of craftsmanship in the visitor’s experience. In the workspaces, Bureau de Change has organised the exposed services to complement the ceilings’ existing structural grid; bespoke joinery and discreet linear lighting accentuate these open and airy offices. The offices leading up to a new mezzanine floor, which they have inserted into the volume of the new roof. On one side the access to the floor is masked by a dark grey volume, whilst the contours of its other profile are encapsulated in a bronze ribbon, echoed in a subtly fanned bronze balustrade.