In 2013 Duggan Morris Architects were invited by Helical Bar PLC to provide a vision for the long-term refurbishment of a Grade II listed, former Victorian wool storage warehouse in Whitechapel, to deliver a workspace with extra cultural activities.
The scheme, known as The Loom, which was also worked on by contractors Paragon, provides over 100,000ft2 of workspace, reception, art space, café, cycle stores and showers, as well as the relocation of the main entrance and an exhibition for the Metropolitan University (CASS).
The building was converted unsympathetically into workspace in the 1980s before being acquired by Helical Bar in 2013. The renovation project has recently received recognition at the 2017 RIBA Awards and was awarded a RIBA London Award and a RIBA National Award.
The scheme now provides a range of much needed space for start-ups and new businesses, requiring a mix of different sized, flexible units. In addition, the project provides a breakout space for meetings and the opportunity for cross-pollination of companies in the building. Perhaps the most visible and interesting space to accommodate this is the café and bar intended for building users and the local community – enhancing the sense of place and destination.
The first phase of works and main intervention to the building was the relocation of the entrance from the east to the west elevation, repositioning the building to face the emerging developments of Goodman’s Fields. A new ‘walk’ was created through the centre of the plan, linking the cobbled streets of Gowers Walk to the quieter Back Church Lane. This required the formation of a 12m wide opening in the masonry façade, bearing on a deep steel lintel with support angles, woven brickwork lintel detail and hung woven metalwork screen. The design of the screens references the buildings history, whilst using laser cutting and precision welding techniques to create a component that will patina with time.
The full width opening reads as a clear intervention into the façade defining the new entrance. This created a number of structural challenges and careful consideration was required to ensure the deflection and movement of the new steel lintel did not affect the woven brickwork. The detail of the brickwork reflects the existing solider course above the Crittall windows whilst tracing the rhythm of the woven screen below.
Internally, a series of openings were formed in the ‘risk walls,’ 1m deep masonry walls originally designed to contain the spread of fire in the wool warehouse, to enlarge units and accommodate an ‘open plan’ layout. Openings were also formed at ground level to connect the café and entrance. The design of these openings echoes that of the new entrance, but are pared-back in detail with two simple circular columns and a raw steel soffit.
A generous reception space is created at the heart of the building, extending up through a 5-storey atrium, flooded with natural daylight from above. The quieter end of the street opens out to a new café/bar area and breakout space interspersed with art exhibitions.
Five carefully considered penetrations in the walls were also created – four of which enabled the consolidation of several spaces to create three large units to allow greater diversity of occupation. In tandem to these interventions, additional facilities of cycle stores, communal showers and welfare facilities were incorporated.
The brief required the building to remain in occupation throughout the course of the works. Careful consideration had to be given to the phasing strategy at an early stage so the building could continue to function. A traditional procurement route ensured greater control over the successful management of cost, quality and programme.
The works will continue over the next 5-10 years through a rolling programme of unit refurbishments in response to the evolving need for workspaces of the area.
Quarter Turn Services Ltd
Quarter Turn Services Ltd is a commercial flooring contractor specialising in the installation of healthy and sustainable floor finishes. The company has been in operation since June 2013, but is backed by a team of staff with more than 50 years’ experience in London’s commercial construction industry.
Clients for Quarter Turn Services Ltd include Balfour Beatty, B & M McHugh Ltd, Mitie Built Environment, City Sq, City Sq Solutions, Planet Partitions, Kaplan, Lockton Insurance and Paragon, amongst others. Past projects have included Gatwick Rail Station, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Sharp Bracknell, Aspen, Munich Re, Dragon Court, Citibank/Pentagon House, 85 The Strand, St Dominic’s Sixth Form College, Herne Hill School, Queen’s College Preparatory School and Selhurst Train Depot.
Most recently, Quarter Turn Services Ltd has been involved in the New Loom House project. Working on this scheme, Quarter Turn Services Ltd installed Forbo Marmoleum, Nora rubber, Altro safety vinyl and Domus ceramic tiling, throughout all eight floors of New Loom House.
Farhad Bharucha, Quarter Turn Services Ltd, said:
“This project gave us the opportunity to work on a great building, in a great location, and with a great team. We installed sustainable floor finishes that create healthy indoor environments, and we joined in the story of London’s timeless regeneration and renewal.”
“At Quarter Turn Services Ltd, integrity is our core value. We install environmentally and socially responsible products, we value our team and clients, and we push ourselves to deliver excellence. When something goes wrong, as is inevitable in this industry, we’ll take the extra steps to make it right.”