Located in the Abbey Road Riverside Conservation Area of the Roding Valley in east London, the locally listed Granary building had been derelict and unoccupied for some considerable time and was in urgent need of comprehensive restoration to bring it back into use. In 2009 planning permission was granted for a scheme designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL) for a new Creative Industries Quarter centred on the former Granary and Malthouse buildings.
A Light Gentle Touch
Pollard Thomas Edwards architects (PTEa) was subsequently appointed to develop the SHL scheme - the essence being to optimise the use of the space, both in the new and old buildings, whilst at the same time preserving the original character and historical references. Although substantial work was needed to repair and restore the original fabric, as far as possible the ethos of the conversion was sensitive restoration - a light and gentle touch. The refurbished Granary, with its new bronze-clad extension will form the new headquarters base for the developer and contractor Rooff, as well as occupation by other creative and commercial users. Rooff have introduced sustainable construction methods, to deliver the highest quality working environment at a viable cost.
The plan form and shape of the new extension is respectful of the original building and takes its cue from its strong gabled form. The new materials, notably bronze panels, further complement the original. The entrance opens directly into a central vertical circulation hub between the two wings, which has been carefully inserted into the old building fabric - with modern materials, colour and lighting complementing the background historic fabric. This hub gives a new and dynamic heart to the building, fully accessible to the public who enter. The new accommodation is attached to the existing via the vertical circulation core and a high-level bridge link.
Catalyst for Regeneration
The completion of the Granary and the construction of the stunning new bronze clad extension form part of the first phase of the longer term regeneration objectives for the Roding riverside frontage and is very much seen as an important catalyst for further regeneration in the area. It is being held up as a beacon of good design and conservation practices, delivered in one project, and won the 'Commercial' sector of the 2011 World Architecture News Awards.
Chris Hodson discusses the design of the bronze cladding on this project with Andrew Stokes, project architect at Pollard Thomas Edwards architects.
CH: How did you develop the design of the prismatic extension?
AS: Initially, working with SHL, we used techniques such as solid and void relationship studies to explore form, fenestration and sun control.
CH: How did the selection of bronze cladding for the new extension come about?
AS: The initial SHL proposal used Corten steel but this was changed to copper due to client concerns over weathering and waterproofing details. We then reviewed copper, bronze and brass and various other metal cladding materials but in the end bronze was chosen. The design intention was for a modern aesthetic and detailing to the extension, to contrast dynamically with the historic context, whilst at the same time acknowledging this history by using a traditional building material like bronze or copper.
CH: Did you also consider material changes over time?
AS: The weathering characteristics were also key, as the roof – or inclined wall – is very visible and will weather differently to vertical surfaces. We were advised that in the short to medium term the bronze was likely to weather slightly more evenly.
CH: What about sustainability and environmental considerations – were they important?
AS: Yes, definitely. Like copper, bronze has sound and proven sustainable credentials in terms of its exceptional durability and lifespan, the fact that it is virtually maintenance free and that it can be completely recycled.
CH: How was successful detailed design of the facades achieved?
AS: We used envelope working models to explore different ways of expressing the metal cladding – for example, panel shape and size, and vertical, horizontal or inclined joints. The shape of the building called for a more 3 dimensional approach, as the roof is essentially an inclined wall, and these models allowed us to understand the interplay of key elements such as windows, rooflights and the main gutter with various metal panel configurations.
The models enabled us to explore solutions for maintaining the integrity of the prismoidal shape by creating a similar appearance on all faces of the building, not only in terms of the cladding, but in the form, shape and detailing of the windows and the roof-lighting which we felt should be expressed as 'windows in the roof' rather than traditional rooflights.
CH: How do you feel about the completed bronze cladding?
AS: We are very pleased with the final realisation. The bronze is weathering well, the edge, reveal and arris details are crisp and clean, and the horizontal format of the panels and staggered vertical joints integrate well with the random window location and sizing. The subtle undulations of the panels lighten and soften the 'newness' of the extension, which marries well with the patina of age we endeavoured to leave evident on the historic buildings. Careful consideration was given, in liaison with the cladding subcontractor, to all junctions of materials with the cladding and the detailing and setting-out of all joints, which has paid off in the final look of the building.