With glazing on three sides, an empty ground floor site in Chelsea invited a graphically robust scheme that would be visually compelling on both sides of the glass. The brief was to establish a strong identity, bringing cohesion to a headquarters with a variety of uses, and creating a bold brand for a diverse business.
A central elliptical ‘chamber’, with walls formed by a cluster of twisted 1mm thick brass ribbons, is the focal point of the space. It cleaves an intimate inner space into the expansive glass box. The ribboned walls extend and glide across the ceiling, creating a permeable surface that folds sharply and lands at the base of the outermost glazing. The overhead brass strips also have a practical purpose, swelling and tapering to circulate air, disperse light and mask off the existing service heavy ceiling above. Connections in the ceiling surface follow a radial geometry, echoing the composition of the central core and creating a ripple effect from the ‘heart’ of the space.
The 332 bespoke made brass panels, cast dramatic shadows onto the polished floor, creating a rhythm of reflection, shadow and light, which is animated for visitors as they circulate through the space. The previously static character of this vacant space has been banished by the compelling views created.
Billy Mavropoulos, co-founder of Bureau de Change said: “With views into the space from three sides, the site presented an interesting challenge, requiring that its visual treatment would function effectively both internally and externally. The result is a scheme that brings privacy to staff and visitors, whilst presenting a bold identity and first impression from the exterior.”
The design divides the site into two distinct spaces: the sharp and reflective events space, and warm monochrome office space, workshop and meeting rooms. The threshold of the office is clearly defined by movement into a more modest materials palette. Utilitarian white tiling and grey felt wall paneling create a hushed atmosphere - quietly opposing the liveliness of the brass cavern.
Commenting on the design, co-founder Katerina Dionysopoulou added: “We distilled the scheme down to key materials in order to create contrasting atmospheres, each with their own kind of drama. The unexpected combination of materials and environments establishes a visual brand for the company housed here. This process of editing also allowed us to invest in the bespoke fabrication methods the project demanded.”
More than 500sqm of brass was used in the project’s construction, which was fabricated by Mike Smith Studio. The ribbons were folded, before being edged and pressed to retain the consistency and depth of the profile. The process was akin to pattern cutting, but eschews the need for ‘stitching’ by working to a 1mm tolerance. The structure is self-supporting, cantilevering from the ceiling and anchored to the floor using bespoke metal plates, cast into the concrete. 700 discreet fixings, suspending the twisted panels from the ceiling, and 600 bespoke made components, used to fasten their vertical and horizontal planes, ensure an absolute crispness of profile is retained. During the installation, a team of white gloved contractors handled the brass panels like precious artifacts, using 1:1 laser cut floor maps for precision placement of the structures.
For the main office space Bureau de Change were also asked to design a table for small, intimate meetings of up to five people. Constructed from 50mm thick walnut veneer and brass, the slab-like table top appears to rest on fine 3mm thick brass legs - as though it is has been placed like a jeweller sets a stone into a surround. The top itself comprises 20 individual segments, book matched and mirrored to create a radiating geometric pattern. Heavily inclined legs add to the structural illusion and provide room for people to sit in comfort.