From the start we wanted to keep the original building, rather than demolish it...We wanted to transform the building into a new commercial hub that was connected to and reflected the rich cultural heritage of Fitzrovia. Coming from a background in public art we recognised how important the sculptural elements are for defining key spaces and providing the building with a distinct identity.
Blending heritage and innovation
The Gaslight Building in London’s Fitzrovia district was originally the Gas, Light and Coke company, a robust utilitarian facility built in 1929 with a wide, defining frontage taking up the space of five Georgian terraced houses.
The building occupied only half the footprint of the land, with a single storey glazed canopy at the rear which once housed an industrial yard but in recent years was used as a carpark. It is a wide, shallow building, with an imposing presence on the street but little connection to its surroundings.
From the outset we wanted to keep the original building rather than demolish it and transform it into a commercial hub connected to and reflective of Fitzrovia’s rich cultural heritage. With our background in public art, we recognised the importance of the sculptural elements for defining spaces and providing a distinct identity.
Transform, refurbish, renew
We set out to achieve three main goals:
- Transform The Gaslight Building into a flexible, commercial hub, adaptive to mixed use occupants
- Refurbish, reconfigure and extend the existing building, creating well-crafted new spaces responsive to the building’s original Art Deco character whilst adapting to the demands of twenty-first century life
- Create a building of architectural merit while enhancing its social and commercial context.
The approach to the building’s redevelopment was built on 4 key principles:
We set out to amplify the volumes of the existing building with an architectural intervention that could respond to and enhance the building’s original character. The aim was to create a development that stands out not for its ‘show stopping’ architecture, but for a distinctive, timeless character and clarity of purpose.
The building boasted a material integrity that we wanted to reflect in the new development by using quality materials and finishes to communicate craftsmanship. In addition, we wanted to establish a lasting legacy beyond the trends that are commonplace within commercial property.
The transformed building is designed to encourage community engagement and foster a spirit of cooperation through its multiple uses. We were interested in exploring the area’s heritage. Fitzrovia which was once alive with workshops and ateliers, and we were keen to capture that spirit in the new building. We wanted to weave true craftsmanship and mastery of materials into the fabric of the building, using contemporary design and techniques.
The building had to adapt to a variety of different styles of commercial activity, from bustling gyms to quiet meeting spaces. And it had to be a nimble structure, capable of responding to the ever-shifting demands of twenty-first century work.
Light, space, history
In response to our brief, dMFK architects refurbished, reorganised and extended the original building with an elegant extension, new core and roof line. Inspired by artists’ studios, they created a series of light-filled spaces that increase the lettable volume of the building by over 75%.
Within these volumes, Bureau de Change embedded a timeless aesthetic by responding to the building’s heritage with bespoke materials, patterns and geometries. The result is an innovative, crafted character unexpected in modern commercial developments.
dMFK’s elegant rear extension arches back toward the upper roof. Its faceted, pre-patinated zinc roof floods the new spaces with light and creates a series of distinctive internal volumes that unite the building’s original utilitarian aesthetic with a dynamic contemporary intervention. The extension doubles the depth of the building and steps back along its width to provide each floor with its own ample terrace, overlooking a terrazzo-lined planted garden at ground level.
We’ve had the rare chance to work with the owners of this unique building, who were attuned to it’s 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.
Layers of meaning
The centrepiece of the scheme is an innovative sculptural intervention in the new circulation core that connects the four floors of offices. Bureau de Change created two layers of bespoke bronze-coloured mesh which sit in front of each other, generating a moiré effect that obscures the concrete core. Their intricate pattern reflects the stylistic history of the building using contemporary fabrication techniques.
Underneath the suspended stairs, which wrap around the core at ground floor, the top layer of pleated mesh peels away from the layer behind which continues to run through the building. This interplay between layers creates an illusion that the steps are formed from the intricate filigree metal and enhances the sculptural quality of the work.
We enjoy working with existing buildings, transforming them for a new purpose but doing it with a kind of nostalgia at the heart of the designs. It was a pleasure to explore these ideas for The Gaslight and ultimately enrich a building so that it can take on a new meaning.
The Gaslight Building was completed in late 2019. It now offers three different classes of use: A1 restaurant, D2 gymnasium and three floors of B1 CAT A offices. The new lettable area is 2,000sqm/circa 18,500sqft, an uplift of over 75% on the original building.
The development is fully let, with long leases at a yield of circa 4.5%. The design for the bespoke lift core featured in the 2018 Royal Academy Summer Show and the building has been nominated for a New London Award.
A winning team
We were able to assemble a stellar group of partners for the project:
Interior Architects: Bureau de Change
Structural engineer: MHA Structural Design
M&E engineers: WB Shiels
Project Manager: Alford Porter
Quantity Surveyor: Alford Porter
Contractor: Faithdean Plc
Metal Fabricator: John Desmond
Asset Manager: Metrus
Letting Agent: Metrus