Architectural practice Architecture 00 have designed C1, three storeys of studio space based on an open and welcoming design concept, intent on fostering community, which also offers accessible communal spaces via open-air staircases. A rooftop basketball court crowns the building and it is one of the first to be completed at the Design District, a new London home for creative industries.
Design District is a collection of 16 buildings designed by eight architects, set in the heart of Greenwich Peninsula. It offers a permanent and purpose-designed workspace – a new home for London’s creative industries. The masterplan created close proximities and courtyards with Architecture 00 contributing two buildings, C1 and D1 to the district.
The client for C1 wanted the building to be low cost, affordable and allow for a diverse mix of use. Architecture 00’s aims were to create an enabling infrastructure for various potential future activities and to increase the interaction and engagement between tenants and the public. The building also needed to be:
- Low cost with good intenal to external space ratio to ensure low rents
- Robust with minimal finishes to reduce lifetime maintenance costs
- Ensure each design decision / material performs several functions
- Design a building that creates a sense of ownership by the users
- Bright, neutral workspaces that allow tenants to inhabit them
- Create an explorable, civic building that showcases the users’ activities.
Both of Architecture 00’s buildings at the Design District invite tenants to get creative with the use of their internal and external spaces. The roof is a multi-sport court but could be transformed into a pop-up bar and event space. The terraces can be places for relaxation or become outdoor work areas. A robust structure means that the internal layouts can be flexible, encouraging adaptations to suit tenants’ changing needs. Sociable spaces run throughout the two buildings.
The internal design for C1, consists of a series of robust concrete slabs, with a ribbon of glazing creating the internal areas. The exposed concrete slabs provide a huge amount of thermal mass and solar shading, reducing thermal peaks and troughs (reducing energy loads). They also act as the covered external decks providing a ‘street frontage’ to all units initiated by large welcoming galvanized staircases that run down the buildings elevations. The semi external nature allows opportunities for people to go directly outside from their units for fresh air.
A semi permeable stainless steel mesh cloak wraps the building providing both weather protection and a safety barrier for residents. This allows tenants to fully and securely open the huge sliding windows to each space. By only thermally enclosing the tenant areas this helps the Net Internal Area v Gross Internal Area ratio to be incredibly good.
The basketball court on the rooftop was designed to engage the public and tenants. It was designed as a tool to provide a permissive environment and encourage the users to take ownership of the building. It has been designed to provide a variety of sport and wellbeing activities.
Architect, James Brady says:
“The steel frame around the basketball court is hot dip galvanized – as the final finish. As are all the external balustrades, the external steel stair from Level 02 to 03, framing and gates within the mesh – at various levels, and the exposed steel truss supporting the cantilever deck on Level 01. As well as exposed services internally.”
Architecture 00 wanted to create a building that acted as a framework for future adaptation – to create a deliberate sense of it being naked and unfinished. Their belief is that buildings are often the most exciting when there is just an exposed structure as it has a sense of potential. These then get clad and ossify, often hiding their contents and activities within. “Our façades predominantly consist of full height glazing – directly presenting the tenant activities as the façade rather than us dictating one. Where we require opaque materials to hide private functions, we’ve kept to a simple palette of industrial materials such as metal doors and polycarbonate. The use of structure as the finish provides a robust low maintenance building. Self-finish also negates monetary and carbon cost of finishes and maintenance.”
The building is BREEAM Excellent, has a mechanically ventilated heat recovery system and is connected to local district heating. The small thermal envelope (only insulating tenant areas) alongside the mesh provides solar shading and the ability for secure night-time cooling. Efforts were also made to make material use as efficient as possible, with the use of concrete mix using high level of waste in the cement.
The public can book the basketball court on top of C1 in order to encourage good communications with local residents. In the hope of relieving pressure on the sector and kick-starting the capital’s creative recovery, Design District currently has a 12-month across-the-board rent reduction to just £5 per square foot for the first year of every creative business taking up tenancy in any space across its 16 buildings, which total 150,000 sqft.
By allowing creative businesses to focus their resources on restoration and growth rather than worrying about rent, Design District hopes its own incentive will play a role in getting London’s economy back on track.
2 | The simple palette of materials used for C1 creates a blank canvas for creative tenants to make their mark.
3 + 4 | Galvanized steel is used extensively throughout the project including the steel frame around the basketball court, external stairs and balustrades, and the exposed steel truss.
Photos © Taran Wilkhu