Creative Agency, Dalston N16, London

Our client, a creative agency working in advertising and fashion, acquired off-plan commercial premises in Dalston, N16, to house their expanding London office.

The site, a 230 m2 ground-floor unit with extensive street frontage, was handed over to the client as core and shell in 2018. The building works started in September 2018 and the client moved into the new premises in February 2019.

Our client occupied previously only office spaces and wanted the new space to reflect changes in the industry by including a gallery, an event space, and meeting and break-out areas. Working principally with freelance artists and creatives, they wanted to build a space that encouraged collaboration and creativity.

In our response to our client’s brief, we considered the requirements of the different spaces and how they would function together. The gallery, which displays artwork both to the interior and across the street frontage, can be used to host openings and events, but it is also more than a gallery; we gave it the moniker “creative meeting space”—a place where artistic collaborations can be nurtured. We designed the space to offer several flexible meeting areas, all of which can be used simultaneously, with suitable facilities for visitors. This enables the client to host freelancers, and even to rent out the space for external events without disrupting the day-to-day working of the office.

The unit is a ground-floor triangular space, with large shop windows to the south and west. The space is characterised by exposed concrete blockwork walls to the back and a number of concrete columns that support the residential building above. In order to give the interior a rational structure and to maximise light, we orientated the supporting facilities and walls towards the back, the offices to the front and the creative meeting space to the south-west entrance corner and the centre of the unit; all other spaces branch off it.

The creative meeting space consists of two areas; the waiting area opposite the entrance, with a set-back timber bench where visitors can wait to be received, and where meetings could also be held; and a second area, where a large, movable table can double as a communal lunch table or a workspace for staff away from their desks, for example to lay out portfolios.

In order to facilitate more private face-to-face meetings, as well as video conferences and screenings, we provided a small, acoustically sealed room off the creative meeting space. A booth set back from the main space provides a more intimate atmosphere, with soft furniture, acoustic walls and low lighting, for quiet reading, telephone calls, research or meetings. The white walls of the creative meeting space can be used to display art work, turning the space into a gallery. A track system has been installed in the ceiling, allowing the gallery to be extended to the shop windows. The client can hang artwork on both sides of the bespoke display boards, or position any other form of display at the windows.

Two separate office spaces have been created on either side of the unit: one for the agency (12 people), including a separate storage space; and a smaller office (4 people) that can be rented out. Both offices are accessible from the creative meeting space. The offices orientate along the windows to the façade. They have been designed as flexible spaces and can adapt to the changing needs of the agency as required. They are functional spaces, with standard desks, bespoke storage and bookshelves. To minimize noise, acoustic ceilings were installed, with the rafts matching the position of the desks below.

The kitchen/pantry is situated at the back of the creative meeting space, separated from it by a pre-cast concrete island unit and bar. The worktops are made of stainless steel, and all doors are made of oak-veneered plywood. Three separate bathrooms, including a shower room, are located at the back of this house area and can be accessed through one side of the kitchen.

Our client did not want a perfectly slick and polished showroom that makes a corporate statement. Rather, they felt that any statements should be about creativity and collaboration; and that the design of the architecture and furnishings should be there to facilitate and showcase the work being created and displayed. To support this approach, we decided to keep the space’s existing raw materials and only to clean the blockwork walls and concrete. A continuous polished concrete floor was installed throughout the entire unit. All new walls and partitions are in white plasterboard, supported in the creative meeting space with an additional plywood layer below for hanging artwork. To give the spaces some warmth, the built-in furniture, including the window casement frames, have been executed in thick oak-veneered plywood. The edges of the joinery are always visible, harmonising with the raw character of the spaces surrounding them.

PV panels have been installed on the roof of the building. The electricity generated is used primarily by the agency, with the excess exported to the utility grid. All MEP services, switch boards and supporting services have been placed in the ceilings and at the back of the house spaces. All services in the main areas are exposed and visible.


© VOSS Architects 2019

© Taran Wilkhu, Photographer

Pierre Mare Architects, Executive Arch.