The Whitechapel Idea Store is the second of seven buildings commissioned by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in a bid to create a more accessible and popular alternative to the traditional library. Whitechapel builds on the architectural language of the first project in Bow, also by Adjaye/Associates.
Very much a community building, it houses a nursery school, dance studio, seminar spaces, internet facilities and physiotherapy training classrooms as well as more conventional library facilities.
The generous café, located on the top floor in order to draw people up through the building, offers stunning views of the City.
In keeping with its social remit, it is a highly permeable building; its two ground-floor entrances are supplemented by an escalator which sweeps visitors directly up from the pavement to the first and second floors. The facade, which, on the main Whitechapel Road elevation, literally hangs over the pavement below, is composed of overlapping layers of green, blue and translucent glass. Although the composition appears to be random, there is a clear reference to the colours and the freneticism of the striped awnings of the market stalls which stand in front of the building along Whitechapel Road.
The facade is supported by deep timber mullions which incorporate shelving, seating and desk space. Free-standing shelving, which is in a zig-zag arrangement, was also designed by the architect, and is mirrored by the layout of the fragmented bespoke strip lighting above. The ceiling's exposed structural concrete fins contrast with the red rubber floor.
Martha Schwartz The building is either too eclectic or not eclectic enough. You have to decide if you're going to have a minimal building, a funky minimal building, or if you're going to be very expressive and have lots of stuff going on. The colours are difficult for me. I don't understand the idea or impulse behind their use.
Mariella Frostrup I just feel there is too much stuff going on. A cacophony. The green glass, the red oor, the angled light fittings. . . I find it all rather exhausting. But I like the escalator at the front, and the way the facade of the building splits to accommodate it.
Isabel Allen The facade is clever in that it makes a view where there is no view. If you look at the view of the Sainsbury's car park, it would be totally anonymous without the coloured glass. But the facade frames it and divides it and imposes order on it.
Ian Ritchie The view down Whitechapel Road doesn't gain anything from being seen through coloured glass. Perhaps a more mature architect would have celebrated the view by framing that portion and leaving the glass clear.
Stefan Behnisch The escalator from the street is good, but then it is not a good entrance.
It dumps you in the corner of the building.
Ian Ritchie The plan concept is simple - a core and space around it - an office typology that, even with its coloured facade, never succeeds in escaping its straightjacket. It's wonderful if you're walking down Whitechapel Road - it pulls you in. As long as you're walking in the right direction.
Subcontractors and suppliers Facade Konhäusner Project Management International; services ECG Group; structural steelwork Gorge Fabrications; metalwork Structural Stairways; furniture Valley Joinery; ironmongery Ize; roofing Sarna- l Architect Adjaye/Associates Client London Borough of Tower Hamlets Engineer Arup Graphic designer Mode Quantity surveyor Miller Mitchell Burley Lane Main contractor William Verry Contract value: £12 million Date of completion: September 2005 Gross internal area: 3,440m