Matthew Lloyd Architects’ Shoreditch warehouse refurbishment for the Prince’s Foundation reveals the art of the ordinary and declares the school’s agenda with its striking ventilation cowls
The Prince’s Foundation is not a school of architecture. It has grown into a broader organisation with diverse activities including the Urban Villages Forum, the Phoenix Trust, the Regeneration through Heritage Advisory and Facilitating Group, and a studio/workshop teaching facility all collected together. The studio/workshop embraces activities ranging from community-focused non-vocational art and building studies, through environmental impact analysis, to doctoral and MPhil research into the history, theories and practice of Islamic architecture.
The foundation is now based in a converted warehouse in Shoreditch, east London, and has utilitarianism on its agenda under the care and direction of David Lunts. Having masterminded the regeneration and redevelopment of the notorious Manchester Hulme Estate, and moved through the Urban Villages Forum to advise on Richard Rogers’ Urban Task Force, Lunts is determined to bring all of the activities together by a process of integrated and holistic thinking as part of a three- to four- year positioning exercise. It will, according to Lunts, ‘make a fundamental contribution to an ongoing debate on the quality of the built environment’.
The building itself is an example of the foundation’s objectives, its support of environmental quality, good architecture and urban regeneration.
It is not the sort of architecture that uses the anatomy of an old building to pretend a fake history, nor does it display the rhetorical trickery that is so often the habit of interior designers. The quality of Matthew Lloyd Architects’ refurbishment is in a skillful interaction between what the original building wants to be - what Louis Khan would describe as its ‘existence will’ - and its modest, functional, transformation. The alteration shows an economy of means when transforming the general, and a subtlety when crafting the particular.
On the outside the building is touched only lightly, to preserve the character, texture and historical grain of Charlotte Street. You could walk straight past the entrance except for a single, unmarked and undecorated translucent light box.
This is typical of the ability of Matthew Lloyd, the principal of Matthew Lloyd Architects, to establish architectural presence through absence and the reject ion of dev ice.
The light box marks the foundation’s shop window, the principal face of the building which gives way to the reception and ground-floor gallery behind. It raises expectations that are rewarded by the view of a tall, muscular door opening onto a ramped brick path, so elegant in its ordinariness that you immediately trust the building.
In plan the ramp separates two banks of servant spaces with a cluster of ancillary accommodation nesting against a ventilation duct and vertical access assembly. In between the servant spaces there are open served spaces. And that is it. There are no circumstantial distortions, eventful exceptions, unnecessary complexities or irony, either in the way the plan is arranged. This simplicity provides the complex programme of foundation events and activities with a loose-fit, long-life container - rather than strangling it with the hyperbole of heroic architecture.
In section, the staircase has been used as an organising void for the building. Lloyd has combined the basement workshops - complete with an appropriately exposed ceilingscape of ducts and services - with a gallery and cafe on the ground floor and above a stack of decks (studio, library and administration). On the top floor, the lecture room and drawing studio sit below a pair of funnels that poke their noses above the rooftops of Shoreditch, dancing slowly in the wind. They mark the school out, demonstrating its support for passive ventilation and environmental sustainability.
In form and in function, the ventilation cowls mark a new and developing sociological agenda intrinsic to many of the Prince’s activities. An example of this is the foundation’s contribution to the New Deal Trust in delivering projects concerned with inner city and social infrastructure regeneration.
Like the plan and section, the ventilation system is simple. For cooling, large and well-crafted sliding doors are opened across the face of the ventilation duct so the warm air is displaced by cooler air entering through open windows. If the warm air needs to be retained, the doors are left shut.
Whenever possible, but particularly adjacent to the gallery on the ground floor, the ventilation apparatus is carefully framed, as if to make a picture of the ordinary. The new staircase has been dropped into its well with a robust authority and exquisite detailing - masterly for what has been left out.
The handrail is very complex in section. Moreover, it has been twisted so that the highest part of the rail meets the hand first, so disguising the complexity, while rewarding the user with a profile that fits the hand almost perfectly.
The rail loops generously around the main vertical supporting post carrying the hand and eye up or down with a lightness that matches the American ash from which it has been neatly crafted. The treads are loadbearing and strong with a nosing that extends beyond the mild steel string but not so far as to cause any uncertainty in the natural hierarchy of supporting elements. On details Lloyd has an instinct for taking the pen away from the paper at exactly the point where nothing needs to be added or subtracted.
At half landings, glass screens allow for views across a narrow void to each of two levels and from each level the stair acts as a visual continuum. Its cantilevers floating in space declare the building’s Modernism. They operate through a five-storey void as a foil to both the northern boundary wall, in fairface brick, and to the top-floor canopy.
Traces of the earlier roof remain on the canopy, the original paintwork was stripped but stains of the old building struggle on - a reminder of its age and experience and an architectural genuflection towards it.
At other intermediate landings, the view back from the served space to the staircase is carefully considered, using a similar system of orthogonal framing to that which appears occasionally elsewhere in the building. Students, staff and foundation team members use the staircase as a social arena and in preference to the lift.
The lift could have been improved by a closer reference to its industrial forefathers or by being expressed in the contemporary language which makes the staircase so successful.
The lecture room and painting studio at the top of the building are arranged side by side and separated by a huge acoustic sliding folding door which occupies the valley between two trussed roof assemblies - exposed in an attempt to establish an attic environment by showing the structural and constructional authenticity of the building. But the drawing studio is so generous that the romantic intimacy intrinsic in concentrated observation and drawing could be lost.
Moving even higher, there is an opportunity to get very close to the funnels. Space has been made for roof-mounted plant by cutting back two of the hips into gables. The operation allows for a new vertical window to drop high-level north light into the drawing studio while providing easy access for plant maintenance. The view offers a reassurance that the aesthetics are derived from an encounter with the ordinary. The rotating cowls deliberately eschew a technologically advanced aluminium monocoque construction. Instead they can be observed as abstract elements of kinetic agricultural equipment.
In contrast to the northern staircase, the untouched southern staircase is enclosed and blind to spaces it serves, except at ground level where Lloyd has added a gallery wall to address a new staircase which leads back down to the basement workshops, print rooms, dark rooms and WCs. Here, more than anywhere else, it is clear that the school is the servant of the workshop. The layout demonstrates that design for purpose, in the tradition of Johannes Itten’s Bauhaus foundation course, is a principal objective of the foundation year that culminates with the build project.
In fact, the well-appointed workshops and the reappearance of dedicated drawing studios sit well with Walter Gropius’ 1919 Bauhaus manifesto which, among other things, proclaimed: ‘The ultimate aim of any creative activity is building …
Architects, sculptors, painters, we must all become craftsmen again … No essential difference exists between the artist and the craftsman, the artist is a craftsman of heightened awareness … but the basis of craftsmanship is indispensable to all artists. It is the prime source of all creative work.’
The Prince’s Foundation is a newly established charity with time to construct what will become a complex relationship between educational, vocational, community and operational activities. But the building itself has an almost tangible atmosphere of competence that will serve its function well.
The transformation by Matthew Lloyd Architects remains as a model for the elegant reconciliation of the old and the modern and a seminal demonstration of how architectural excellence can be achieved through a sophisticated exploitation of absence and ordinariness.
The structural works for the refurbishment were centred around: construction of a loadbearing masonry liftshaft; formation of voids in the floorplates to accommodate service cores and freestanding feature staircase with cantilever landings; removal of the front section of the ground floor and replacement with a concrete ramp from pavement to ground floor level; and structural repairs to the rear masonry wall which was showing signs of historic long-term movement, away from the party walls.
The new steel staircase is the main circulation route between floors and, as such, its visual appearance is just as important as its purpose.
Stair flights are formed from parallel flange channels acting as stringers and supporting timber treads and metal balustrading. The flights span from steel beams at each floorplate up to a half landing and then cantilever out into the stair void beyond the supporting CHS stanchion. Due to site restrictions the stair was divided into sections which could be moved more easily around site and then hoisted into position. Half landings were welded to the short lengths of circular hollow section and then the stair flights were bolted on. The next half landing section was fixed using an internal sleeve detail between the CHS stanchions.
Costs based on final account
FOUNDATIONS/SLABS £28.97/m2 Excavation, reinforced concrete bed, damp proof membrane and insulation. Lift pit and foundations to stair and ramp
FRAME £21.02/m2 Alterations and steel frames for new lift and stair shafts
UPPER FLOORS £27.32/m2 Trimming timber floors for service void penetrations, infilling openings and floor strengthening. Disabled access ramp
ROOF £51.17/m2 Renewal of slate roof on existing boarding. Alterations to form asphalt flat roof construction at either end of pitched roof. Two ventilation cowls
ROOFLIGHTS £22.39/m2 New rooflights in pitched roof. Renewal of patentglazed roof at rear of ground floor
STAIRCASES £36.42/m2 New steel staircase from basement to fourth floor with ash treads and handrails. Two stairs from basement to ground floor
EXTERNAL WALLS £75.87/m2 Cleandown, repair and repointing of existing brickwork. Repair to existing stone sills and copings. Removal of existing windows. New glazed steel shopfront including entrance doors
WINDOWS £37.76/m2 Timber sash windows to front elevation and steel windows to rear elevation
EXTERNAL DOORS £0.91/m2 Removal of existing external doors (new doors included under ‘external walls’ )
INTERNAL WALLS AND PARTITIONS £40.21/m2 Blockwork and metal stud partitions, laminate duct panelling, sliding/ folding screen to fourth floor
INTERNAL DOORS £80.05/m2 American ash doors and frames, clear seal and ironmongery
INTERNAL FINISHESWALL FINISHES £27.76/m2 Existing brickwork sandblasted, blockwork walls plastered, basement rendered to waterproof, ceramic wall tiling in WCs, painted skirtings
FLOOR FINISHES £59.81/m2 Existing timber floors re-laid, partial replacement with reclaimed boards, sanded and clear-sealed, insulation, acoustic wallboard. Brick finish to ramp. Ceramic tiling to WCs
CEILING FINISHES £15.35/m2 Plasterboard suspended ceilings to WCs and showers. Plasterboard to underside of timber floors
FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS
FURNITURE £8.90/m2 Ground floor reception desk, tea points on upper floors, shelves, worktops and cupboards in basement workshops (loose furniture supplied by client)
SANITARY APPLIANCES £7.73/m2 Sanitaryware to WCs, showers and basement workshops
SERVICES EQUIPMENT £32.30/m2 Extract fans , air handling units, gas-fired boilers, storage tanks, electrical switchboards and distribution boards
DISPOSAL INSTALLATIONS £4.59/m2 Soil, waste and vent installation
WATER INSTALLATIONS £53.08/m2 Mains water, drinking water, down service and domestic hot water installations
SPACE HEATING/AIR TREATMENT £93.89/m2 Low-temperature hot water and radiator installation, basement plant room and workshop ventilation, kitchen and WC extract
ELECTRICAL SERVICES £161.45/m2 Sub mains distribution and small power, lighting installation including track and fittings
LIFT AND CONVEYOR INSTALLATIONS £22.21/m2 New 12-person passenger lift from basement to fourth floors. Overhaul and refurbishment of existing two-stop goods lifts
PROTECTIVE INSTALLATIONS £29.81/m2 Fire alarm and security installations
BUILDERS’ WORK IN CONNECTION £15.50/m2 Reinforced concrete machine bores, holes/openings through blockwork walls and plasterboard-faced stud partitions
PRELIMINARIES AND INSURANCES
PRELIMINARIES, OVERHEADS AND PROFIT £116.00/m2
Cost per m2Per cent(£) of total
SUBSTRUCTURE 28.97 2.71
Frame 21.02 1.96
Upper floors 27.32 2.55
Roof 51.17 4.78
Rooflights 22.39 2.09
Staircases 36.42 3.40
External walls 75.87 7.09
Windows 37.76 3.53
External doors 0.91 0.08
Internal walls and partitions 40.21 3.76
Internal doors 80.05 7.48
Group element total 393.12 36.72
Wall finishes 27.76 2.59
Floor finishes 59.81 5.59
Ceiling finishes 15.35 1.43
Group element total 102.92 9.61
FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS 8.90 0.83
Sanitary appliances 7.73 0.72
Services equipment 32.30 3.02
Disposal installations 4.59 0.43
Water installations 53.08 4.96
Space heating and air treatment 93.89 8.77
Electrical services 161.45 15.08
Lift and conveyor installations 22.21 2.08
Protective installations 29.81 2.78
Builders’ work in connection 15.50 1.45
Group element total 420.56 39.29
PRELIMINARIES 116.00 10.84
TOTAL 1070.47 100.00
Costs provided by Jeremy Webb, Gardiner & Theobald
TENDER DATE 27 November 1998
START ON SITE DATE 4 January 1999
CONTRACT DURATION 36 weeks
GROSS EXTERNAL FLOOR AREA 2242m2
FORM OF CONTRACT AND/OR PROCUREMENT JCT 1980 Private with Quantities Single Stage Selective Tendering
TOTAL COST £2,400,000
CLIENT The Prince’s Foundation
ARCHITECT Matthew Lloyd Architects: Matthew Lloyd, Helen Little, Pat Woodward, Esther Waterfield, Michael Howe
QUANTITY SURVEYOR Gardiner & Theobald
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Price & Myers
SERVICES ENGINEER Fulcrum Consulting
MAIN CONTRACTOR Ballast Wiltshire
SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS mechanical and electrical Mitie; metal windows and screens Metal Casements; main scaffold and temporary roof TK Scaffold; grit blasting and brick cleaning Maxblast; patent glazing and roof lights Twide Paragon; passenger lift Kone Lifts; steelworks and stair AK Goymer; damp proof course, waterproof render and dry rot Harrison; temporary electrical Multitech; slating and leadworks John Totman; timber floors preparation Victorian Works; carpentry Harry K&H; brickwork Frank Staddon; painting Vic Britton; goods lift Supreme Lifts; dry lining KF Harris; asphalting Knight Asphalt; lightning protection Thor Lightning; roof cowls West Engineering; laying floors Beamfast ; fire proof painting WRR UK; folding doors Becker; rainwater stacks Roweaver; pavement lights Luxcrete; stone repairs Ken Negus; resin floor Hardwick; shop front Hill of Shoeburyness; tilingImage Tiling; site security Saxon Security; special door closer Woodwood (Door Controls); glazing Rankin Glass; cleaning rails Power Access Systems; sanding and sealing floors Mel Flooring; blinds Solar Blinds; access and security systems Allgood Security; polishing doors/frames JS Polishing; drylining works Modern Construction (UK); ash reception desk/stair/treads/doors/ panelling Pemico; tiles and sanitarywarePorcelanosa; ironmongery Allgood; lighting Erco; sash windows Touchwood Joinery; IT cabling Mitech; Cold Cathode Lighting AC/DC
The Prince’s Foundation www.princes-foundation.org
Matthew Lloyd Architects www.matthewlloyd.dial pipex.com
Gardiner & Theobald www.gardiner.com
Price & Myers www.pricemyers.com
Fulcrum Consulting www.fulcrumfirst.com