Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

Adams & Sutherland transforms east London garages into fashion workspaces

  • 2 Comments

The Poplar Works development has retrofitted 100 disused garages into 45 low-cost workshops and studios, a public café, events space and manufacturing facilities

The buildings are in the Aberfeldy and Teviot neighbourhoods of Poplar, with facilities offering affordable workspace, enterprise support and training programmes for the creative industries as well as a new community facility.

The refurbished garages accommodate ground-floor units with a new upper storey constructed in cross-laminated timber (CLT), its weight equivalent to the accumulated soil, trees and shrubbery removed from the roofs of the original garages.

The building is 170m long and 5.5m wide, its cranked plan arranged in a dynamic zigzag, running alongside the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. Black rubber cladding provides the finish to both the highly insulated elevation facing the A12 and to the roof surface. On other façades, timber cladding, stained in shades of red and orange is intended to give the scheme a warm, legible identity. Saw-tooth rooflights are designed to provide a distinctive and industrial character to the whole development.

4 view from abbot road looking north

4 view from abbot road looking north

Source: Anthony Coleman

The north end of the building rises in height to form an entrance element, which accommodates a café and first-floor gallery overlooking a 9m-high interior space. Horizontal circulation is external, by way of the street at ground floor and an external steel walkway at first-floor level. Timber over-cladding is used to provide a degree of privacy between local residents and studio users.

On the ground floor, accommodation is characterised by an industrial language of painted steel structure and existing blockwork walls, with surface-mounted services throughout. On the first floor, CLT panels are left exposed, designed to provide a warm and low-maintenance interior aesthetic. Units are lit by translucent polycarbonate panels to preserve privacy.

9 walkway detail

9 walkway detail

Source: Anthony Coleman

The project was conceived around the idea that fashion, which once made a significant financial and cultural contribution to east London’s economy, could again become a major part of its social and economic make-up. 

It has been delivered by housing association Poplar HARCA in partnership with social enterprise The Trampery and the London College of Fashion, UAL, which will share the studios. It is the first step in the move of the London College of Fashion, UAL to the nearby Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2022, as part of the Fashion District, a multi-sector partnership aiming to grow a more inclusive and sustainable sector in London.

The scheme is supported by funding from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund, a regeneration initiative that champions growth and community development in the capital, with support from the London Economic Action Partnership.

15 manufacturing unit before occupation

15 manufacturing unit before occupation

Source: Anthony Coleman

Architect’s view

These were challenging sites; 100 under-used garages located on two narrow strips of land adjacent to the busy A12, with vigorous wild planting having established itself on the rooftop embankment. Parallel to the A12, the relatively quiet Abbott Road, which formed the main site, was run down and vulnerable to antisocial activity. A Thames Water sewer below the entire length of this site ruled out new groundworks, but this fitted with the sustainability ambitions. The project was an opportunity to create something positive, functional and sustainable, bringing new area character and considerable regeneration value. The client team were ambitious and visionary with an exacting and varied brief.

The garages have been transformed into 45 work spaces ranging from low-cost workshops, to small studios, and larger business units. These are supported by a public café and events space, a manufacturing facility and an education space. The manufacturing unit is located in the middle of this long building, appropriate to its place at the heart of fashion design and production. By following the linear footprint of the garages the building makes use of existing foundations, cross-walls and retaining walls to minimise new concrete substructure and landfill waste. 

The roofline is emphasised at night by a single running stitch of light along the length of the eaves. The elevation to Abbott road, on the other hand, will become an active street frontage of business and creative industry, with coloured timber boarding and graphics for animation, warmth and legibility.

12 first floor manufacturing unit interior looking towards walkway

12 first floor manufacturing unit interior looking towards walkway

Source: Anthony Coleman

The project required an approach that was economic, efficient to build and straightforward in its procurement and delivery. To this end, our strategy was to create a limited palette of materials which were robust, economic yet good quality, and with limited numbers of secondary products or applied finishes.

The elevation to Abbott road is complex. It provides access to all parts of the building, business and studio units, the larger spaces of garment manufacturing, and teaching space, and importantly the main building entrance at the café/reception. The continuous first-floor walkway sits outside the thermal envelope but is sheltered, with few large openings. The warm envelope is a panelled construction combining stained timber cladding, polycarbonate cladding, clear aluminium-framed windows, black-stained timber boarding, painted timber doors, black rubber to roof and areas of elevation.

Transmission of daylight is an important factor across all parts of the building. Translucent polycarbonate panels will provide each business unit with as much daylight as possible without compromising security or privacy. The glow of this material at night, when the spaces are in use after dark during winter and at busy times of the year, will be a positive addition to the street environment.

1 cafe and entrance at dusk

1 cafe and entrance at dusk

Source: Anthony Coleman

Black EPDM rubber membrane was applied to the roof and roadside elevation. This economic and sustainable material allowed us to simplify the building appearance, reduce the number of complex material junctions and eliminate secondary rainwater goods – rainwater drains to a French drain on the embankment.

Colour is deployed across this elevation, based on red for its industrial associations and strong spatial quality with tonal variations towards orange. As well as being highly visible and legible, red brings a sense of warmth. It is a colour familiar to light industrial buildings and is perhaps most resonant for association with material colours, brickwork, terracotta, primed steel, timber etc. Colour is applied in a translucent stain, allowing timber grain to remain visible.

Across the A12 along Teviot Street, a further 40 garages and former boiler-house have undergone a simpler makeover to provide a series of low-cost Makery spaces.

Elizabeth Adams, director, Adams & Sutherland

Pw site and location plan

Pw site and location plan

Source: Adams & Sutherland

Site plan

Client’s view

Poplar Works was a challenging scheme from the outset – a broad stakeholder partnership, keen resident interest, the complex nature of the site.

Adams & Sutherland navigated this complexity incredibly well from the outset. It actively engaged both the client and wider stakeholder partnership in the design process, understanding the needs of end-users and incorporating specific requirements into the design. It maintained excellent relationships with stakeholders to secure wider buy-in to the overall project.

Understanding Poplar HARCA’s need for genuine participation of local residents in the process, it led design workshops with the community, producing models and visual descriptions helpful to lay eyes to enable their contribution to design development.

Their leadership showed us what was possible. Our early thoughts about the scheme at initial concept stage are far from where we have ended up, and the scheme is immeasurably richer as a result of their involvement.

Adams & Sutherland’s striking design and innovative materials use, such as the focus on a lightweight cross-laminate timber structure and use of the rubber façade, demonstrated a strong understanding of the site complexity, the significant budget constraints and the importance of a building that could influence the tone for the wider regeneration of the area, which is about to undergo seismic change.

Pw floor plans bldg a

Pw floor plans bldg a

Source: Adams & Sutherland

Plans

There was a real focus on sustainability in the design, both in materials selection, energy efficiencies and planned re-use of existing site materials – for example site demolition products and timber offcuts are being used in neighbouring community environmental sustainability projects and gardens neighbouring the site.

Once the construction contractor, Niblock Building Contractors, was appointed, Adams & Sutherland provided excellent design co-ordination and worked well with the construction team around buildability to ensure the strong architectural vision for the scheme was fully realised, with a finished product that has exceeded all our expectations.

As well as the larger-scale thinking, it’s the small details that round out the excellent design, even though as a client we sometimes don’t notice them. It was only until staircases had been constructed that I realised the level of design detail that had gone into this. Our clerk of works called the stairs a work of art.

Poplar Works is a striking, bold, warm building which now provides a home for local fashion businesses, LCF students, training for local women in fashion and textiles production and community makers. For Poplar HARCA, the project has been a major success, bringing to life a rundown area, providing enterprise, skills and employment opportunities for the local and wider community, and making a bold statement for the future regeneration of the area. The design is a vital part of setting the tone for the building as it enters its living phase. 

Blossom Young, head of operations, Poplar Harca

Pw elevations bldg a

Pw elevations bldg a

Source: Adams & Sutherland

Elevations

Project Data

Start on site: Feb 2018
Completion date December 2019
Gross internal floor area 1,801m²
Form of contract Design and build after Stage 4
Construction cost £4.9 million
Construction cost per m2 £2,721
Architect & Lead consultant: Adams & Sutherland 
Client Poplar Harca (working with London College of Fashion and the Trampery)
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant Freeman Beesley
Quantity surveyor js-projects
Lighting consultant Studio EG
Landscape consultant Jonathan Cook Landscape Architect
Project manager Bpm-London
CDM co-ordinator Adams & Sutherland
Main contractor Niblock
CAD software used Vector Works
Airtightness at 50pa Not tested. The building shape/layout was deemed to be unsuitable for air testing. The default value of 15 was used in the model but the actual value for CLT buildings tend to be much lower.
Overall area-weighted u-value 0.27 w/m2k

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Ingenious and excellent re-use of what was surely a very unusual design for this sort of residential garage provision.
    No images 'as existing' (though hinted at in 7/24) - and perhaps designed to mitigate noise from traffic on the A12?
    I wonder if there are similar garages elsewhere, capable of supporting an extra storey.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Patryk Tokarek

    What a great transformation. Using timber cladding adds that freshness and makes it look like a new built.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.