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FIRST LOOK

Bureau de Change designs bespoke facade for ‘The Interlock’

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The building incorporates 5,000 blocks of 44 different types to create a twisted facade

Located in London’s Fitzrovia, The Interlock is a five-storey mixed-use building with café at ground floor. It takes inspiration from its context of Riding House Street where there is a variety of architectural styles – ranging from John Nash’s All Souls Church to 19th-century terraces, post-war commercial buildings and 20th-century apartment blocks – with brickwork as the material of choice drawing them all together.

1901 riding house gilbert mccarragher hires 010

1901 riding house gilbert mccarragher hires 010

Taking the proportions of a neighbouring 19th-century terrace, Bureau de Change has cast its brick facade to reflect this ’uncertain’ heritage. The architect decided to abandon traditional brick dimensions and instead develop a system of 44 random and unstackable clay blocks, which twist as the building goes up. The facade was heavily tested in 3D to ensure each faceted brick could be individually adjusted to meet structural requirements.

The architect chose Staffordshire Blue Clay as its material of choice, which was set into 14 handmade steel moulds and fired to create a matt blue finish. They were then cut to made another 30 ‘types’. It took three months to place all 5,000 blocks in place, using 188 full-sized printed templates setting out the number, typology and location of each brick. 

1812 riding house brick gilbert mccarragher 005

1812 riding house brick gilbert mccarragher 005

Within the building there are three new residential units and a ground-floor café with a gallery beneath, finished in a material palette of terrazzo, natural stone and sprayed timber. The building is set out as a series of boxes in various sizes, stacked so that each floor becomes shallower as one moves up the building, integrated with deep lightwells and skylights tracking daylight to the centre of the scheme and creating internal patios on the lowest floors.

The café at street level contrasts the rigorous facade with heavy mullions extruded to form ribbons curving over the ceiling ornamentally.

1901 riding house gilbert mccarragher hires 025 v2

1901 riding house gilbert mccarragher hires 025 v2

Architect’s view

We worked iteratively with the team at Forterra, adapting and reviewing the bricks in 3D. We were walking the line of what would be technically possible, but through this process, found a point that was both buildable and produced the richness and movement we were trying to achieve. We were interested in taking these very traditional proportions and in some way subverting it, like a puzzle box that seems familiar and reveals a hidden complexity that increases the more you interact with it.

Billy Mavropoulos and Katerina Dionysopoulou, directors, Bureau de Change

02 ground floor plan

02 ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site March 2017
Completion October 2018
Gross internal floor area 300m²
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Bureau de Change
Client HGG London
Structural engineer HRW
M&E consultant MWL Group
Facade contractor Irvine Whitlock
Brick fabricator Forterra
Main contractor Philip Banks 

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