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Forging ahead: Emrys Architects creates craft studios in old forge

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The new headquarters for charity Craft Central in the Isle of Dogs has been inserted into a former ironworks

Conceived as both exhibition space and affordable studios for crafts professionals, The Forge sits within the Grade II-listed former Millwall Ironworks, built at the peak of the area’s shipbuilding activity.

The new two-storey timber structure stands away from the warehouse walls, avoiding the need to alter the heritage structure. Inside are meeting rooms, exhibition and events areas, and small self-contained studios.

The steps forming the entrance up to the studios double as seating for events or performances, and the new space facilitates a public programme of craft workshops and other community activities.

Emrys craft central at the forge 48

Emrys craft central at the forge 48

Source: Alan Williams

Architect’s view

The project sees design and making reintroduced to the Isle of Dogs district, an area associated with traditional industry currently dominated and characterised by larger, commercially focused firms. With The Forge, Craft Central aims to support a different type of creative business model, in an area in which artists have previously been priced out and a neighbourhood that has witnessed economic decline.

Emrys Architects’ design has been developed and constructed by iSpace Corporate Interiors who refined the design for quick, cost-effective construction. The team sought to realise Craft Central’s vision of supporting local micro-businesses and establishing a sustainable foothold in which they can flourish. Considering the short period of time since The Forge opened in September 2017, it has proved very popular with the broad range of craftspeople that inhabit the spaces as tenants.

Emrys the forge ground floor plan labelled

Emrys the forge ground floor plan labelled

Ground floor plan

Emrys Architects’ design of the studios seeks to grant Craft Central, who has taken on a 20-year lease on The Forge, flexibility with a structural module that can be adapted to allow varying unit sizes. Studios range from 83 to 286 sq ft and make maximum use of natural light. The Forge also offers shared workspaces for craftspeople who want somewhere to work occasionally rather than commit to a full-time studio. Additionally, Emrys’s concept includes a number of desks positioned along both long walls which can be hired by the month. The desks maximise the spatial potential of The Forge and provide added value.

Project data

Start on site May 2017
Completion September 2017
Gross internal floor area 1,700m2 (internal area of ground floor plus the mezzanine deck)
Construction cost £1 million
Architect Emrys Architects
Contractor iSpace Interiors
Client Craft Central

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