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John Robertson Architects clads 1980s building with blue terracotta tiles


Academy House on London’s Oxford Street has been transformed into an office and retail space

The site has a rich cultural history, having been home to a pre-eminent 1930s art house cinema, and later the Marquee Club. In response, John Robertson Architects has collaborated with London artist Catherine Bertola and the Sculpture Factory to design Art Deco-inspired perforated steel entrance gates.

Detail of catherine bertola’s art screen © matt livey

Detail of catherine bertola’s art screen © matt livey

The building, on the corner of Oxford Street and Poland Street, has been turned into an office and retail space, forming part of a long-term regeneration of the eastern end of Oxford Circus. Internally, a semi-industrial aesthetic has been introduced across all office floors, retaining the originally exposed concrete frame. The 5,300m² space includes offices, four floors of retail and a timber-decked terrace wrapping around the building’s perimeter with views over the city.

Taking precedent from nearby listed developments such as Lutyen’s black granite Pantheon building, Belcher and Joass’ Mappin & Webb building and Norman Shaw’s Wren-inspired former Waring & Willow building, John Robertson Architects has chosen a bespoke glazed terracotta faience cladding for the façade. After experimenting with over 30 glazing tests combining cobalt, red iron oxide and titanium, the practice selected a distinctive, vertically ribbed tile with blue glaze. This contrasts with horizontal fritting across the façade’s glazing panels.

Academy House recently won an AJ Specification Award in the Façades and Cladding category for the collaboration between John Robertson Architects, Darwen Terracotta and Faience, as well as faience specialist Szerelmey.

Night time view of academy house from oxford street © penson

Night time view of academy house from oxford street © penson

Architect’s view

The key challenge at Academy House was to design a truly modern building that related to both Oxford Street and north Soho while working within the context of a number of historically significant buildings in the area. We feel our use of hand-made blue faience adds a decorative flourish to the design which complements – rather than competes with – the building’s historic surroundings and will make a positive long-term contribution to Oxford Street.

John Robertson, principal director, John Robertson Architects

Faience tile colour samples © matt livey

Faience tile colour samples © matt livey

Faience tile colour samples

Project data

Start on site October 2016
Completion date June 2018
Gross internal floor area 5,268m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 5,608m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design and Build
Construction cost £16 million
Architect John Robertson Architects
Client Sports Direct
Workplace designer PENSON
Structural engineer Lucking & Clarke
M&E consultant WPP
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
Acoustic consultant Clarke Saunders
Project manager Morgan Capital Partners
CDM coordinator Gleeds
Main contractor ISG UK
CAD software used ArchiCAD
Annual CO2 emissions 27.53 kgCO2/m2


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