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Lipton Plant converts Whitechapel umbrella factory into apartments


The building’s former use has inspired the design of this £750,000 retrofit and extension

The original warehouse had over time served as a workshop for producing umbrella cases, lampshades and cloaks. Lipton Plant Architects has re-configured the existing building and added an additional two floors to create four apartments and a penthouse with a roof terrace.

The top two floors have been designed to contrast with the older building – they are wrapped in gold corrugated metal, inspired by the idea of ‘sheathing’, drawn from the building’s former use. Lipton Plant abstracted the original Crittall window panes for the extension, with openings that change in scale and geometry as they ‘drift’ across the surface of the top floor envelope.

UmbrellaFactory LPA JamesJones 2018 11

The Umbrella Factory by Lipton Plant Architects

Architect’s view

The contemporary architecture is drawn from the building’s history. The narrative has informed the building’s transition from abandoned factory to an elevated focal point, bringing renewed vibrancy and vitality to the area. Formerly a negative contribution to the streetscape, the repurposed factory provides investment and new housing for the area.

The client trusted in our creative strategy approach to realise their intentions, and we worked closely with Tower Hamlets to persuade them of our design. The building sits opposite listed and historic buildings in an area that is experiencing regeneration and sets a precedent for contemporary architecture, further emphasising our ‘transition’ concept. Space has been used creatively: we have repurposed a basement space, added duplex penthouses and even created a roof garden which is invisible from street level but is orientated to provide views of the City skyline.

Final axo

The Umbrella Factory by Lipton Plant Architects

Project data

Start on site 
May 2017
Summer 2018
Net internal floor area 411m2
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost £750,000
Lipton Plant Architects
SAS Investments
Structural engineer 
Project manager 
Mode Construction
Main contractor Optical Construction


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