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ThirdWay Architecture refurbishes Victorian warehouse

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The 1,400m² scheme in London’s Old Street preserves the heritage character of the Victorian warehouse

In close proximity to the Old Street roundabout, the warehouse on Provost Street has been refurbished and extended into commercial office space spread across seven storeys.

A two-storey, anodised metal extension adds extra floor space to the existing brick building below. Original brick bays at ground level have been opened up with the use of heritage-inspired curtain wall glazing to activate the building’s street presence.

The addition of this ground-floor glazing along with set-back voids has increased the access of natural light into the lower-ground space.

190815 provost 155

The exterior facade has been refurbished with all timber sash windows replaced, new loading bay doors and repointed brickwork.

Internally, the architect aimed to preserve the original character of the building. Original Victorian timber ceilings have been retained throughout, lightly touched with simple lighting and exposed servicing. New engineered timber floors and pared-back columns are subsidiary to the ceiling details and allow the expansive glazing to the upper floors to become spatially more prominent. Rough-sawn timber flooring, and exposed sandblasted and painted brickwork complete the material palette of the scheme.

In the communal circulation spaces, the concrete and brick staircase has been enhanced through the use of warm timber treads, paintwork and lighting. A new bespoke feature stair connects the upper floors of the extension, its metal balustrades and nosing contrasting against the existing brick building.

Taking inspiration from the building’s Victorian and industrial history, the WCs have Lincoln patterned floor tiling, wall-hung metal cisterns, heritage lighting fixtures and sanitaryware.

190815 provost 122

Architect’s view

Our client acquired the former tea warehouse in early 2018, and it became abundantly clear from our very first site walkaround that this was going to be a project of careful interplay; balancing contemporary office standards with a delicate curation of the existing features and patina.

The building was purchased with a planning consent that ratified the principle of a two-storey extension but through several months of collaborative client design workshops and a series of planning amendments and applications, we arrived at the scheme that was handed over in the summer of 2019.

Fundamental to our client’s brief was a focus on end-user flexibility. Having 150m² floorplates and a net internal area of just over 1,020m², it was key that the building could perform both in a single occupation or multi-tenancy. Equally important was maintaining and enhancing as much of the existing materiality as possible, particularly the Victorian timber cross-tie beams and exposed brickwork. The single-stair circulation posed the design team with an interesting challenge to combine the two – protecting materiality, flexibility and meeting regulatory standards.

The solution was to work closely with suppliers, contractors and our approved inspectors to develop a fire-engineered ceiling and floor substrate that allowed the existing timber to remain exposed without the need for sprinklers.

Ultimately the success of the project was our client securing a pre-let during the latter months of construction, confirming that our desire to create a building both materially and commercially sensitive had been achieved.

Liam Spencer, founding director, ThirdWay Architecture

Tw plan gf

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site October 2018
Completion August 2019
Gross internal floor area 1,400m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design & Build
Architect ThirdWay Architecture
Structural engineer Parmarbrook
Development manager IV Real Estate
Project manager Constructive Management
Approved building inspector MLM
Main contractor ThirdWay Contracts
CAD software used Revit, AutoCad, Rhino

Tw section stairs

Stairs section

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Readers' comments (1)

  • 'Careful curation' obviously had its limits, and externally the two storey rooftop extension on the building line seriously compromises the original character of the building.
    Going by images 1-4 there is (or rather was) a fairly consistent height to the similar buildings in Provost Street - but this development surely sets a precedent for all of them to get the sprouting roof treatment.
    Isn't there a fairly well understood architectural tradition of setting back such rooftop extensions to minimise the impact on the character of the original building?

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