Mary Thum Associates' new Westminster offices have an air of domesticity about them. Perhaps this is because, prior to taking up residence in its new premises, the practice worked from Mary Thum's own home in Chelsea. This previous accommodation, a studio on the lower ground floor of her Chelsea town house, was designed by the practice as a showpiece for clients and provided promotional opportunities, to such an extent that it soon outgrew it. 'We have more space now, but I have a little further to commute, ' laughs Thum.
The new premises, a five-storey Victorian terraced house in Westminster, was acquired in September 1998. Mary Thum Associates designed and converted the ground and lower ground floors into new offices for itself, and fitted out the remaining floors as separate speculative offices for tenants. The practice now has eight staff, although the current premises allow for expansion into the upper floors if and when required.
The office is open plan, with the upper ground floor forming a gallery above the lower level. A small yard to the rear of the house provided space for a small full-height glass extension. This opens up both floors and provides a bright meeting and presentation area. A small kitchen off the lower level opens onto the meeting area and a reference library directly above leads off the ground floor.
The scheme's geometry creates an environment that feels organised and ordered.
Project architect Leslie Cotton explains: 'We wanted to avoid creating a divide between the upper and lower floors. A glass panel in the floor of the upper level lets extra light into the lower floor and stops people feeling so cut off from upstairs.' The panel sits directly between two doors which mirror each other through the ground and lower ground floors, the glass panel showing the symmetry. 'Some people still refuse to walk over it, though, ' Cotton adds.
All the office furniture was designed by the practice and was manufactured by Davis Hawarth Jacob, which also made the kitchen units. Each week a member of the team takes a turn to prepare lunch here for the others for the weekly meeting, seated around a big glass table in the 'indoor garden' as it has become known to staff.
Touches such as the bright, plant-filled conservatory and sunny colour scheme throughout add to the impression that Mary Thum Associates' new offices really are a home from home.
ARCHITECT Mary Thum Associates
STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS Alan Conisbee & Associates
MAIN CONTRACTOR Bisley Construction
SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS furniture including kitchen Davis Hawarth Jacob; timber flooring Bare boards; structural glass Armfield Glass; planting Robert W Brewster, Garden Design and Development; steel staircases Arc-tec; timber cladding to stairs Mills Shopfitting; light fittings Thom Lighting, Erco, gfc lighting, Malham Lighting Design; stone to common stair Reed Harris; W20 doors Senlac Windows and Doors; ironmongery d-line from Allgood