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Moveable feast

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LONDON bloc has created a tiny glass and iroko-clad city block in Lincoln's Inn Fields to dispense lunchtime soup

'We wanted to sell the best soup in London, but how do you get an outlet if you can't afford a shop?'

The answer, for Charlie Marshall, co-owner of Primal Soup, was to build a series of micro retail kiosks. As a freestanding element a kiosk can be installed in a street, a park or an open urban space.He asked David Hebblethwaite of the young practice LONDON bloc and his collaborator, Sacha Kemp-Potter, to design a kiosk prototype for a site in Lincoln's Inn Fields in central London.The budget was £20,000.

Hebblethwaite's interests in public spaces developed from his AA thesis on public space as part of the democratic processes of the city. 'We saw the kiosk as a product which could be reproduced as a series, using similar materials but each with a slightly different personality.' These ideas came about partly as an aversion to branded streetscape products. 'Urban elements are either reproduced in their hundreds, ' explains Hebblethwaite, 'or they are bespoke to fulfil local conditions but fail to nurture street culture in a wider sense.

What we are interested in is how the design of a street product can be adapted to reflect and influence its location.'

The kiosk has a steel base and frame supporting a pivoting canopy. Face-mounted sandblasted glass panels on the front, roof and rear are shaded and protected by iroko slats. The opening canopy forms a brise-soleil in the open position and seals the unit when closed. Internally the kiosk is smaller than a family car, less than 6m 2, though it stands 3.5m high when closed. When open the canopy shelters an area as large as the floorplate, in which customers can queue.

Studies into staff service movements and public queuing habits allowed the design to be reduced to the smallest possible floor plan while still establishing a strong site presence and a good level of service.

The basic frame and chassis can be produced to any length or depth without changing the details. By adjusting the configurations of the outer timber layer the kiosk can be personalised for different clients and their products. For the prototype design every second timber on the front face is cut short to form a 'window' in front of the service counter when the kiosk is closed. At the rear the density of slats is doubled to give more privacy to those working inside. The effect of the outer layers of slats can be seen during the day when the glass canopy is striped in overlapping shadows. At night the slats are silhouetted by the light from inside the kiosk. The slats are canted to exaggerate their shadows.

The strong contrast between the sandblasted glass and the rich tones of the timber are designed to maintain a recognisable identity while giving each kiosk its own character. Future kiosks may play on variations of the density, spacing and sectional profile of the slats to create more complex patterning - this prototype is just a taster.


ARCHITECT LONDON bloc: David Hebblethwaite, Sacha Kemp-Potter

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Buro Happold Rob Amphlett

FABRICATOR Kilby & Gayford

SUPPLIERS AND SUBCONTRACTORS metalwork Scrutton Engineering; aluminium plate floor and walls Aalco; lighting Thorn; gas struts Albert Jagger

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