Florian Beigel + ARU London
(Phase 01 completed November 2012; Additional Works Phase completed November 2013)
In August 2012 the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design was created. On the request of Robert Mull, Dean of the CASS, Florian Beigel and ARU was asked to redesign the interior of Central House - a robust building constructed in the 1960’s as a textiles warehouse in Aldgate East. New studio and teaching spaces have been built on the five floors above ground level.
The idea of this project was to make a little city inside of the building. Three Geographies of studios are arranged like a tapestry or a pattern of cultivations all connected by the Boulevard. The Boulevard is at the heart of the little city in the building.
The design makes good conversations between new and old. Special presence has been given to existing elements of the building (time witnesses) that have been retained to give character and a sense of time. New plywood fin walls with a delicate, well-crafted tectonic and architectural expression have been carefully inserted into the existing fabric of the building.
Studio geographies are arranged parallel to each other running the length of the building offering a number of different types of studio experience. These three geographies are structured in a similar way to Paul Klee’s painting ‘In der Sromung sechs Schwellen’, (In the Current, Six Wiers) 1929, with its parallel bands of varying sizes of fields, a series of comb-like structures arranged next to each other.
The large floor plates have been liberated by the primary architectural move to relocate (to a position along the building’s perimeter) or remove the existing toilet block directly in front of the main lift and staircase lobby. This has given the possibility of making an urban space within the building, a sense of city and exteriority. When entering these floors from the main staircase, one now arrives in the Boulevard, a large shared space that connects the tapestry of studio spaces.
To one side of the ‘bouelvard’ is the geography of Room Studios. This is a series of good rooms each with a large door and window facing the Boulevard, like a row of small houses on a street. Each room has a view to the city over East London. In the 3rd and 4th floor studios the geography facing the Boulevard on the other side consists of Meeting Rooms and an existing light well in the centre of the floor plan. Between the Meeting Rooms are passages that connect the Boulevard to the final geography, the Open Hall Studios. These are more flexible spaces divided with large plywood screens or demountable cross laminated timber art screens that can be rearranged for varying sizes of student groups or cleared to make a large open space for an end-of-year exhibition.
Four new open Domestic Staircases have been introduced to connect the five renovated floors, like internal stairs in a house. The idea is to promote informal contacts and dialogue between students and staff of various courses.
A gentle and calm palette of colours similar to those used by the painter Giorgio Morandi was selected for the new interiors. The idea was to paint the different building elements in distinct yet complimenting tones in a balanced relationship to each other.
The remodelling of Central House is an ongoing project with exciting possible future works such as; the replacement of the old windows with an elegant new system that will significantly improve the environmental performance of the facade; a new faculty gallery and cafe / bar located on the prominent street corner opposite the Whitechapel Gallery; a little village of new buildings and gardens of the roof; a suite of new workshops in the lower ground floor; and a number of large scale furniture structures for storage that encourage people to gather and meet in the boulevards and studios.
Concept + Client Side Architect
Architecture Research Unit (ARU), London Metropolitan University: Florian Beigel, Philip Christou with Alex Bank, Tom Bates, Bumsuk Chung, Robert Grover, Robert Mc Cluskey, Suresh A’Raj
Estates Department, London Metropolitan University, John Finnerty
Cass Projects, London Metropolitan University, Anne Markey (Additional Works Phase)
Executive Architect Novated
Architecture PLB, Ian Chapman (Phase 01)
Wellesley Architects, Paul Saggers, Tim Roy (Additional Works Phase)
Quantity Surveyor + Employers Agent
Lambert Hart, Martin Hart (Phase 01)
Burnley Wilson Fish, Adrian Meconi (Additional Works Phase)
Hurst Peirce & Malcolm LLP, Michael Chung
Chapman Bathurst Partnership Ltd, Phil Parkes, Mark Poulter
SKK, Shiu-Kay Kan (Additional Works Phase)
EC Harris, Natalie Clifton
Fire Safety Advisor
London Metropolitan University, Ian Jerome
M L M Building Control, Michael Wadood
Main Contractor (Design and Build)
ITC Concepts, Tony Smith
Joinery Sub Contractor
PURE Joinery, Neil Carter (partition joinery)