The Gaslight in Fitzrovia is a new mixed-use commercial development that has been created within the shell of a handsome Art Deco building. It weaves true craftsmanship, a mastery of materials, into the fabric of the building using contemporary design and techniques.
Originally built in 1929 for the Gas, Coke and Light Company, this robust industrial building has been reorganised and extended by de Metz Forbes Knight (dMFK), producing a series of light-filled, spaces inspired by artist studios. The lettable volume of the building has been increased by over 75%. Within these volumes, Bureau de Change has embedded a timeless aesthetic by responding to the building’s heritage with bespoke materials, patterns and geometries that add an innovative, crafted character – something which is unexpected in modern commercial development.
When the building’s owner, I.S.A. (Holdings), set out to reinvent this utilitarian structure, they wanted to amplify the interiors and develop a radical approach to high-quality commercial space. The result is a design that reflects the specific character of the area, once alive with artisanal workshops. The aim was to create something with a distinct character and long-lasting value that reaches beyond the fads and trends that are commonplace within the office sector.
Bureau de Change took The Gaslight’s Art Deco style and the area’s rich heritage of craftsmanship and created a cohesive visual narrative that runs throughout the building – from the hand-turned wooden door handles in the entrance to the creation of a mezzanine level in the top floor, which appears to float in the volume of the space.
The centrepiece of their scheme is an innovative sculptural intervention in the new circulation core, that connects the four floors of offices. Bureau de Change have created two layers of bespoke bronze-coloured mesh, which sit in front of each other generating a moiré effect that obscures the concrete core. Their intricate pattern reflects the stylistic history of the building using contemporary fabrication techniques. Underneath the suspended stairs, which wrap around the core at ground floor, the top layer of pleated mesh peels away from the one behind that continues to run through the building. This interplay between the layers creates an illusion that the steps are formed from the intricate filigree metal and enhances the sculptural quality of the work. With this intervention Bureau de Change conveys a sense of hand-craftsmanship, whilst using industrial materials and fabrication.
This attention to detail continues throughout Bureau de Change’s design of the different internal spaces. The bathrooms use a bespoke terrazzo panelling, which is formed as a contemporary echo of the traditional timber panelling that might have been found in the original building. The wayfinding in the building uses extruded bronze signs in a distinctive ribbon font, whilst the numbers for the building’s entrance are shaped into the metal railings on the restored wooden gates. Even the timber handles on the external entrance doors have been designed in three dimensions and turned on a lathe to provide an unexpected tactile quality to imbue a sense of craftsmanship in the visitor’s experience.
Katerina Dionysopoulou, Director at Bureau de Change said, “We enjoy working with existing buildings, transforming them for a new purpose but doing it with a kind of nostalgia at the heart of the designs. It was a pleasure to explore these ideas for The Gaslight and ultimately enrich a building so that it can take on a new meaning.”
Billy Mavropoulos, Director at Bureau de Change said, “True craftsmanship is a process that leads to an understanding of materials and what they are capable of. Industrial materials and fabrication techniques were therefore explored in a more artisan-like manner, with laser-cut bronze panels folded to create an intricate framework. Full-scale mock ups were then used to test every corner detail to ensure the filigree pattern is consistent throughout the building.”
Adriana Paice, Director at I.S.A. said, “We knew we wanted to keep the original building rather than demolish it and find a way to celebrate the existing architecture and structures within the building. Above all we wanted to transform the building into a new commercial hub that was connected to and reflected the rich cultural heritage of Fitzrovia. Coming from a background in public art I recognise how important the sculptural elements are for defining key spaces and providing the building with a distinct identity.”
Images © Gilbert McCarragher