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Bradbury Works is a refurbishment project that appends without any wreckage

The refurbishment project by [Y/N] Studio in Gillett Square, Dalston, in London, integrates additional workspace pods above and around the existing structure.

by Almas SadiquePublished on : Aug 24, 2023

The blueprints of seemingly utopian habitats almost always demand building upon a fresh slate. Patches of trees are cut down to accommodate new towns, quaint cottages offset with gardens are flattened to build high-rise residences sans green expanses, and old structures are completely destroyed to rebuild spaces that accommodate, perhaps, the same functions. This tendency to destroy and rebuild comes from human impunity that regards the manufactured entities as creations that can be fiddled with, without being held accountable. However, this way of moving forward not only erases the legacies and stories that shape our spaces and our lives but also leaves behind a deluge of waste, most of which is either unusable or requires extensive processing or labour in order to be reused.

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, French architects who received the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize, rightly relegated demolition to an act of violence. They surmised that the practice of bulldozing existing structures is a common act owing to the ease with which it can be undertaken. Repair, renovation, rehabilitation, and reconditioning of spaces and structures, however, require a more innovative approach. A recently completed project that attempts to fulfil this need of designing a retrofit worthy of being exemplified is Bradbury Works by London-based architectural practice [Y/N] Studio. A harping question raised by the project reads thus: “Can you reinvent an existing community asset without compromising its best attributes?” Located in Gillett Square, Dalston, in London, UK, the project includes the refurbishment of nearly 600 square metres of existing affordable workspace, the replacement of ten mini retail units, and the provision of about 500 square metres of extra workspace in a two-storey extension.

Changes made to Bradbury Works as part of the refurbishment project  | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
Changes made to Bradbury Works as part of the refurbishment project Image: Courtesy of [Y/N] Studio

The refurbishment project aimed at retaining the best attributes of the already existing structure (which stands facing the Gillett Square), while making structural additions that could cater to the increased needs in the area. Gillett Square, a former car park area, was converted into an open public space nearly 20 years ago—after a long process undertaken by Hackney Co-operative Developments CIC, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, along with assistance from various architects and designers such as Hawkins\Brown, MUF and J&L Gibbons. The Hackney Co-operative Developments or HCD works with the intent of exploring ideas that can help create a sustainable environment for Hackney’s communities. They not only directed the set up of affordable workspaces across the town but also led the process of rejuvenating Gillett Square with provisions that could encourage the involvement of communities in commercial practices across different spectrums and disciplines, in Dalston.

“Formerly a carpark behind disused warehouses and Victorian terraces, the works to the square were predated by a series of notable projects including the conversion of the Bradbury Street terrace into deck-access workspaces in 1998, the award-winning market pod kiosks in 1999, and the Dalston Culture House in 2004, all by Hawkins\Brown. Following the completion of the public realm works a few years later, the square has developed into a vibrant community asset and a vital piece of public space in one of London’s most deprived boroughs. In 2017 HCD was awarded over £1 million by the Greater London Authority to make necessary improvements to the existing workspace building and create new workspaces for emerging Hackney enterprises. Bradbury Works is the next step in the evolving story of one of the most unique and community-focused public spaces in the capital,” reads an excerpt from the press release shared by the British firm. The newly refurbished building welcomed both new and old tenants to occupy its spaces.

A model showcasing the new addition to the old structure  | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
A model showcasing the new addition to the old structure Image:Courtesy of [Y/N] Studio

The refurbishment project essentially integrates the inclusion of an extruded space into the original structure. “The materials were chosen in reference to the previous incarnations of the building which features a palette of industrial profiled metal, polycarbonate, and painted brick,” reads an excerpt from the press release. Prominent add-ons include floors on the top of the structure and spaces housed (on each floor) within a facade that projects outward from the original structure towards the square. The new extension, constructed using a prefabricated steel frame, is supported by new piled foundations on the side facing the square. While the internal floors and infill walls, made of timber, house mineral wool fibre insulation between the joists, insulation on the roof level is positioned above the structure, hence exposing the timber joists internally. On the third and fourth floors, non-loadbearing partitions were fixed in order to facilitate easy changes in the structure whenever needed.

“Bradbury Works is a unique new workspace in the heart of Dalston, offering affordable space to businesses and charities that need them most. The entire team has worked closely with HCD and its tenants to retain and enhance the best attributes of the existing building and its relationship to both Gillett Square and Bradbury Street while providing much-needed improvement to its facilities. The pitched roof form creates a large new floor plate offering workspaces with mezzanines while ensuring the building does not overshadow the square or detract from the traditional masonry of the Bradbury Street facade," shares Alex Smith, Founding Director of [Y/N] Studio, a creative platform that operates with the intent of asking questions about the built environment, and hopes to receive simple answers—in the form of a simple Yes or No—to complex questions. The pitched roof on the northern side of the structure is punctured with a chequerboard arrangement of openable skylights which allows natural light to filter into the workspaces.

  • Bradbury Works at night | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    Bradbury Works at night Image: French and Tye
  • The workpace pods on the ground floor, with their doors closed | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    The workspace pods on the ground floor, with their doors closed Image: French and Tye

The ground floor houses retail pods, measuring about 10 square metres, placed facing Gillett Square. Each pod comes with an openable glazed frontage protected by profiled metal gates. These sturdy metal fixtures provide privacy and security when shut down, and a view of the vibrant tenant signages when latched open to reveal the glazed inner surface. On the other hand, various features from the old structure, such as the original masonry structure of the existing Victorian terrace, as well as the previously existing shops, bars and restaurants (such as a tailor, a barber shop, a Jamaican jerk chicken shop, a coffee shop, and a computer repair shop) facing the Bradbury Street, have been retained. This Victorian terrace was refurbished and renovated to accommodate workspace units of varying sizes, ranging mainly from 10 to 36 square metres.

  • Double-heighted terrace space build around the older structure  | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    Double-heighted terrace space build around the older structure Image: French and Tye
  • The Bradbury Street overlooking the proximal areas | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    The Bradbury Street overlooking the proximal areas Image: French and Tye

Another addition made to the structure (above the work pods on the ground floor) includes a covered double-height terrace space, which is basically an extrusion of the existing floor plate. This terrace area is imagined as a breakout space (with the inclusion of picnic tables, potted plants and climbing plants shading the area from harsh weather) that can serve as a vestibular space between the square and the building, hence enhancing the connectivity between the latter and the former. In this area, the steel structure is painted with mid-grey intumescent paint. This hue, combined with the industrial galvanised steel plank walkways, allows dappled light to filter through from the second floor, keeping the space lively and lit up. Other features that facilitate ample inflow of light and proper ventilation in this space, while also providing a framework for evergreen climbing plants to latch onto, on the covered terrace, are the balustrades and Juliettes formed from simple polyester powder-coated steel tubular sections which are wrapped with tensioned stainless steel wire mesh.

The workspaces on the upper floors offer spanning views of the neighbourhood | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
The workspaces on the upper floors offer spanning views of the neighbourhood Image: French and Tye

On the third floor, various new additions are made in the form of workspaces that include private mezzanine spaces that measure about 40 to 65 square metres each. “They are provided in a simple pitched roof form which ensures overshadowing of the square is kept to a minimum and the new extension is largely unseen from the Bradbury Street side which falls in a conservation area. A south-facing access deck behind the existing brick parapet provides the opportunity for natural cross-ventilation to the new workspaces and panoramic views of London. In addition to private workspaces, a large flexible meeting and event space can be hired by tenants as well as the wider community,” reads an excerpt from the press release.

  • Retail pods facing the square, as integrated in the structure | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    Retail pods facing the square, as integrated into the structure Image: French and Tye
  • The new glazed facade houses the older brick structure within | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    The new glazed facade houses the older brick structure within Image: French and Tye
  • The new extensions is hidden behind the existing traditional Bradbury Street facade | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    The new extensions are hidden behind the existing traditional Bradbury Street facade Image: French and Tye

The uppermost deck on the structure, on the other hand, is wrapped in a homogenous polycarbonate façade, which is light in weight, translucent and reflective. This material, wrapped around the entire extension on the upper part of the building, bears semblance to the profiled mill finish aluminium that covers the lower floors. The similarities between the behaviours of the two materials give the structure the appearance of a singular monolithic form. The materials chosen for the facade bear reference to the blue-green cladding on the nearby Culture House. However, they are colourless and more translucent, allowing ample light to filter into the workspaces, while also retaining the connection between the building and the square. Through its surface, shadows of the original structure are visible. The architects refer to it as “a memory of the past behind a new iconic focal point in the square.” This cladding also reflects the colours of its surroundings, blue during the day and incandescent glows from within at night. Further, vertical and horizontal rails on the facade allow metal rainwater pipes to sit concealed behind the cladding. The polycarbonate cladding comprises 500 mm wide panels which click together to form a weather-resistant seal. The multiwall polycarbonate, made using multiple thin layers of durable high-impact thermoplastic, improves the thermal performance of the building, is recyclable and has good fire resistance.

“To provide additional floor space, the existing masonry structure was stripped back to allow a new floor and mezzanine to be built above. In order not to overload the existing building, Engenuiti designed a steel frame that wraps up and over the existing structure and is propped by the masonry party walls. This frame forms the new walkways and meeting areas. At each end, Engenuiti dealt with the challenges of extending an existing building by cantilevering the western end and designing a grillage that allowed for careful load sharing onto to the existing eastern ‘Drum’ building,” shares Kath Hannigan, Project Engineer at Engenuiti.

  • Interiors of the structure are coloured in bright hues | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    Interiors of the structure are coloured in bright hues Image: French and Tye
  • Studio spaces are calm, and provide a blank canvas for tenants to express their individuality | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    Studio spaces are calm, and provide a blank canvas for tenants to express their individuality Image: French and Tye
  • White interiors make the interior spaces look larger and more open | Bradbury Works | [Y/N] Studio | STIRworld
    White interiors make the interior spaces look larger and more open Image: French and Tye

The new design retains the existing entrance to the building, improving it with the provision of a new fully glazed entrance, reception desk, and post-boxes. The staircases and entrances were repainted in hues of cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black), referencing the CMYK colour range ‘where four simple and contrasting colours combined can be used to create any artwork.’ By doing so, the architects intend for the building to become a spot where cultures and disciplines meet to form a diverse community of professionals. The other areas in the building are awash in muted colour tones. Grey floors and white walls allow tenants to customise their own space in tandem with their requirements and desires. The structure also holds refurbished toilets and kitchenettes, and a series of ramps on the terraces of the first and second floors—to facilitate easy access by all.

A few features that enhance the environmental performance of the structure include the integration of double-glazed windows and the installation of insulated plasterboards to the insides of the external masonry walls, both of which reduce carbon emissions from the building and improve the overall thermal performance. Furthermore, the overall airtightness of the building was improved by using vapour control layers and foil-backed insulation. Improved sensor-based space heating and lighting services help regulate individual room temperatures and illumination, hence, reducing carbon emissions. Photovoltaic panels fixed on the southern roof pitch help reduce both the running costs of the building and the service charge levied on the tenants.

Project Details

Name: Bradbury Works
Location: Dalston, London
Type: Workspace, Commercial, Refurbishment
Area: 1578 square metres
Year of completion: 2022
Architect: [Y/N] Studio
Design team: Alex Smith, Maegan Icke, Elena Gruber, Roxani Tseranidou, Margherita Zompa, Carolina Borgatti, Ezmira Peraj, Ainhoa Valle
Main Contractor: Vortex Interiors
Project Management: Helios Project Management
Structural engineer: Engenuiti
M&E consultant: Thornley and Lumb
Quantity surveyor: Beacon Project Services
Planning Consultant: JMS Planning and Development
Collaborating Architect: Hawkins\Brown – initial stages only.
Interior Design / Signage: [Y/N] Studio
Heritage Consultant: KM Heritage
Daylight and Sunlight: Schroeders Begg
Client: Hackney Co-operative Developments CIC

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