Bureau de Change

Bureau de Change

London, GB


The Gaslight

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 the scheme is an innovative sculptural intervention in the new circulation core, that connects the four floors of offices. Two layers of bespoke bronze-coloured mesh, which sit in front of each other generating a moiré effect that obscures the concrete core have been created. Their intricate pattern reflects the Art Deco heritage 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 enhance the sculptural quality of the work.

With this intervention Bureau de Change conveys a sense of hand-craftsmanship, whilst using industrial materials and fabrication. The panels are laser-cut, folded, stainless steel PVD coated with a burnished bronze hue. To develop the cladding, a series of one-to-one mock-ups were created, in collaboration with the fabricators John Desmond Ltd, testing every corner and detail to make sure the bespoke pattern which consists of 85 burnished bronze panels, each laser cut and folded, is consistently expressed throughout the four-storey height of the core. This process is more akin to an artisan tradition than architectural metalwork.

The cladding’s distinct character continues into the lift interiors, with Art Deco details etched on the mirror and a bespoke pentagonal blue leather handrail made by Bill Amberg Studio, which reflects the owner’s connection to shoemaking and leather. This attention to detail continues throughout the interiors. The bathrooms use a bespoke terrazzo panelling – an unexpected contemporary echo of the traditional timber panelling that might have been found in the original interiors. 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.

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Status: Built
Location: London, GB
Firm Role: Interiors