40 Beak Street occupies a prominent corner site within the Soho and Chinatown Conservation Area, and replaces a brick building constructed in 1910 as a purpose built section house for the Metropolitan Police,which had been vacant since 2007 largely due to a series of negative attributes that made refurbishment an un viable proposition.
Stiff + Trevillion were appointed by Landcap/Enstar in 2014 to develop a proposal for a distinctive new building on the site to provide flexible, speculative work space aimed at the creative industries on the upper levels, with a retail unit at ground floor and basement.
The new accommodation comprises of 4 floors of open plan space above ground. These are set back to create external roof terraces at 3rd and 4th floors, and at the upper most roof level, giving panoramic views across the fascinating Soho roof scape. Views out of the building were an important consideration generally, and the floor to ceiling windows wrapping around the Beak Street and Bridle Lane elevations provide framed views of the surrounding buildings whilst providing excellent daylight levels within. The Juliet balconies running up the faceted corner give longer views, and will allow the occupiers to engage with the street life below.
Beak Street forms part of a network of narrow streets which can be traced back to the original development of Soho during the late 17th Century, and the majority of the buildings are historic, individualistic and constructed in brick. The challenge presented by the project was to design a unique and memorable building that would contribute to the vibrancy and creative appeal of Soho, whilst remaining sensitive to the setting.
Our response has been a solid, well proportioned and legible building which references the historic context and relates comfortably to its neighbors. Although the building is simple in its geometry and form, the brickwork details which include splayed window reveals, corbelling, and projecting piers, add depth and complexity to the design, requiring over one hundred special brick formats to be produced.
During design development a number of brick options were considered, but ultimately a facade constructed entirely from glazed bricks was pursued as it gave opportunities to explore color, iridescence and reflectivity. This offered an element of flamboyance, but was also felt to be important as the building’s principle elevation faces north. Glaze recipes were experimented with exhaustively before settling on the final range, resulting in a lustrous surface which appears to subtly change color depending on day lighting conditions and the angle of view.
Collaborating with artist Lee Simmons, the window reveals are encased in large cast aluminium panels to give the illusion of deep relief and texture. This unique textural work feathers out around the building’s cornice to crown the glazed façade.
An opportunity to introduce spatial interest to the interior arose when Science purchased the building part way through construction and the second floor slab was adapted to create a voluminous double height space. Additionally the square openings in the floor slabs that were formed to accommodate the tower crane have been left open to create a dramatic shaft running through the full height of the building. Combined with the restaurant and the striking façade, the building will make a significant contribution to the Soho street scene.
1. St Joris – Glazed Brick
2. Ibstock – Brick faced lintels
3. NR Taylor – Brick Factor