74 has turned a dilapidated victorian gymnasium into a new hub for student amenities within a large mixed-use site
Client: Moorfield Group
Architect and interior designer: 74
Structural engineers: Price and Myers
Contractor/project managers: Royalton Group
Date opened: September 2018
Size: 453 sq m
Words by Sophie Tolhurst
Student living now requires far more sophistication than ever before, with materials, lighting and furniture more akin to high-end hospitality than the bright and basic halls that were the norm until the past five years or so. 74, an architecture and design practice with around 100 student residences under its belt, is well-acquainted with this fact, and has been at the forefront of providing newly desirable, comfortable and well-appointed student-living facilities. For the Hox Park site in Egham, Surrey, near Royal Holloway university, 74 was initially invited to design amenities for the 500-bed student accommodation, but quickly realised that more extensive provision was needed. Spotting a dilapidated, Grade II listed, former Victorian gymnasium on the Hox Park site, it saw the ‘amazing, decaying building’, as Bianca Yousef, associate and interior lead on the project describes it, as a great opportunity.
The bronze-coloured fins on the exterior of the glass extensions offer solar shading
Having a separate building for amenities is something of an unusual arrangement and it was a challenge for 74 to design this building, Hox Haus, so that it would draw students from their individual accommodation into this shared space. As Yousef explains, 74 realised it had to make a visit to the building a part of the students’ daily routine. It did this by locating the parcel pick-up there, and considering this a ‘gatehouse’ for the student community. Otherwise, the rich array of amenities and the welcoming atmosphere surrounding them is the main draw to the site. In the building 74 has created there is ample room to relax and socialise, and space to study in groups or individually. There is table football and pool, a TV lounge and gaming booths. (Yousef notes that the latter had to be kept open rather than closed-off because in previous projects they proved just a bit too popular with some students…)
A manned reception provides a parcel pick-up service within Hox Haus
Faced with the old Victorian structure, the 74 team went for a ‘light-touch’ approach, taking care when exposing the original brickwork and preserving arches within the walls. As more space was needed, two glass box extensions were created: a 44 sq m addition to the entrance – a two-storey, lightfilled and welcoming reception area for Hox Haus, which includes a fully glazed ‘lightbox’ area on the first floor that is a dedicated study space; and a 35 sq m terrace on the first floor, an interim indoor/outdoor space – in the perimeter between the original brickwork and the new, glass, outer walls – that feels more connected to the surrounding parkland. These extensions are not meant to dominate the original structure but work around it, expanding the plot while retaining the original external walls of the gymnasium within them. The bronze-coloured fins on the exterior of the glass extensions provide solar shading while also helping the structure blend into the natural landscape of its surrounds.
74 has also created space for students to study in groups
Inside, uplighting on the walls shows off the original brickwork, while a series of arches in the original walls have Critall glazing installed within them. One downside of the original building was that the ceiling felt very dark, so the team worked with consultants and their suppliers to carefully specify the correct light for Hox Haus’s various spaces. For its student spaces, 74 always push for sophistication with lighting levels creating a look that feels more typical of high-end hospitality that that of many student residences, with their too-bright levels and lack of ‘warm’ tones.
74 exposed the original brickwork and preserved the arches within the walls
Beyond the functionality of the lighting, light fixtures were a key component of the interior design. There are a series of statement chandeliers in the main space, while across the rest of Hox Haus you find a range of more eclectic lighting choices – faux-leaf-wrapped Orland lampshades from DI CLASSE and an eye-catching parrot lamp elsewhere. There are flower-inspired light fittings in the TV Lounge, bespoke-designed by 74, while downlighting in study areas comes from Decode.
Light fixtures were an important component of the interior design
The material palette feels luxurious overall, with marble surfaces and glossy brass accents. The polished brass with timber fin detail on the front reception desk is repeated across the space for a drinks bar downstairs and an island desk in the study area. 74 also chose to embrace the idea of the English countryside for this project. Tonally, this means a natural autumnal palette, with sage greens and brick reds, rich plums and emerald velvets, while there is also a heavy dose of tweed and checked fabrics – their clashing arrangement hinting at ideas of English eclecticism. Two feature walls, with Mischievous Monkey wallpaper from Rebel Walls, perhaps recalls the Victorian obsession with exoticism, or the fact that the gymnasium was for a Victorian-era Indian Engineering College. Other quirky twists are the internal doors, styled as traditional panelled front doors complete with brass numbers and lion’s head knockers.
A faux-leaf-wrapped lampshade from DI CLASSE
Added into the mix of patterns are changes in flooring that denote different activities: a first-floor gaming area has criss-cross laminate flooring by Amtico, while flooring aprons create focal points around which the furniture is arranged.
See how the polished brass with timber fin detail on the front reception desk is repeated elsewhere
The dedicated space for amenities shows off 74’s experience with designing high-quality student living. But for 74, as Yousef concludes, the opportunity to use the unique Victorian building and ‘bring [it] back to life’ made it something of a ‘dream project’.
Loose furniture dealer: Telegraph Contract Furniture
Sunburst Credenza: Cult Furniture
Flower-shaped wall lights custom-designed by 74
Pendant lighting by Decode
Lighting (leaf lampshade) by Di CLASSE
Criss-cross lamination by Amtico
Flooring apron Woven World collection by Interface
Mischievous Monkey Wallpaper by Rebel walls
Antique mirroring by Tektura