Bluebottle has transformed the interior of an Art Deco building to challenge the normal conventions of the modern office space
Words by Emily Martin
Images by ED Reeve
Building Services Engineer: Max Fordham
Size: 1,393 sq m
Completed: March 2021
LONDON-BASED architecture and design studio Bluebottle has delivered an ambitious refurbishment for the new London office of venture capital firm Atomico. The studio was led by a client brief to provide an innovative contemporary workspace that is multifunctional, inclusive and ranks highly in sustainability. Housed within The Gaslight, an Art Deco building on Rathbone Street, London W1, the building formally housed a number of tenants. Today, the resulting design scheme sees three floors and a mezzanine level transformed into an engaging office environment that focuses on staff well-being and ease of movement.
Adapting The Gaslight from a multi-tenanted building into a single occupier called for a radical architectural intervention to ensure seamless visual connection through the floors, while maximising the use of all available space.
‘Improving the connection and flow for single occupancy was a challenge,’ explains Charlotta Faulkner, design director, Bluebottle. ‘Strategic space planning set the backbone which led to an extensive programme of structural works to vertically connect all floors throughout the space. The central staircase acts as the heart of the building, it encourages movement and meetings for its occupants and gives the building a sense of openness and transparency.’
The introduction of a suspended hanging staircase created an open central circulation route which connects shared spaces on the ground and first floors, to more private spaces and meeting rooms on the upper floors. Natural light was enhanced throughout the space with the addition of a large opening from ground to first floors, meaning light from the first floor could permeate the darker ground floor areas.
The sustainable design approach considered all travel-related energy (business and commuting), embodied energy, operational energy and construction site impacts for Atomico’s 10-year lease. The project has achieved net-zero carbon in construction, in line with the UK’s Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon framework.
Atomico’s cafe reflects the new office’s wider ethical and sustainable design principles
Working within the constraints of an existing building meant that some low-carbon technologies were unsuitable and had to be addressed. Bluebottle worked closely with a wide team of experts, including leading engineering and sustainability practice Max Fordham, which carried out extensive early-stage analysis.
Frans Burrows, founder and director at Bluebottle, comments: ‘Our collaboration with Max Fordham sustainability consultants was crucial in making the most cost-effective, and impactful, energy reduction decisions for the project [...] Our design has focused on how an office fit-out can best reduce the whole life energy use of the building and business.’
Materials, finishes and furniture were chosen for circular economic value
High impact materials, finishes and furniture were chosen for their circular economy value, such as solid wood floors, desking made of cabinetry that can be adapted and reused, and acoustic panels that can be reupholstered. Many lighting and furniture pieces were sourced from vintage suppliers.
‘A warm palette of timbers, fabrics and stone create a calm and inviting environment. The design intentionally avoids the bright blue lights and harsh corporate materials to induce an agreeable and homely atmosphere’, says Faulkner.
The ground floor space is fully open, yet features different zones with varying levels of privacy
Bluebottle also completed the redesign of Atomico’s cafe which follows the same ethical and sustainable principles as the workspaces. At every stage of the project Atomico and Bluebottle have worked collaboratively to challenge the normal conventions of the office in terms of sustainability, acoustics, inclusion, design, and quality.
‘For me the ground floor space is a true success, the only thing that divides the space is the central placement of the Atrium stairs,’ comments Faulkner. ‘Even though it’s fully open, there are several different zones. The banquette by the windows is always in use, the back of the banquette is just tall enough to give a sense of privacy [… and] I think we have been successful in retaining the beauty and character of the building and enhancing it. The old and new sit effortlessly side by side’.