Ekho Studio / Enso, Essex


A new-build amenity space for students that promotes relaxation, well-being and social interaction, while also being an environmentally low-impact design


Words by Emily Martin

Images by Gunner Gu


Project Info

Building architect HNW

Interior designer Ekho Studio www.ekho.studio

Client Moorfield and Melberry


BREAKTHROUGH TALENT FX Award winners Ekho Studio has completed a new-build scheme called Enso, at a student accommodation project with 282 rooms located in the heart of Colchester and in reach of the University of Essex campus.

The brief from joint clients Moorfield, a UK real estate fund manager, and project developer Melberry was to create a bright, airy and light-filled student amenity space, promoting relaxation and well-being, and encouraging social interaction, and for it to be an environmentally low-impact design, which prioritised materials with strong recycled or recyclable credentials and low-energy manufacture and use.

For the project concept the Ekho Studio team took primary inspiration from a sense of place, focusing particularly on Colchester’s rich history. The town was known as Camulodunum during Roman times and some of the forms and elements from this period remain intact, such as Roman arches and layered brick walls, standing out as a common thread through the town’s history and architecture.

Arches are one of the design’s key motifsArches are one of the design’s key motifs

Ekho Studio took these key visual and architectural elements and used them to formulate a consistent design language for the interior scheme. Simple forms, particularly the ‘arch’ motif, are used horizontally and vertically to create interest, while patterns suggest the reveal of layers in the old city.

A second thread is nature, with Colchester and the surrounding countryside full of strong textures and dramatic forms and colours. The colour palette fuses Roman-era references with local natural colours, celebrating earthy and warm tones.

Arches are one of the design’s key motifsArches are one of the design’s key motifs

‘By using these tones as ‘block’ colours, we created a vibrant, bold colour palette, which works well with the forms but also has a softer feel,’ Ekho Studio co-founder Rachel Withey comments. ‘We emphasised the toasty burnt oranges and varying shades of pink that cloud and streak the traditional earthenware material of terracotta and complemented this with the natural greens/blues that reflect Colchester’s surrounding countryside.’

When entering the ground floor amenity space, you are immediately greeted by the site-specific Enso branding on the wall opposite that is backlit. The flooring here and throughout is Marmoleum tiling, using varying patterns and colours, while the ceiling is exposed to create maximum height, with white coloured track lighting throughout.

A U-shaped, large sofa in dark terracotta is dressed with a variety of plain and patterned cushions that fit with the colour palette, while two white incidental tables sit on a rug from Gan Rugs
A U-shaped, large sofa in dark terracotta is dressed with a variety of plain and patterned cushions that fit with the colour palette, while two white incidental tables sit on a rug from Gan Rugs

Approach the reception and you’ll see the space’s first structural column, clad in a pattern of terracotta and blue tiles from Quintessenza Ceramiche in Italy, with a feature green grout. Above the tiling is the scheme’s first artwork, incorporating both an arch and a pottery shape. The bespoke reception desk to the left features a Hanex top and a cork frontage, with a bespoke 3D wall finish in blue behind it.

As the space opens up a tea point follows, with the focal point being a bespoke joinery seating lozenge. This features, at its base, a zigzag brick pattern – the same material and pattern also used on the back wall of the tea point and later in the scheme for the screens that lead to the games area. Above the banquette seat – and extending over the whole tea point area – are three inbuilt display shelves for planting. The tea point is lit by four pendent lights.

A large co-working and the smaller quiet study spaces feature chairs in complementary colours and a variety of worktops and booths, with a large, central, bespoke, blue table as the focus point of the co-working area. A graphic wallpaper by Rebel Walls incorporates a ‘city wall’ pattern in shades of terracotta. The co-working space also includes a large-scale potted plant and artworks featuring simple shapes that suggest pottery vessels.

In the gaming area of the ground floor amenity space, the feeling of a new zone is aided by a square suspended ceiling raft in blue over the sofa area, with four feature pendant lights. A U-shaped, large sofa in dark terracotta is dressed with a variety of plain and patterned cushions that fit with the colour palette, while two white incidental tables sit on a rug from Gan Rugs. Behind the sofa is a largescale, laminate-clad planter creating a zonal screen, with a pool table located directly behind. The split gym area sits both behind the pool table, on specialist durable rubber floor tiles, and also directly outside the glazing in this area – with the glazing here and throughout featuring a manifestation based on the arch motif.

As Ekho Studio was involved in the project prior to construction, the team was able to request minor alterations to the space plan from the point of view of flow, including more external doors into the courtyard and moving the reception further away from the arrival doors. Ekho Studio also proposed locating additional gym equipment outside in the courtyard space, in addition to the ample internal gym located internally at the rear of the games area.

A laminate-clad planter creates a zonal screen, with a pool table located directly behind
A laminate-clad planter creates a zonal screen, with a pool table located directly behind

‘Courtyards are lovely to look at and great sources of natural light but are often under-used and passive in nature,’ Withey comments. ‘By locating part of the gym outside in the healthy fresh air, we also made it into a more active space, with the added benefit of liberating indoor space for other uses.’

From recycled and sustainably sourced materials, through to natural design features and landscaped gardens that bring the outside world in, every corner of Enso has been designed to celebrate and help protect its environment.

Key Suppliers

Flooring

Forbo www.forbo.com

Interface Carpet www.interface.com

GAN www.shop.gan-rugs.com/eu

Surfaces

Rebel Walls www.rebelwalls.com/uk

Quintessenza Ceramiche www.quintessenzaceramiche.it

Formica www.formica.com

Lighting
Tom Rossau www.tomrossau.com








Progressive Media International Limited. Registered Office: 40-42 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8EB, UK.Copyright 2024, All rights reserved.