Drake’s, London by Hawkins\Brown

Commissioned to redesign the offices and workshops of a silk tie factory in Hackney, architect Hawkins\Brown drew on the building's 1930's features to create an elegant and stylish headquarters and additional apartments

Questions answered by Nicola Rutt, Partner, Hawkins\Brown

How were you commissioned?

We were commissioned directly by Drake's, they heard about us through a local art dealer who we had previously designed a gallery for.

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What was the brief from the client and how much were they involved?

The brief from the client was to consolidate their silk tie design, fabrication and distribution services and also to create residential apartments and office space within a 1930's factory building in Hackney. The hand-crafted nature of Drake's core business was to be a driving factor and they also wanted their non-heirarchical company ethos to thread through the design.

The client retained a close involvement throughout as their requirements were particularly bespoke, they also wanted to take three of the nine apartments for their own use.

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How did this brief affect the materials and design choices made?

The locations of the Drake's factory, the office and the apartments came quite easily as there was a logic to where these could physically fit and be serviced within the existing building. The Drake's factory area required natural daylight and bespoke furniture, this was designed in close collaboration with Drake's operations manager.

We adopted a warm industrial aesthetic, fitting to the building's provenance. A herringbone motif was settled upon for the oak parquet floors and roof terrace decks, this came from the the pattern in the face of the original brickwork and was also a nod to the traditional herringbone weave used in many of Drake's ties.

Crittall windows were installed to the facades, reinstating the curve of the building that had been lost for years. The same window system was used in between departments to give definition but offer transparency throughout Drake's various operations.

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How did your previous experience help you with this project?

We have a history of creatively re-purposing existing buildings and also of working in Hackney so we were excited by the prospect of this project which brought the two together. Also, as a practice we have a love of the hand-crafted (we made an embroidered masterplan for Croydon which was exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Show) and so again, this project appealed to us.

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Can you explain the layout of the project?

Drake's are located on the lower ground, ground and first floors, providing easy access for deliveries and distribution. The nine apartments are on the top 2 floors with private and communal roof terraces providing panoramic views of the City and beyond.

The office floor is in-between and acts as a buffer.

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What problems or challenges did you face?

The biggest challenge was providing three different uses (factory, residential, office) under one roof. This presented problems relating to servicing, acoustics and fire strategy- which the team overcame.

Another challenge was that we could not erect scaffold around the building in the lead up to, and during the Olympics due to it's location.

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What do you feel are the most unusual design elements in the project?

It's less about individual elements and more about the balance between what you keep and expose and what you replace and cover up. We kept as much of the existing concrete structure exposed as we could internally and retained original features such as the steel caged lift, the factory clock and the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers plaques on the facades.

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How do you think this project is pushing design forward - what makes it special?

The client is special and the design responded to their particular needs and culture. There are very few opportunities to design studios, and a factory, for an end user who is also living 'above the shop' in a city like London. The design internally provides a calm and neutral backdrop to the colour and activity of Drake's collections whilst the apartments are all about the huge windows, masses of natural light and beautifully laid oak parquet floors. Sometimes design is about knowing when to stop designing, making room for our client's activities, products and people to be the heroes.

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Main suppliers:


Dunlop factory lights supplied by Trainspotters.com


Oiled oak parquet supplied by Havwoods


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