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23 Jun 2015

Sheppard Robson tackles tricky site in Clerkenwell hub

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Sheppard Robson has released plans for a mixed-use building based on a “very challenging site”.

The architects were presented with a long, narrow, sloping site that sits above a tube tunnel and needed a design that blended both with the corporate offices on one side and the low-rise, historical buildings on Rosebery Avenue.

It is located on Farringdon Road, which experiences heavy traffic and, despite views across what are possibly the only attractive railway tracks in London, is the ‘ugly sister’ to central Clerkenwell.

Seemingly unfazed by these issues, Sheppard Robson partner Dan Burr said: “In central London, you are going to complex sites; there’s no simple solution and if you think there is you’re not trying hard enough.”

Sheppard Robson took unlikely inspiration from tenement blocks built on the road in 1872 and demolished in 1976 after being unfit and a risk to its inhabitants.

“The tenements handled the site well,” Burr said. “It was on quite a grand scale and taller than the car park that used to sit on the awkward plot.”

The proposed new building will comprise 3,900sq m of office space for SMEs; a 170-bedroom ‘hub’ hotel; and retail space at the ground level. With the latter, it aims to emulate the vibrancy of nearby Exmouth Market.

Sheppard Robson has proposed a series of conjoined blocks, four for the hotel and two for offices. This allowed the architect to design a stepped structure that decreases in height as it climbs the hill with fewer storeys at the Rosebery Avenue end that wouldn’t dwarf the adjoining buildings.

A lightweight steel frame was required because of the railway beneath and the façade reiterates this. It forms concertinaed metal and glass pleats, interspersing copper-coloured bays with a zinc-treated material.

“The retail and coffee shops on the ground floor will meet the needs of the office staff,” said Burr.

“The adjoining hotel provides value accommodation for flexible workers that are only in the office two days a week, as well offering a convenient option for those visiting the nearby Sadler’s Wells Theatre.”

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