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Bespoke storage units on the ground floor can be wheeled around, repositioned and reconfigured Rotating window displays draw passing creatives in from Rivington Street Customised stacked storage system with wipeboard covers The work surface extends into an archway entrance to the core office space The meeting table, with jagged jaw teeth, can be pushed out of the warehouse window to overhang Rivington Street
20 Aug 2009

YCN's offices by Klassnik Corporation

Words by  Photo by Guy Archard
  • Architect: Klassnik Corporation
  • Client: YCN
  • Location: London, UK
  • Cost: Undisclosed
  • Duration: November 2008 - April 2009
  • Floor Space: 210 sq m

Klassnik Corporation was best known for its architectural ideas and research until an encounter with creative agency YCN gave way to a commission which led it to design the ultimate multifunctional office space

72 Rivington Street, until last summer, was a slightly neglected portfolio maker’s warehouse in the heart of Shoreditch, facing on to the slick and established Rivington Place art venue.

This summer the space has been converted by the creative agency YCN, to become the new base for its administration, as well as a studio for freelance contributors and collaborators, and an exhibition-cum-library space to draw in the public. “It was a quite conscious decision to design the ground floor to lure people in off the street,” lead designer on the project Tomas Klassnik explains. “Cutting through the heart of Shoreditch, Rivington Street is a guaranteed thoroughfare for creative, and sometimes crazy people.”

YCN director Nick Defty turned to architecture and research company Klassnik Corporation to design the project, who in turn, got members of Okay Studio, a contingent of RCA design products alumni, to install and build it.

“Working with OKAY, you know you can push the boat out that bit further,” says Klassnik. “There are none of the usual designer maker barriers, the process is more of a discussion.” The narrow, but deep, three storey build, which backs on to a small patch of leafy space in the otherwise industrial backyard of Shoreditch High Street, will soon boast a roof garden to boot.

The publicly accessible ground floor is currently a magazine library designed with the potential to become other things, Klassnik explains. He points to the use of lockable casters on the storage/display units. These mean that the units can be repositioned and reconfigured, or fixed together in their original jigsaw formation under an over-arching black chalkboard that the graphic designers use to advertise what’s on in the gallery. 

This is where the collaborative effort of product, architectural and graphic designers comes into its own; one cupboard wheels out in the shape of an arrow “and can be dragged onto the street to signpost the shop,” Klassnik explains. At the moment another is a being used as a platform for Brighton graduate Kyle Bean’s degree show work Mobile Evolution, which features a row of oversized model mobile phones that slot inside one another like Russian dolls. Another two stepped units can be used as part time plinths for exhibition pieces, or as staggered seats should the space be used as a film screening auditorium. A larger component, when pulled out, divides up the space for different users. There is a built in reception desk, which can be spun around, to become the public-facing entrance of the room. Neat and clever, the painted white mdf designs are not fussy or imposing within the small, clean, poured-concrete floored space.

“There are none of the usual designer maker barriers, the process is more of a discussion”

Rob Thurling, carpenter and designer of Shroud Me, Peter Marigold and Oscar Narud of Okay Studio all had a hand in both the permanent and the flexible structures.

An acrylic mirror dissolves the mass of the wall by the entrance and gives way to the staircase that leads up to YCN’s office on the first floor. A great influx of design entries for the open competitions that the organisation runs throughout the year meant a flexible admin system was essential for this space, Klassnik explains.

A continuous grey plywood ribbon of a desk by Narud and Marigold provides a horizontal work surface that extends into vertical archway entrance into the office space; “we wanted to create thresholds between different workspaces, without putting up walls,” Klassnik explains. The desking system, built from plywood, has Bisley metal systems inserted into it at different heights and odd angles, and bespoke shelves to accommodate notes, invites and reminders.

A storage system resembling a stacked up pile of irregular size cardboard boxes fills one wall, creating a hybrid between art installation and filing system. Wipe-board acrylic covers are attached so as the contents of the box changes, you can write/scrawl a label on it accordingly, a system that fits the rotating schedule of competitions and in-house designers.

“We noticed in the last building (a much smaller space on Cannon Street) a whole host of post-its, Polaroids and notices plastered to the wall,” Klassnik explains. He accommodates this with a large sliding whiteboard that moves along the back wall bookcase, which can also be used to cover up anything confidential.

Owing to its previous life as a warehouse, the first floor has doors that open onto the street. The meeting table that occupies the front half of the space is another bespoke mdf piece, with jagged jaw teeth cut into one end. “We push that end of the meeting table out through the windows, so it hangs over Rivington Street,” Klassnik says; a coy ploy to grab people’s attention.

Right across the street is David Adjaye’s Rivington Place, a new-build public gallery and exhibition space completed two years ago, “good competition” Klassnik remarks, “on a different scale.”

Another floor up a more homely working environment presides. “Whichever designers are in residence can work from here,” explains Klassnik. “It has been a productive and accommodating space.” The meeting table, in the shape of a giant star, where different parties collaborate, has sections that can be wheeled apart. “Defty was clear in his brief that he wanted designers to come together and work in the space, both together, and individually.” A sliding panel chalkboard can, accordingly, divide or unite the floor. An opening in the ceiling marks the spot where the stairs to the roof garden will appear in the final phase of the project.

As well as a workplace, the site provides a space for YCN designers to invite clients, including BT, Orange, BBC, Sunday Times and Skype. Some work is the result of YCN-run competitions, the rest is commissioned.

When creating a graphic identity for the building, YCN chose to brand it by location rather than company so it could exist as an independent entity, where other people could come to to work. They turned to creative consultants Eat Sleep Work/Play to turn the address, 72 Rivington Street, into a moniker and logo. The graphic, based on the physical plan of the building’s three floors, appears on bags, web pages, and some limited addition posters; what more could you expect from the graphic identity of a design company?

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