Reclaimed timber from an old RAF hangar turns Given London’s HQ into a weathered, tactile space with a nod to the domestic
When Given London’s David Hawksworth wanted to move offices, he phoned a friend. Hawksworth co-founded the sustainability and communications agency with Becky Willan in 2009, and the business had been operating out of a shared office space above a pub on Clerkenwell’s Great Sutton Street.
When the firm was ready to take on its own space, though, Hawksworth got in touch with old school friend Sam Selencky, co-founder of fledgling architecture firm Selencky Parsons. Selencky, who was previously at Patel Taylor, and his partner David Parsons, formerly at Arup, were briefed to transform an uninspiring 110sq m open-plan spec office on nearby Central Street into “a stimulating yet comfortable environment which would engender a social, dynamic studio atmosphere”, say the architects.
The duo created a layout reminiscent of a home, with multi-functional zones loosely representing a threshold and lobby, studio space, a kitchen and a living room-like meeting space, with the kitchen and meeting space occupying opposite ends of the room. To define these zones, the architects came up with what they describe as a “large-scale device which works as a piece of inhabitable, folding furniture and stands free of the walls and ceiling”. It comprises partitioning and flooring made from wood reclaimed from an old Royal Air Force hangar, the timber-clad volumes sitting lightly in the space, not reaching the ceiling. “We wanted texture and nothing too pristine,” says Selencky of the choice of material.
On one wall of the freestanding pod, which creates the kitchen, the wide planks have been cut into smaller strips, “to make it look as if they are extruded from the floor”. The ruggedness of the timber contrasts with the white ceiling and walls, and the vinyl walkway, also in white, that defines the periphery from one end of the room to the other. Together, these floors are a far cry from the bland laminate that was here originally. Similarly the original “cheap and nasty bare fluorescent tubes” that Selencky describes have been replaced by Plumen 001 bulbs on a meandering network of red flexes.
“The lights run off the walls and across the ceiling rather than on to the walls,” he adds, a feature that fulfils both budgetary and aesthetic requirements. “We did that partially because it was cost-effective and also because it works well that everything touches the wall quite lightly.” In keeping with this light touch, the white desks, supported by chunky timber legs, extend from the walls.
” Timber and white vinyl floors are a far cry from the bland laminate that was here originally “
The meeting room has been given a ‘hearth’ in the form of a partially inset white wall, which is used for display and digital conferences. Staying true to the domestic theme, the space has been furnished with vintage items sourced by Given London’s founders, including a Lamino easy chair and footstool and an Ercol rocking chair.
In the kitchen, a timber hatch can be lowered to shut the room off. The zinc-topped table, sourced from Quirky Interiors, was chosen “because it has a nice rich texture to it which isn’t too pristine, and will get more character as it is used,” says Selencky. When they’re not eating at the table, staff use it for working at or for informal meetings. The grey Rorschach-style wallpaper used in the lobby and kitchen was commissioned from young designer Lauren Summers, who now works as a print designer for textile organisation Eyefix.
Around the side of the kitchen is a ‘hidden’ door to the toilet. Showing a commitment to the firm’s sustainability ethos, the timber continues to work hard – leftover pieces were used to hide the cistern. And it’s not just the timber that’s made to pull its weight: the lobby houses a hot-desking position for visiting consultants and video editors, as well as storage for coats. Square porthole-like cut-outs in the lobby wall facing the desks help to maintain the sightlines from one zone to the next. Selencky Parsons’ interior is yet another inspiring example of how small budgets can encourage creative results. Given London’s HQ feels like a comfortable, well-functioning home as much as a place of work.