Oliver Marlow, creative director at Tilt, explains how the studio translated the co-working concept for the old Patent Office in the heart of the London law-court district to suit barristers and legal professionals.
Studio Tilt has reimagined the co-working concept for the old Patent Office on Chancery Lane, in the heart of London’s law-court district, to meet the needs of legal professionals.
The disused Victorian building – renamed 1 Quality Court – has been redeveloped by flexible office company Club Workspace to provide co-working space alongside more traditional office units. The latter, however, have been infused with a collaborative spirit through addition of communal areas in the atrium and lobby.
Club Chancery Lane
The co-working space looks onto a café at the base of the atrium. Tilt reinstated window joinery used when the atrium was an open-air structure. This helps to demarcate the two areas, creating a feeling of being ‘inside’ or ‘outside’.
Oliver Marlow, Tilt’s creative director, explains that Club Workspace wanted to maintain the atmosphere of its other co-working branches, but introduce a more polished look to reflect the Chancery Lane clientele of legal and finance professionals.
A simple colour palette was adopted, while built-in desks and workbenches, topped with Anglepoise lamps, have been interspersed with sleek designs by the likes of Hay, Arper and Carl Hansen. Original columns, discovered when the building was stripped out, have been painted a slick black and lend an air of grandeur to the space.
The minimalist, glass-fronted meeting rooms contain just a single black table and chairs. Broad pendant lights from Northern Lighting cast a heavy glow on the table surface. For some reason, these call to mind a seriously stylish, monochrome police-interrogation rooms – perhaps a fitting environment for legal briefings. Elsewhere, there’s more than enough flourish to dispel notions of fusty old barristers, polished pine and red-leather armchairs.
Built-in bookcases in the library area have been cut on an angle to create a shallow zigzag effect rather than a standard oblong. They feature vertical openings and slots for storage rather than shelves designed to actually hold books. Incorporated window seats encourage users to lounge about, while clip-on task lights by Gras loom overhead.
Then there’s the ‘Quiet’ chairs, cocoons shaped like the top end of a Chess knave, which Tilt initially developed for NHS waiting rooms. From this Tilt has created ‘Call’ booths, essentially the Quiet chair sliced in half to provide the requisite privacy.
An inclusive environment
To extend the collaborative vibe to the rest of the building, Tilt transformed the lobby and atrium into vibrant communal areas where the office workers can also interact.
“The atrium used to be an empty thoroughfare,” says Marlow. “But we didn’t want it to a dead zone or traditional reception.”
Tilt removed a number of partition walls from the lobby to create a more fluid entrance sequence. The main access – an elaborate Victorian entrance set in a mews courtyard – leads into the widened lobby that flows through into the atrium. The cohesive design helps to further unify the various spaces.
“A succession of pendant lights pulls you into the main room where they form a 30m installation,” says Marlow. The pendant cords reach up five storeys between the walkways that lead to the office units.
Bold graphics in black and pale grey with strips of blue emblazon on the lobby walls. These are echoed in a more muted fashion on the far wall of the atrium, where strong diagonals lead the eye up to its full height.
Tilt introduced a café at the base of the atrium, which can now be directly accessed via a spiral staircase – an oblique reference to the building’s Victorian heritage. It creates a strong sweeping motion that contrasts with the wall graphics and awkward, rhomboid shape of the room.
The central coffee bar mirrors the atrium’s shape. Its powder-coated surface features a single tap linked to a concealed coffee machine underneath. This is controlled by a Bluetooth app that can be set to remember how you take your coffee – a gimmick, Marlow says, has gone down “exceptionally well”.