Light-touch environmental retrofit of a 1920s former shoe factory for affordable workspace for artists, designers and makers.
Address: Deborah House, Retreat Place Hackney London E9 6RJ
Architect: Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Client: Space (Art Services Grants Ltd)
Contractor: BRAC Contracts
About the project
Deborah House Studios is part of a series of recently completed buildings for Hackney-based creative arts charity SPACE. This light-touch environmental retrofit of a 1920s former shoe factory provides 2,300 sq.m of affordable workspace to artists, designers and makers, and preserves a piece of the rich character and identity of East London that is increasingly being lost to residential conversion.
The new design takes inspiration from, rather than replicating, the existing building and its post-war residential surroundings. The most noticeable intervention is a new façade of external insulation and galvanised embossed steel profile cladding, inspired by the building's geometric grid and industrial heritage. The cladding protects existing brickwork, which had irreversibly decayed in many places, and improves the building's thermal efficiency to enable its comfortable use throughout the year. While this new 'skin' gives Deborah House Studios a contemporary new identity, strategically arranged cut-throughs beside the main entrances reveal areas of brickwork and the building's original texture and tone.
New large-pane windows made of innovative and environmentally friendly GRP pierce the cladding, expressing the existing building's simple geometry and filling the studios with plentiful natural light. Above, a new roof extension providing 13 additional studios in place of a dilapidated factory roof, and continues the building's simple aesthetic. A new 400 sq.m biodiverse living roof provides a wildlife habitat and reduces storm water run-off.