Stripping the dilapidated Edwardian department store back to its raw state revealed a decayed grandeur and an extraordinary commitment to craft by the original artisans of the day, which inform Squire and Partner's new Brixton headquarters.
In summer 2017 architects Squire and Partners moved their 220 staff to a new home in Brixton, London. Having purchased a dilapidated Edwardian department store two years previously, the practice entirely reimagined the space allowing the existing fabric and layers of history to inform the new design. Collaborating with craftspeople and furniture makers, the restored and extended building provides an exciting array of work and event spaces for the various design disciplines within the practice.
Approaching the design the architects allowed the narrative and history of the existing building to guide the process. Stripping the building back to its raw state revealed a decayed grandeur and an extraordinary commitment to craft and detail by the original artisans of the day and many of these elements have been kept. On the exterior e.g. incrementally added shop fronts and layers of paint were removed to reveal original brickwork, stone, marble and terracotta. Inside invaluable elements such as original 111 year old mahogany and teak parquet flooring, a grand tiled central staircase, a series of cast iron radiators and a remarkable patina of colors have been preserved.
The Department Store represents the exceptionally successful union between a grand nineteenth-century building and a contemporary creative company – with layout and furnishings elegantly matching the beauty of the original architecture.
The classic department store architecture characterized by expansive rooms on all floors has been preserved – with views of the open spaces from reception. The furniture includes Kaare Klint's Addition Sofa upholstered in custom Moore & Giles green leather, Wegner's CH163 sofa in black leather and CH22 lounge chair with a seat of black paper cord. The rust-colored Window Diamond rug by Laguna features a bespoke pattern based on existing windows in The Department Store, designed by Squire and Partners.
The CH88 chair – in a special edition with applied color stain – has been used as a conference and meeting room chair throughout the building, for example on the second floor where the graphically stringent chair perfectly matches the original mahogany parquet flooring from 1906. CH88 is also found on the first floor where the chair enters into an interesting dialogue with a contemporary installation – a structural diagram of the glazed dome on the rooftop – made with black electrical tape and designed by Squire and Partners. Morten Gøttler's flexible folding chair with its seat and back made of cotton webbing next to a Corbusier sofa table constitutes one of the many informal meeting places in the building.
On discovering the former Bon Marche furnishings building in Brixton, we fell in love with the idea of collaborating with furniture makers who were producing pieces during the lifespan of the building, and who shared our values of craft and materiality.
"We see our collaboration with Carl Hansen & Søn at The Department Store as an ongoing relationship with a view to keeping the collective alive as an evolving showcase for the art of furniture design.’’
Tim Gledstone, partner in Squire and Partners about their choice of Carl Hansen & Søn furniture:
The redevelopment of The Department Store is a celebration of art and making, and we felt that the ethos of Carl Hansen & Søn resonated with our approach to heritage and the handmade, as well as design which reflects modern digital craft.
Working closely with Carl Hansen & Søn throughout the design process, we were able to curate a furniture collection which inspires and delights visitors, and creates a dialogue between masters and apprentices from the great Hans J. Wegner and Kaare Klint in Denmark to Maruni in Japan.
During the course of several visits to Denmark, bespoke pieces were commissioned with special permission from the Wegner family, and a limited edition brass plaque was introduced to mark the collection."
The Department Store gallery
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When you choose a Carl Hansen & Søn product, you gain more than just a piece of furniture. You become part of a proud tradition of distinctive and beautiful craftsmanship, where nothing has been left to chance. The world’s largest manufacturer of furniture designed by Hans J. Wegner, we also produce works by renowned design masters such as Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, Ole Wanscher, Kaare Klint, Poul Kjærholm, Bodil Kjær and Tadao Ando. Carl Hansen & Søn represents over 100 years of Danish design history and our furniture is sold all over the world.