New Co-working area constructed in Birch Plywood fire retarded boards.



Central workbench with integrated central task light amd linoleum worktop.

drawing 2

Perspective view of the co-working space


Timber screen and enclosure to the co-working space



Entrance to the co-working space



Acoustic work booths in the co-working space


drawing 4

Joinery detail drawings of the bespoke bench, desk and table


Workstation bench seating within the co-working space



Joinery detail of the workstation table and bench seating



Entrance to WC and new locker area.


WC cubicle panelling and corridor


Typical WC cubicle and lockers


Typical WC cubicle at The Building Centre


Bespoke folded stainless steel vanity unit


Detail of tiles bedded in the floor render


Curtain column and acoustic wall panelling in the entrance to The Building Centre


Bespoke tables and lighting in the cafe


Bespoke tables and lighting in the cafe


Bar and coffee school in the cafe at The Building Centre


The new servery at The Building Centre

In 2015 Roz Barr Architects were approached by The Building Centre - an organisation based in London dedicated to the promotion of innovation in the built environment - to prepare a feasibility study to ‘re-imagine’ the spaces within the Building to meet the ambitions of this institution.

We saw an opportunity to carry out a series of improvements, to ‘show case’ different materials and products. We contacted companies to use the project as a promotional tool; this collaborative approach celebrated good design and the application of innovative products. Our approach was to create almost an “inhabited display case” where new and innovative products are used within the building refurbishment. The Building Centre works with leading organisations related to the construction industry; a series of discussions were held with relevant companies to use products within each phase to create an ‘active display' of materials, as opposed to the custom exhibition of material samples. It was important in this project that materials were selected for their physical qualities but expressed within a context never applied before.

A new co-working space was created within the context of the existing product gallery to provide a flexible working environment for internal staff, and leased to external companies. Inspired by traditional libraries, the plywood enclosure is open to the gallery space but separated by a timber screen. Plywood panels were used to create a new enclosure, arranged on a grid to work with standard sized sheets. The plywood panels on the ceiling were perforated and backed with sound felt to create a quiet and intimate working environment. Framed areas of plasterboard, set within the panels, are used to project presentations or display work. An inlay of carpet in the plywood floor differentiates a central space to create varied working environments within one open space.

In order to comply with current regulations without compromise, the contemporary detailing uses plywood panels that are impregnated rather than surface finished. This allowed flexibility to modify items on site without compromising the fire rating. ‘Specialised Panel Products’ invested significant resources in developing this product and are unique in using non-toxic finishes.

The refurbishment of the existing toilets was a pressing challenge; the existing vaults under the pavement were stripped out to expose the extent of water ingress. A good example of the application of materials is the use of Ronacrete, a supplier of waterproof renders, within a Public Building, left exposed to form the final wall and floor finish. Tiles were bedded in the floor render; a technique reminiscent of traditional inlaid solid floors.

Valchromat - a leading brand of coloured high fibre board - was the material of choice for the joinery panels to enclose the vaults and form a walled enclosure with public lockers on one side and storage display facing the exhibition gallery. We wanted to showcase the benefits of this material and its diversity for CNC-ing the material by fluting the surface and embossing signage within. Toto supplied energy efficient, state of the art sanitaryware. We designed the vanity and wash hand basin unit as - due to lack of space within each cubicle - we needed the unit to be compact. Access and maintenance of services and sanitary items is incorporated in the design - a single folded sheet of stainless steel with an inset polished sheet to act as a mirror. This was fabricated by CDS group in Essex. We prototyped the unit as a bespoke piece of “product design” that the fabricator was keen to patent and sell as a product for other projects. This innovative approach to the design of this area is an example of how materials can be displayed/showcased in the refurbishment of the existing fabric .

One of the challenges of the brief was phasing the works around an inhabited building. The café, albeit with a new operator,  was originally planned to move to the Store Street elevation but could only remain in its current location due to the upheaval of changing services. As we treated the waterproofing to the vaults as an opportunity to expose a product one normally covers up, here we wanted to explore ways to deal with the problems of “Acoustics “ within the café. A new felt wall was created that could be used for displaying books and journals. A new yellow felt curtain sits like a column at the bottom of the stairs and can close off the café during an event or if the café is set up for an individual dinner. A new servery was designed for the new operator - "The Gentleman Baristas” - and offers a new concrete and waxed steel counter as well as a kitchen for them to prep and serve. The space is lined out in a rectified white porcelain tile which we edged with red grout. This new colour scheme branded the café operator and - as one of London’s top Baristas - they have also opened a small coffee school which completes the space. We designed all the tables where each table is made from a single sheet of laminated birch ply (18 mm Thick Decor-Eco Plywood by Advanced Technical Panels). The chairs were supplied by Fuse and Co and have a clever acoustic baffle on the underside of every seat. We worked with metal fabricators CDS on our design for the new lighting within the café and a separate fitting that will be used throughout the Ground Floor.

All construction work was carried out whilst the building remained open to the public.

Close collaboration with fabricators - keen to display their workmanship in the context of this organisation - has been key to making this project a unique and exemplary piece of original design.

Roz Barr Architects have recently completed a Feasibility Study for the next phase of work as part of the ambition to ‘re-imagine’ The Building Centre. This next phase seeks to address and realise the vision of the future of The Building Centre as a world leading organisation that champions quality in the Built Environment and is active through a world-influencing programme of activities. This phase will involve the re-thinking and refurbishment of all of the public areas on the Ground and Lower Ground levels including a new staircase.


The Co-working Space has been shortlisted for AJ Small Project Award 2017 and the New London Award 2017.


Photographer: John MacLean