Poplar Works

  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Radu Malasincu
  • © Radu Malasincu
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Radu Malasincu
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Anthony Coleman
  • © Radu Malasincu

Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award

Highly Commended

Region

Greater London

Local Authority Area

Tower Hamlets

Information about this scheme

Poplar Works, a new home for East London’s fashion economy, was delivered by a partnership of housing association Poplar HARCA, London College of Fashion, UAL and social enterprise The Trampery and supported by the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund. It was conceived around the idea that fashion could again become a major part of East London’s social and economic make-up. The project seeds creative industries in anticipation of the Poplar Riverside Housing Zone, providing a blueprint for future approaches to workspace in the local and surrounding areas. 100 disused garages are transformed across two sites into 45 custom-designed, low-cost workshops and studios, a public café and events space, and manufacturing facilities offering enterprise support and training programmes. The sites were challenging; two rows of under-used garages located on narrow strips of land adjacent to the very busy A12, with semi-mature trees and planting established in a rooftop embankment. A large sewer under the length of this site limited new ground works. The building plan follows the linear footprint of the existing garages, which are refurbished to provide ground floor units. New upper floors and roofs are constructed in cross laminated timber equivalent to the weight of accumulated soil, trees and shrubbery removed from the roof of the garages, thus avoiding the need for new foundations. The cranked plan results in a roadside building 170m in length by 5.5m wide, unfolding in a dynamic zigzag, alongside the Blackwall Tunnel approach. Black rubber cladding finishes the super insulated building envelope to the A12, combining with saw-tooth roof lights to create a distinctive and industrial character, emphasized at night by a single running stitch of light along the length of the eave. The elevation to Abbott road becomes an active street frontage of business and creative industry; coloured timber boarding and graphics providing animation, warmth and legibility. At the north end of the site the building height is increased to present a tall elevation and entrance building, accommodating a café and first floor gallery overlooking a 8m high interior. The CLT structure is left exposed throughout, providing a warm interior aesthetic, complementing natural light, whilst other ground floor accommodation is characterised by an industrial language of painted steel structure and existing block-work walls, with carefully composed surface-mounted conduits. Horizontal circulation is external; by way of the street at ground floor and an external steel walkway at first floor, where it is over-clad with timber to reduce overlooking to nearby residents, and provide a degree of privacy to studio users. The project is fully accessible and compliant throughout with a lift located by the stairs, serving the first floor. Works to the existing footway ensure that level thresholds are delivered across the building at ground level, with accessible toilets located across the scheme.

Credits

Architect

Adams & Sutherland

Structural Engineer

Price & Myers

Services Engineer

Freeman Beesley

Landscape Architect

JCLA

Lighting Design

Studio EG

Main Contractor

Niblock

Client

Poplar Harca

Client

Poplar Harca

Primary Use Class

Class B2 - General Industry