A derelict brutalist building becomes east London’s newest creative hub
Up-and-coming London architects SODA have turned 50,000 square feet of derelict brutalism into a magnet for creatives. Built by Irish architects Munce & Kennedy in 1964, the Silver Building in the capital’s Royal Docks was formerly a brewery. Its reincarnation is the brainchild of Nick Hartwright, a social entrepreneur who sets up affordable workspaces for businesses, artists, designers and creative SMEs around London.
Two of the Silver Building’s biggest spaces are occupied by Block9, set designers for Banksy, Lana Del Rey and Gorillaz, and award-winning young fashion designer Craig Green. Part-funded by the GLA’s London Regeneration Fund, the Silver Building – whose closest neighbour is a flyover – will only appeal to those who embrace the industrial aesthetic and gritty surroundings.
‘It had been squatted and was riddled with asbestos,’ says SODA director Russell Potter, ‘so as we peeled back the building’s layers. Then it was about having a light touch and focusing on the key spaces.’ That light touch included exposing ceilings, getting rid of some partition walls, cleaning up the existing light fittings, and retaining the terrazzo stair and parquet flooring.
The main entrance opens on to a reception and café area, whose bar is formed of chunky concrete slabs. Block9’s 5,500 square foot workshop is next door. Upstairs, a mezzanine level doubles as a gallery and event space, and the architects punched two windows in an internal wall, to let light in and offer views of Block9’s industrial-scale creativity.
Most of the 34 studios are housed in a long corridor on the first floor. These raw rooms sit behind Carlsberg’s original hardwood office doors, and many have views over Emirate’s Air Line cable car nearby.
As a so-called Meanwhile Space, the Silver Building has a seven-year lease. After that, Hartwright’s intention is for the building’s tenants to inform the flavour of the area’s future redevelopment, which will include 200,000 square foot of workspace as well as 5,500 new homes.