Architect Hawkins\Brown had the unenviable task of reinventing the structure as an attractive commercial office block and the central focus of the £100m redevelopment of the Media Centre site. Known as Here East, it includes the former press centre and the former media conference room. Developer iCITY, a joint venture between real estate investor Delancey, and data centre operator Infinity SDC, wanted to fill the scheme with a mix of tech firms and small-scale artists and creatives, many from the local area, as part of the wider regeneration of the region.
The architect created the simple concept of a ‘crust’ and a ‘core’ to break down the building’s bulk. A 16m-deep perimeter crust aims to maximise daylight, ventilation and views, with the existing cladding stripped off and replaced with a double glazed unitised curtain walling system. The crust surrounds a central core, containing spaces for tenants needing no natural light, such as the Infinity data centre and UCL’s Bartlett School and departments of engineering and robotics.
Around 3,000 unique panels of unitised glazed curtain walling, weighing a total 450 tonnes, cover the south, west and east elevations, and are key to adding visual excitement and breaking the facade down into readable sections. The glass is printed with a complex digital frit pattern, made up of over eight million ceramic dots, and dots-within-dots, which cascade diagonally across the facades at different angles, creating a comic-like effect reminiscent of works by the artist Roy Lichtenstein.
With over half of the curtain walling now installed, Here East is already a vast improvement on the generic white blob it replaces. In different lights and at different times of year the cladding creates different effects: the early morning sun creates a crisp contrast between white spots and a black background, and at dusk the effect is reversed as backlight from the building’s interior casts the spots in shadow.
“Our brief was to take this big box and make it vibrant and attractive to the creative sector. Hackney Wick has the highest density of fine artists in Europe, and there is the huge east London tech scene to tap into. The original design just wasn’t delivering what we wanted, we needed a creative injection, so we went out to design competition and Hawkins\Brown came up with a great proposal.”
Richard Palmer, Project Director at Delancey