Cocoa Studios is a new commercial building at the heart of The Biscuit Factory, a bustling business centre on the former Peek Freans Biscuit Town site in Bermondsey, London. Architectural practice Allford Hall Monaghan Morris’s (AHMM) approach to the scheme referenced the historic warehouses of the area: narrow proportioned brick buildings with large-recessed openings and fine detailing. To achieve this design vision, Vandersanden’s 65mm Herning facing brick was chosen as an integral element of the building’s design.
For 123 years, biscuits, such as the Garibaldi and the Bourbon, were manufactured in the Victorian factories on the site, which now consists of new build and refurbished buildings occupied by start-up businesses and small and medium enterprise businesses. The six-storey Cocoa Studios is L-shaped in plan and adjoins an existing building, completing an urban block and providing a new landscaped courtyard at its centre.
AHMM examined the various options for the facade with building materials distributor EH Smith to ensure colour and texture requirements were met; it was also essential that the brick worked with a smaller than usual joint profile of 7.5mm. To achieve the batching measurements required when setting the building out, Vandersanden produced the bricks in a single firing to ensure the best possible consistency from the clay product.
“We chose Vandersanden’s Herning brick because of its texture and variety of tones and colours. These complement its context while bringing its own distinct identity, helping add variety, interest and joy to the simple, well-proportioned volumes of the building,” explains Lon Luc, senior architect at AHMM. “The richness and depth of the appearance of the brick are especially apparent on the larger double height expanses of brick within the entrance hall interior that helps to emphasise the delightfulness of the space.”
The dark brown-purple-blue multi-coloured Herning bricks define the building’s facade which is divided by deep vertical slots into a series of wide brick bays that follow the rhythm of the connected buildings. Within these slots are expansive window openings that are a minimum of one and a half bricks deep, with the heads and cill units produced using specials. The ground and first floor levels are delineated with a hand-laid, expressed brick-bond of soldiers, alternated with flush and projecting headers on a single course that are then stack bonded. From the second floor up, an uncomplicated stretcher bond emphasises the solidity and proportions of the bays; a recessed mortar joint adds a further delicate grain.
“The facade detailing subtlety echoes the variety of brick patterns of the neighbouring Victorian architecture and follows the care and attention to detail of Peek Freans’ original design and engineering in a contemporary manner,” explains Lon Luc. “Every detail was carefully co-ordinated with the brickwork contractor, Grangewood Brickwork Services, and Vandersanden, along with EH Smith; the process included several pre-production visits to Vandersanden’s factory. The brick's quality, appearance and versatility contributed greatly to the aesthetic success of the project.”
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