55 Leroy Street

A reuse and retrofit approach to support our collaborative and social studio culture

Distant oblique view of 55 Leroy Street from Tower Bridge Road.

Sitting off an arterial high street in Bermondsey, our retrofit commercial scheme responds to the area’s historical industrial context and provides purpose-built creative workspace for our growing practice.

The original three-storey warehouse dates from the end of the 19th Century, constructed during the area’s industrial peak amongst leather tanneries, cloth, soap and food processing works. In recent years, the building retained its commercial use but fell into a state of disrepair. Following a reuse and retrofit approach in line with our agenda for sustainability and context-driven design, we chose to sensitively repair and optimise the existing building over demolition.

Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1801
Historic map of the area around Leroy Street in 1870
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1890
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1910
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1950
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1970
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1801
Rural outskirts and fields surround Old Kent Road
Historic map of the area around Leroy Street in 1870
With the arrival of railways, Bermondsey is rapidly built up over the 19th century
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1890
The existing building at 55 Leroy Street is first constructed during the area’s industrial peak amongst leather tanneries, cloth, soap and food processing works
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1910
The economic shift in Bermondsey by the turn of the century is reflected in the closure of local tannery and leather works, becoming increasingly densely populated
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1950
Industrial activity moved out of the area during the early 20th Century and heavy bombing during WW2 that cleared large areas of Victorian urban fabric, which was replaced by housing estates including the Creasy Estate to the rear of the site
Historic map showing the area around Leroy Street in 1970
Car-centric urban planning saw the destruction of a large area for the oversized Bricklayer’s Arms roundabout and flyover from Old Kent Road

It feels as though the project has amplified the bones of the original building in a contemporary take.

Rob Wilson, Architects’ Journal
Front elevation of our project at 55 Leroy Street.
Front elevation of our project at 55 Leroy Street.
The crisp upper volume works together with a textured existing base to make a bold new building
The crisp upper volume works together with a textured existing base to make a bold new building
Massing development at planning
Massing development at planning
The original red brick is revealed under black cladding panels
An existing external alcove at street level has been retained
Blackened steel handrails are simply fixed to exposed brick
The original red brick is revealed under black cladding panels
An existing external alcove at street level has been retained
Blackened steel handrails are simply fixed to exposed brick

Our approach has locked in value within the existing building, delivering high-quality workspace to a tight budget and programme. By demonstrating what can be done with otherwise overlooked existing buildings, this scheme challenges the common cycle of disrepair, demolition and redevelopment.

During strip out, we revealed the original brick under poor-quality black cladding; a discovery that informed a significant design change as we chose to celebrate its striking red colour. The original structure was restored where needed, and the ad hoc top floor volume was replaced and extended with matching brick to form a cohesive, bold building with street presence and a confident new identity. Internally, the original structure is highlighted through red accents set against a pared-back palette of white and bespoke birch plywood joinery.

The existing building at 55 Leroy Street
Before
The existing building at 55 Leroy Street
After
A variety of work settings are provided
A communal kitchen acts as the point of arrival on the top floor
Varied perspectives: a flank window offers visual relief and a view of the city

The architecture now positively contributes to its immediate context and provides four floors of commercial office space ­– three of which are used by Gort Scott, with lettable space at ground floor. The open plan layout promotes a collaborative and social studio culture and ensures the building can be easily adapted for future working patterns. The dual-aspect spaces now receive light throughout the day and fantastic long-range views across the city. A glazed frontage at street level improves security through visible activity and passive surveillance.

The large table adjoining the top floor kitchen enables weekly communal lunches
The large table adjoining the top floor kitchen enables weekly communal lunches
The large table adjoining the top floor kitchen enables weekly communal lunches
The open plan spaces are used flexibly and easily reconfigured
Close-up view of the refurbished red brick façade contrasting with an adjacent building

Further information

Data

Location
Bermondsey, London
Project type
Workplace and learning, Heritage and adaptation
Status
Completed 2018
Floor area
469m2

Credits

Gort Scott Team
Jay Gort, Fiona Scott, Wai-Piu Wong, Joe Mac Mahon, Alex Surguladze, Paul Wild
Collaborators
Appleyard & Trew (QS), engineersHRW (structures), OR Consulting (building services), Rights of Light Consulting (daylight and sunlight), Shore Engineering (approved inspector)
Photographer
David Grandorge Jim Stephenson
Video
Jim Stephenson

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