Inside the White Collar Factory

A new workspace in Shoreditch, although purpose-built, draws on many of the characteristics of old industrial buildings. It’s no surprise the team behind it developed the iconic Tea Building a stone’s throw away. 

Courier got an early peak into this ambitious new building.

31 Mar 2017

Thousands of people have regularly passed the vast construction site on the south-west corner of Old Street Roundabout over the last three years wondering what it would become. Behind the scaffolding has been one of the most ambitious projects around office space in recent years.

It gained notoriety on a particularly blustery October day in 2013 when the giant beachball that was its early symbol became untethered and bounced around the busy streets.

The property firm, Derwent London, had led the project, spending well over £100m to create what it claims to be one of the most progressive workspace developments anywhere in London, which this September will welcome 3,000 workers when it officially opens.

Derwent worked alongside the architects AHMM and contracting firm Arup. Many in the property world have been watching its development closely.

Tenants already signed up are The Office Group (which will have some co-working spaces inside), Adobe, Compare The Market, Capital One and Brainlabs. Workshop coffee will have a large cafe on the ground floor open to the public and another one for tenants on the rooftop.

The rooftop also features a 150m running track.

Industrial spaces

Derwent’s most famous office project is the Tea Building on Shoreditch High Street, completed in 2003. It applied a light touch treatment to the once-industrial building before letting creative and tech companies loose inside. The approach was transformational in commercial property and arguably a major catalyst in the gentrification of Shoreditch.

Simon Silver, director at Derwent, says: ‘There’s been the biggest transformation on workspaces there has been in decades in the last few years. It’s been driven less by the CEO and more by the youngest and newest people in companies. Talent is a big driver for companies, and the working environment has increasingly been what graduates have prized highly.’

On the back of what it had witnessed at The Tea Building and broader trends, Derwent set out to create a purpose built space inspired by what people valued so much in post-industrial buildings. There was a nod to its riff on the typical re-purposing of heavy industry factories in the building’s name.


Why Shoreditch?

The original plot we was, in fact, on Hampstead Road in Euston. There was a compulsory purchase order as a result of HS2 requiring Derwent to turn its attention to the site by Old Street.

High ceilings

For a sustainable way to keep the building cool, the contractors suggested ceiling heights of 3.5m compared to the more typical 2.7m of most modern offices.

The courtyard

At the back of the building, by Mallow Street, a ground level area with restaurants will be open to the public.

What’s with all the circles?

The lead architect on the project, Simon Allford at AHMM, cited French designer and architect Jean Prouvé as a key inspiration at the early scoping stage of the project.

David Silverman, also a director at Derwent, says: ‘We were totally inspired. We adopted the circles as a recurring theme in the building.’ The designers also took inspiration from Prouvé’s green colour palette.