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In 2015, Squire and Partners, a large architectural practice in London, purchased a dilapidated Edwardian department store in Brixton, London. The department store was to be the new offices for the 220 staff members of Squire and Partners.
Squire and Partners approached us to build a new oak framed roof top area on top of the existing three storey department store in central London.
As you might expect, this was not a straightforward or a conventional project – building on top of a three storey building came with complications, but nothing we couldn’t overcome!
We used a crawler crane that was dismantled, hoisted up to the roof and put back together again. The 50 tonnes of oak that was used in the project was also hoisted onto the roof. In busy London, this was no mean feat!
The new roof top space on the fourth floor, provides a wonderful social space which includes a bar, lounge and dining area which opens out onto a landscaped roof top terrace.
The rest of the building provides an incredible backdrop to the work of Squire and Partners, with layers of history on the walls and the original steel frame left exposed.
“The original decorated frame of The Department Store was used as the inspiration for the new structure, which was purer in form and had a natural beauty and clarity.
The beams and coffers of the typical floors were replicated but allowed to reach to for the sky as lanterns, creating a village of naturally lit spaces housing multiple functions including a bar, dining room, lounge and kitchen.
Green oak was used in place of steel due to its sustainable characteristics but also its natural live quality, which complimented the age and character of The Department Store. The fact that the oak was French, created a further link between the original Bon Marche stores in Paris and London.”Tim Gledstone - Squire and Partners
Upon opening, the building claimed not only to be the first purpose-built department store in the UK, but also the first steel frame building. In 1926, the business was absorbed by Selfridges, before being bought up by the John Lewis Partnership in 1940 and was also used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War.
Continuing to trade under the Bon Marche name right up until 1975, the building slowly declined until being declared 'derelict' in 1981. Following investment by British American Tobacco, the building gained a new lease of life in the late '80s, helping to kickstart the regeneration of Brixton Town Centre.
“Working with Carpenter Oak was a fantastic example of working with true craftspeople who have mastered generations of skills working with timber. A series of dynamic creative workshops and project visits, a highlight being the trip to the managed forest in France to meet the woodland and timber teams, was a brilliant way for us to understand the full process.”Tim Gledstone - Squire and Partners
All photography by James Jones
“The top floor acts as a showcase for guests of Squire and Partners as well as members of the new Upstairs restaurant and bar, and is a celebration of how sustainable materials can be used to create a beautiful new structure born from respect for traditions and craftsmanship..”Tim Gledstone - Squire and Partners