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22 Handyside Street, Camden

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Coffey Architects used technical constraints including Grade I-listed tunnels beneath its 2024 RIBA London Award-winning office as a springboard for inventiveness

22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar

2024 RIBA London Award

22 Handyside Street, Camden
Coffey Architects for Argent
Contract value: Confidential 
GIA: 4,574m2

Sitting over Grade II-listed railway tunnels near King’s Cross Station in London, this three-storey commercial office building imaginatively exploits its technical constraints to achieve a deceptive elegance, both externally and internally. Solar orientation, site perimeter, and an overriding need to minimise building weight due to those tunnels led the architect to a wealth of clever decisions regarding the project’s structure, form, and materials. Using a diagonal grid optimised the lightweight concrete and steel structure, while improving orientation both for views and heat gain. It also enabled the creation of a sawtooth roofline which not only references the industrial context of King’s Cross, but creates a natural landmark on this corner site. The facades deploy embossed and intricately perforated aluminium panels over a variety of transparent, translucent and solid curtain walls, providing a fascinating interplay of dappled light over the facade and within. The project is an excellent example of how to do more with less.

On the jury’s visit, the architect explained how sensitive the tunnels were to weight above them and how this constraint consistently informed its choices, bringing rigour to its development of the structural system, grid, materials and form.

  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
1234

The building sits on a corner site on the eastern edge of the King’s Cross estate, forming both a gateway and a landmark facing principally south and east. It fills the site with the exception of a narrow but important area of soft landscaping on the eastern frontage. Its three floors are accessed by a central stair, and its ancillary core is positioned against the northern back, which itself abuts another new building. The non-rectangular column grid is deployed with care, using its particularities to create an exciting pitch roofline which is carefully calculated to create a high point at the important corner.

Although toplit, the internal staircase is finished in dark materials, such as Valchromat MDF panels, to exploit the contrast with the splendidly lit floor plates. Working from a limited and – critically – weight-driven palette of relatively simple build-ups, the design uses a combination of solid, translucent and transparent curtain wall panels. The dappled sunlight effect created by the CNC-cut perforated thin aluminium panels is simple but impressive. Together with the vaults of the pitched roofs, it creates a kind of space one rarely finds in commercial office developments.

Achieving BREEAM Outstanding, the building adopts a holistic approach to sustainability, including design, management and operation. High levels of insulation and airtightness, optimal orientation and proportioning of glazing to solid and perforated panels, daylight penetration and efficient ventilation, cooling, lighting and plant systems are all deployed together. The building also relies on roof-mounted photovoltaic cells, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and the broader King’s Cross low-carbon district energy system.

  • 22 Handyside Street. Brendan Bell
    22 Handyside Street. Brendan Bell
  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
  • 22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
    22 Handyside Street. Tim Soar
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Despite a number of constraints which could have completely damped down the spirit of this building, the jury was impressed with the way that the client, architect and design team had used them as a springboard for ingenuity, creating an unusual but uplifting project.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor BAM
Structural engineer Arup
Environmental/M&E engineers E3, Sweco
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Faithful & Gould
Landscape architect Townshend Landscape Architects
Acoustic engineer Ion Acoustics

 

Credit: Coffey Architects
Credit: Coffey Architects
Credit: Coffey Architects
Credit: Coffey Architects
Credit: Coffey Architects

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