‘Working on design-led projects with an active and invested client is deeply engaging and rewarding from a design perspective,’ Cassion Castle, Founder of Cassion Castle Architects, reflects. ‘We were blessed with a site that had a lot of existing charm and wonder hidden under the surface, and good enough bones to allow a retrofit rather than a demolition and new-build.
‘Being the architect and main contractor was another luxury, letting us fully probe the potential of the building as we went, reacting and adapting to the complex site as it developed through construction. In the end it was the constraints and complexity of the existing site that made the design fly – adding our own chapter to the history of the building rather than rewriting the story from scratch.’
The responsiveness of this approach meant that architect and designer could work together to reconcile the fabric of the building to Pearson Lloyd’s needs, ensuring the finished workspace was tailor-made for the practice. This has proven especially valuable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as layouts could be easily adapted to accommodate social distancing and more widely distributed working areas for the Pearson Lloyd design team.
When Pearson Lloyd acquired the building, back in 2017, it was (in Luke and Tom’s words) a mess – a haphazard collision of old and new, with a mishmash of overlaid alterations and adaptations that had been made over the decades. Part of the Victorian building had been replaced with a modern utilitarian structure some time in the 1990s, likely in response to a fire, leaving 6,000 sq ft of usable – but uninspiring – space, ill-suited to the needs of a multi-faceted 21st-century design studio operating internationally.
The easiest approach would have been to knock it down and start from scratch, but it was agreed that restoring and retrofitting the building – although much more challenging and architecturally complex – would be a far more sustainable, low-carbon approach, as it would preserve the embodied carbon in the existing structure. On average, between a third and a half of a structure’s carbon emissions are concentrated in the construction phase, so the reuse of a building has significantly less impact than a new-build.