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The Industrial Revolution inspires Coalbrook’s new showroom by Holloway Li

Holloway Li unveil The Market Building: an experience-led showroom and coworking space in Clerkenwell inspired by the lost forms of the Industrial Revolution.

12/01/2022 2 min read

The former warehouse space has been reinvented for bathroom brand Coalbrook, which takes its name from the town of Coalbrookdale in the Midlands – the site of the world’s first iron bridge and cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Responding to Coalbrook’s design identity, designers Holloway Li researched the history of industrial forms and processes to create a unique design that evokes industrial forms and materiality.

Blurring the boundary between historicism, decoration and digital process, Holloway Li worked closely with a network of master craftspeople to subvert the materiality of these industrial backdrops, avoiding traditional expectations of a showroom to form a surreal internal landscape, designed around a series of industrial ‘casts’ used to display working products.

The ground floor is designed to ‘appear like a landscape of industrial chimneys,’ with resin casts of Victorian bathroom wall panels created in close collaboration with a company who typically make moulded interiors for London buses. Holloway Li modelled the traditional form of a Victorian bathroom digitally, which was then cast in amber and red resin.

‘The traditional form of the cast (with decorative cornice and moulding detailing, cast tiles and a sash window) is subverted by the materiality of the resin, which appears almost liquid,’ comments Alex Holloway, Creative Director at Holloway Li. ‘The resin ‘dematerialises’ the form of the cast, at points appearing crystalline, ethereal or fluid depending on the viewer’s position and angle of light.’

Highly specialised elements in the showroom were brought to life through a series of collaborations between the designers and a network of master craftspeople – working with client subsidiary brands Bard & Brazier to design display units fabricated from brass tubing, and with Bard & Blackwood on bespoke joinery.

The Basement is a darker, dramatic space evoking the atmosphere of a subterranean engine room; occupied by two oversized industrial ‘boilers’ and wall panels moulded from cast iron which act as the backdrop for working Coalbrook shower displays.

The ‘chimneys’ and ‘boilers’ in the gallery spaces were fabricated by an emerging metalwork studio based in South London, following research into traditional connection details and surface finishes. Each item was modelled digitally and separated into a kit-of-parts which could be laser cut for assembly.

A collaboration with a stonemason near Stamford brought to life a post-tensioned solid stone staircase with a rough quarried edge, cut off-site from a single block of limestone and then chiselled on site.

The coworking spaces are available to London’s design community, with a bright ‘Library ‘space designed around a blue colour palette, with bespoke joinery by client subsidiary brand Bard & Blackwood. Brass tubing typically used to make towel rails by client subsidiary brand Bard & Brazier were used to fabricate magnetic display boards.

The Market Building houses Holloway Li’s own studio, with other collaborators-in-residence exhibiting including Danish furniture supplier Menu, lighting manufacturer Phos and The Stonemasonry Company.

Photography: Nicholas Worley

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