A total makeover for a building imbued with a wealth of history earlier this year included a bespoke office floor by Diespeker in the Palladiana style.
22 Berners Street is the latest addition to the stable of flex office specialist, Fora which has locations across London and Reading. Fora’s ethos is to reference the historical stories of the buildings that are being changed – and with Berners Street these were not in short supply.
Berners Street was developed in the mid-18th century; it was named after the developer, William Berners. To begin with, it was a residential area but over the years the street manifested itself as a mixture of mansion blocks of flats, and larger commercial and semi-industrial buildings housing musical instrument makers, furniture makers and film-makers. Amongst the previous residents of number 22 were the Ladies’ Sanitary Association, Women’s Suffrage Movement, Howard & Sons Furniture Makers, International Maritime Organization and the International Coffee Organization.
Although the exterior of the building may not be the most aesthetic, the interior has been transformed into stylish contemporary workspace over eight floors. Responsible for the management and build of the transformation was Oktra, following a brief to create a ‘dynamic, inspiring and collaborative’ workspace.
Each room within the project follows three component rules:
2. bold but enhancing the main focus
3. element of ‘craft’ such as detailing or timber
Diespeker’s contribution came under the ‘bold’ rule with a bespoke floor for the reception area. The brief was for a ‘noisy’ floor – the ‘main event’ for tenants and visitors to the building.
The style of terrazzo is called Palladiana, which offers a stylish, contemporary look – even though it has been in use for many hundreds of years. With its roots in the terrazzo of Ancient Rome, Palladiana uses larger-sized chunks of marble compared to regular terrazzo. It was made popular by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio whose work building villas, palaces and churches in the sixteenth century is still evident today.
Developing the design of the floor towards its final incarnation was an exhaustive process. Oktra considered various options including ceramic terrazzo style tiles before deciding on a bespoke poured floor combining marble chunks and a variety of coloured chips. Fora was keen on a monolithic finish, so Diespeker made up four samples before the final design was agreed; large chunks of white, grey and black marble, with glass chips in the cement – which also included tiny chunks of marble – terrazzo in terrazzo! The glass chips were orange, yellow and a blue that complemented the dark blue walls of the reception area. Representatives from Oktra visited Diespeker’s factory to select both the marble and glass elements.
Installation took around two weeks, with one section needing to be redone; this required ‘setting fire to the floor’ – burning back part of the floor to get it absolutely correct.
The final look combines the floor with a bold feature wall colour and a bespoke desk which references back to craft with its use of wood and burnt orange leather.
Oktra Design Director, David Bishop says “This was a very collaborative process. We were invited by Diespeker to get involved in placing every piece in its final position. The whole process was fascinating, resulting in an amazing arrival statement in reception!”
18th June: Started brief/concept design 18 June 2019
21st August: First visual in small aggregate
19th November: Revised to PC005 tile
31st January: Final visual following sampling (Oktra started on site 8th January 2020)
12th February: Diespeker install commenced (2 week install)
6th March: Diespeker element complete
August: Project completion (completion date delayed due to Covid-19)
Photo credit Oliver Pohlmann Photography