‘Design is like a language. It is often specific to a space and its overall culture. The same symbols and patterns resurface in different forms and styles and they serve as both the source and the result of creative inspiration.’
Herbert Ypma, (London Minimum)
Art&Graft outgrew its home. As the studio team continued to expand, Art&Graft founder & ECD Mike Moloney went on the hunt for a new building that could provide a long-term home for the studio, with design features and considerations to last a lifetime.
From Craftsman to Graftsman:
1912: the gilded age, Southwark Bridge is completed and further connects the industrious, bustling hub that is Borough to the rest of the city. In a quiet back street, amongst granaries and factories, a coppersmith’s workshop is erected. A sawmill buzzes away in the basement and at the gables, two porthole windows, bookending the building.
The twentieth century saw the building change hands and continue its industry, transitioning into a hinge factory. At the approach of the millennium, the building was purchased by multimedia design company Big Idea and 44 Loman Street entered a new era, undergoing its first major architectural transformation.
Gary Baker, the former CEO of Big Idea, reflected on the re-visioning of 44 Loman Street: Big Idea worked alongside architects Allen-Gale in 1996 to convert the building from its industrial usage into a creative space. Despite initial advice to ‘tear it down’, Big Idea believed in the integrity of the building and, bit by bit, they let the light into the space.
Structurally, there were several changes. A white box space was created for meetings and art exhibitions – the building becoming part graphic design studio, part gallery. One of the most notable alterations, a feature still celebrated today, are the walls of glass bricks on both the Loman Street and Copperfield Street sides of the building.
These, in addition to a double height gallery staircase encouraged the light to circulate throughout. They had a truss made and a wall taken out, doing their best to leave the welding exposed and recreating the Edwardian bolt caps from halved ping-pong balls. These discrete details remain today, as do the markings of over a century’s worth of craftsmen, engineers and architects, whose cryptic inscriptions are dotted throughout the brick walls.
Fast forward to the end of 2022 and after many years of searching, Mike heard about a factory conversion in Loman Street. Its twin neighbour had long since been bulldozed and it had been tenanted (and changed) in the decade since Big Idea closed its doors.
From the moment that A&G received the keys, both Mike & New Business Director, Vicky Ghose, went about a concerted and extensive renovation process to recover the building’s bones and elevate it into a modern day creative working space.
It was important to both parties to retain the integrity of the structure, celebrate its history and consider how their team of multi-faceted creatives worked and how the building could accommodate this. The first step was to create an atmosphere that was opposite to the building’s most recent iteration — a tenanted corporate space with glass box offices and navy blue carpets. The aim was to add back character, warmth, texture and life.
The next priority was to assemble a team of design and build partners, with a real emphasis on craft. Everything is bespoke and designed to last, just like the studio’s work. Art&Graft’s expertise in crafting long lasting brand toolkits — sturdy, beautiful, adaptable deliverables that stand the test of time, is mirrored in the crafting of the studio.
When the original brick walls were restored, flecks of a rich green were discovered from decades ago and this colour has been re-instilled throughout both the roof and workstation trusses, grounding the building and echoing its crafting past.
It was imperative (and quite the task) to equip the building for the modern era and Art&Graft worked alongside EC1 Build and Partners to install modern infrastructure (such as replacing 8km of data cabling and installing fibre optic wiring). A lighting designer was enlisted to establish the perfect lumen levels throughout the studio and there was careful consideration for the journey of natural light throughout the studio in the day.
The upstairs space is minimal and bright, the kitchen is warm and colourful and the meeting rooms and workshop are painted in deeper tones to inspire focus, reflection and independent sparks. These spaces have been consciously zoned to encourage different lines of thinking and the communal ignition of new ideas.
The entrance to the building has been fashioned into a gallery space; bathed in light throughout the day and ordained with sculptural pieces of furniture. Wooden pieces from The Galvin Brother’s workshop in East Yorkshire are dotted throughout the entire studio in celebration of independent design and traditional craftsmanship.
The architectural adjustments were carried out by Orsini Brewin, a London based practice who specialise in creative studio spaces. WG studios, formed by traditional craftsman Will Green and William Greaves, created a new kitchen space — a hub for the studio team to meet and socialise. Traditional signwriter, Jake Tyler of Tyler & Co., was enlisted to delineate the different studio zones, from the workshop to the meeting spaces.
Over a number of months, 44 Loman Street was gradually repurposed from the craftsman’s workshop to the graftsman’s.
Its walls still bear the stories of times past, the spines of the old factory staircases and deep in its heart, the hum of craft and industry.
Art&Graft’s studio is the result of partnership with a range of bespoke craftsmen and building expertise from across the UK.
EC1 Build & Partners
Tyler & Co.