A 1980s office building in the heart of London’s King’s Cross has been transformed into a contemporary, high-specification workspace for The Office Group (TOG), following an ambitious project collaboration between building product specialists Forterra and architects dMFK.
The new façade of York House, which is located on Pentonville Road between London’s architecturally diverse King’s Cross and Islington, is a leading example of the craftsmanship of Forterra’s Cradley Special Brick division.
dMFK was employed by TOG to design and oversee the transformation of York House. As the existing building was faced with plum-coloured engineering brick, dMFK set out to source new bricks that matched this tone. In addition to the colour match, Cradley’s Blue Brindle brick was integral to the design and build in several respects.
Firstly, York House’s façade features a dog-tooth parapet consisting of bricks at 45 degrees, which sits directly on top of the existing brickwork. Changing the orientation of this brick to create a different textural quality clearly differentiates the two aspects.
The second element is the straight lattice to the ground floor, which ties into the existing façade and opens up the building by visually pulling apart the brickwork.
The third and most ambitious element – and the principal reason Forterra was chosen by the design team – is the front extension formed of a lattice of angled bricks.
Tom Smith, Associate of dMFK, explains: “Working closely with Structural Engineers Webb Yates, the entire structure was designed to be self-supporting, meaning the bricks we selected had to have a relatively high compressive strength, contain penetrations internally to allow for continuous vertical reinforcement, and of course be delivered to a budget.
“The long format block in brindle finish was an obvious selection for this design and we worked closely with the product development team at Forterra to refine the specification, in order to ensure the design and structural aspirations were met.”
Through early engagement, Swift Brickwork Contractors advised dMFK on buildability issues and went on to carry out the supply and installation of the brickwork envelope for main contractor Collins.
Michael Walsh, Managing Director of Swift Brickwork Contractors, says: “A brick was required to match the existing one and Cradley’s Blue Brindle was considered the best option, along with Cradley’s ability to manufacture a 440mm-long brick.”
dMFK and Swift Brickworks Contractors worked closely with Forterra’s Design Manager Gareth Rouse and Cradley Special Brick’s General Manager John Richardson on the design, specification development and structural testing for the project, from initial design talks and trials in 2017 to delivery of Cradley’s unique product on site in July 2018.
Gareth Rouse explains: “The intricate latticing and V-shaped form of the finished structure is the result of a highly successful collaborative approach between Forterra (production, testing and technical) and dMFK.
“Cradley Special Brick initially ran numerous trials to manufacture a product which met the architects’ requirements for aesthetics and configuration to accommodate reinforcement, whilst remaining durable.
“Latterly, our technical teams conducted a series of rigorous tests – including compressive strength, lateral loading and extended frost testing – to ensure that the Blue Brindle was fit for use in a multi-storey façade.”
The finished product showcases Cradley Special Brick’s skill in precision manufacture, as well as the team’s expertise and innovative approach to creating characterful, high-specification builds.