Not since the Noughties when Amy Winehouse called it home has London’s Camden been so in vogue with buildings being refreshed and new cultural destinations being created.
by Helen Parton
The House of Koko is part of a large-scale renovation of a Victorian theatre in Camden. Photo © Lesley Lau
Camden is a corner of northwest London that has been a cultural hotspot at many points since its inception, initially as a residential district in 1791. From the Camden Town Group of post-impressionist artists in the 1910s to the punks of the 1970s to the time of Amy Winehouse in the Noughties, Camden has risen multiple times as an epicentre of cool. Now architects and designers have rebuilt and repurposed different parts of the area for Camden’s latest renaissance.
Interior architecture of the House of Koko is by Pirajean Lees who took design inspiration from the inner workings of a theatre. Photo © Lesley Lau
The building where the new House of Koko can be found is a venue that dates back to the turn of the twentieth century, having gone through multiple iterations and name changes. It is part of an ambitious renovation of three historic buildings, a Grade II-listed theatre, an adjacent piano factory dating from 1800 and the Hope & Anchor pub, established in 1860. Interior architecture of this extensive project comprising more than 20,000 square feet is courtesy of Pirajean Lees. There are 16 new spaces including a roof terrace and restaurant, dome cocktail bar, penthouse, library and hidden speakeasy. The influences of the design span the building’s colourful origins as a Victorian theatre to the bohemian lifestyles of past performers from Charlie Chaplin to Grace Jones and the Rolling Stones. Pirajean Lees also looked to the inner workings of a theatre so the bathrooms are inspired by backstage hair and make up rooms while Ellen’s Jazz and blues club takes its cue from old screen-printing rooms.
Symes Mews in Camden is a Victorian warehouse given a contemporary makeover to transform it into a desirable sustainable workplace. Photo © Timothy Soar
Developer Fabrix and architect pH+ also looked to the history of a 150-year-old former Victorian furniture warehouse in order to breathe new life into the formerly derelict building. Spanning three floors Symes Mews now provides 10,500 sq ft of sustainable creative office space. The refurbishment focussed on creating a series of connected open-plan and flexible spaces, introducing natural light to the heart of the space, and stripping back the building to expose and retain its original features. New breakout spaces and internal courtyards have been introduced, significantly increasing tenants’ ability to access fresh air and green spaces. The result says Andy Puncher, pH+ director, “has struck a subtle balance bridging the boundaries between existing and intervention utilising light as our defining material.”
The STAY serviced apartment has enviable views of the adjacent canal side. Photo © STAY
Further down Camden High Street is where you can first glimpse the modern, mixed-use development at Camden Market Hawley Wharf. Here you’ll find STAY, a design-led serviced apartment brand. Outside, the complex has a robust brick construction and black window frames, an aesthetic which is a nod to the area’s industrial past: this was where the first mainline station into London was located. Inside the reception has a calming, Scandinavian-inspired colour palette. The accommodation is a mix of 1, 2 and bedroom apartments which combine neutral tones with natural materials which afford stunning views of the famous canal side. On one of the lower levels of the building is LABS, STAY’s sister brand which offers contemporary coworking facilities. The design thinking behind both spaces is by Yaara Gooner, head of architecture at LABS.
Design styles and fashion tastes may come and go but nowhere has the ability to consistently reinvent itself like Camden.