The Interlock's 'Uncertain Heritage'

John Hill
3. September 2019
Photo: Gilbert McCarragher

The Interlock, a new five-story mixed-use building in London's Fitzrovia neighborhood, features a brick facade that was designed by Bureau de Change Architects to appear "of uncertain heritage: simultaneously historic and contemporary, familiar yet foreign."

Project: The Interlock, 2018
Location: Fitzrovia, London
Client: HGG London
Architect: Bureau de Change
  • Design Principals: Katerina Dionysopoulou and Billy Mavropoulos
Structural Engineer: HRW
M&E Engineer: MWL Group
Contractor: Phillip Banks
Facade Contractor: Irvine Whitlock 
Brick Fabricator: Forterra
Photo: Gilbert McCarragher

Fitzrovia is home to the famed Architectural Association as well as BT Tower, the telecommunications tower that was the tallest building in London when it was completed in 1964. It punctuates a neighborhood of predominantly low-rise buildings, both new and old. The Interlock sits on Riding House Street, amongst a mishmash of architectural styles. It is located where Wells Street meets Riding House, a situation that gives the dark-brick building a full-frontal prominence.

Photo: Gilbert McCarragher

Developed by HGG London, which is "committed to mindful development that’s right for London," The Interlock features three residential units, a ground-floor cafe, and a lower-level gallery. Bureau de Change's design takes the stacking and proportion of its more traditional neighbor and extends it into the brick-and-glass grid of its own facade. From a distance the dark brick around the tall windows looks simple, yet not entirely flat — some sort of texture or pattern is evident but not revealed until seen up close.

Photo: Gilbert McCarragher

The architects abandoned traditional London bricks in favor of "44 misshapen and seemingly unstackable bricks" that were specially developed for the project. Bureau de Change's Katerina Dionysopoulou explained it in a press release: "We were interested in taking these very traditional proportions and in some way subverting it — like a puzzle box that seems familiar and reveals a hidden complexity that increases the more you interact with it." The architects strove for the impression of bricks that "appear to lap up against glazing, swell and bow between floors and are inset frame-like to denote the building’s perimeter."

Staffordshire Blue Clay, with a matte blue finish obtained after firing, was selected to make the building stand out in its surroundings. Although the architects used 3D modeling to adjust their facade design to meet structural and fabrication requirements, the bricks were made by hand, using 14 hand-crafted steel molds to create 14 "parent" bricks and 30 "offspring" bricks for the grand total of 44 shapes. The facade consists of 5,000 bricks that were laid in three months, using 1:1 printed templates (188 of them) to determine the quantity and location of the bricks. The result are stacked bricks that look like they interlock, lending the development its name as well as its attitudes toward history and context.

Photo: Gilbert McCarragher
Photo: Gilbert McCarragher
Photo: Gilbert McCarragher
Photo: Gilbert McCarragher

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