London’s Camden Town’s distinctive character is attributed to a combination of components such as its historic architecture, diverse retail offering, creative industries and businesses and the other varied entertainment and leisure sites in the immediate vicinity.
London’s Camden Market is renowned for its hustle and bustle and a history of both industry and bold counterculture, from punk to Britpop to wide-eyed tourists and all contributing to an eclectic mix of tourists, workers and inhabitants in the area.
It is in currently undergoing a huge transformation right now, increasingly proving itself to be the natural home for a new generation of creative, tech and retail startups.
Camden has continued to attract established, international media players and renowned innovative companies such as MTV Networks Europe (MTV), The Associated Press, Ted Baker, ASOS, and Facebook, as well as Google’s London headquarters at Kings Cross in the London Borough of Camden.
Businesses, entrepreneurs and agencies all rub shoulders with their more stereo-typically “Camden” neighbours, and this is only set to increase with the launch of a trio of huge new co-working spaces in the area, collectively known as Interchange.
Interchange is an organic accelerator co-working space for creative startups and entrepreneurs in the heart of Camden, with tangible added value services and support for businesses without taking any equity.
The concept involves offering shared office space and/or ‘hot desks’ to start-ups and entrepreneurs who are looking for more flexibility than a more traditional office let can provide.
In 2014, Israeli-Cypriot entrepreneur Teddy Sagi’s company Market Tech Holdings received approval for a £20 million plan to add 12,000 sq mtrs of retail and office space to the 15-acre cluster of markets and other real estate properties it owns in North London.
Shortly afterwards Market Tech launched its new co-working concept, under the brand name Interchange, which provides flexible work spaces with up to 1,000 desks at its Atrium and Triangle Buildings located in Stables Market, Camden, and nearby Utopia Village at Primrose Hill
Interchange is one of a number of initiatives which the Market Tech Group has adopted to drive increases to it’s portfolio of real estate assets in the area.
In addition to the wealth of facilities and support on offer, Interchange tenants also have the unique opportunity to establish their own retail spaces in the iconic Camden Markets, which has over 28 million visitors per year
The office and co-working space infrastructure, designed by award-winning workplace architects Barr Gazetas, are focused on true community working through expert curation of complex floor plans and space use.
The new spaces offer high quality fit-out and technology services, with the interior designs provided by acclaimed British designer Tom Dixon and his Design Research Studio whose past work includes Shoreditch House and the Mondrian Hotel, London.
“Camden Market’s prehistory as a hub for commerce, transport and technology since the industrial revolution appealed to us from a conceptual point of view, and it’s more recent past as a place for radical music, fashion and retail makes it a great backdrop for the fast moving and impatient world of start-ups and tech companies.
“There was this idea that people would have home offices, but, people do want to congregate, they need to see each other and be face-to-face. So, creating spaces that work effectively from a social perspective is actually very good for work and activity.” ………. Tom Dixon
Interchange Triangle Building
Triangle ( built in 2015 ) was the first of Interchange’s Co-Working community of creatives and innovators, is located within the world renowned Camden Market.
The building was re-positioned with a new ground floor presence leading directly from the market entrance, drawing the working community and visitors into a 3 storey glass void.
Above this, 1,650 sq mtrs of high quality co-working, start-up and business support space has been created over two floors with incredible views over North London, providing 280 people all they need to start-up and grow.
A system of creative and supportive environments has attracted entrepreneurs, start-ups, innovators and creatives, forging new connections and potential for business growth.
Facilities include a restaurant, lounge, seven event spaces, members’ gym, hot desks, private offices, breakout areas, high-tech meeting rooms, stocked kitchens, ultra-fast Wi- Fi and technical support.
As members of the Interchange community move through the building, chance encounters and planned meetings take place in a number of the breakout areas.
This creates a hive of activity on all levels that is constantly changing.
Barr Gazetas has re-imagined the way a vacant building shell could be used for creative co-working to include a mixture of permanent and day-to-day office spaces, with a range of private spaces, single desk spaces, large open plan areas and individual hot-desks.
Flexible space has been designed with evolving facilities; providing open plan, bookable, or fixed desks to generate a landscape for all forms of working.
The office spaces currently available, range from private offices for growing companies, to flexible desk space for entrepreneurs that can be rented by the day – all at competitive rates.
Serviced Offices are priced per person, per month and provide fully inclusive furnished office space, access to meeting rooms and support services.
Ideal for small and large requirements from one to 50 desks, they offer a cost-effective solution, allowing you flexibility at short notice.
These are complemented by meeting rooms of all sizes provided with a range of audio and visual equipment.
In 2016, Interchange opened the Barr Gazetes Architects designed Atrium, its flagship building situated in the heart of Stables Market in Camden, with a series of interventions and furniture pieces again designed by Tom Dixon‘s Design Research Studio.
The building was originally created as an indoor/outdoor marketplace, but fell into disrepair when the project was scrapped as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.
Vacant for over four years, the refurbished Atrium is the flagship of Camden’s new vibrant co-working offering ‘Interchange’ and provides 2,973 sq mtrs of creative working spaces for 600 people.
The shell of the building was intact, and each level was divided into shop spaces.
This turned out to be a boon for the designers: as a retail space, the layout forces users to cover as much ground as possible – toilets are slightly further out than they would be in a traditional office, for instance – and so intermingling with other tenants is a happy inevitability.
The new 84,000 sq ft complex offers up a wide range of facilities spread over four floors, with space intended to initiate communal productivity with its intricately designed floor plan and interior layout.
Barr Gazetas and Tom Dixon drew inspiration from a variety of social spaces such as hotels and clubs to envision an atmosphere which would enhance creativity.
The space is aimed at startups and creatives, and the design looks to foster a more collaborative approach to co-working.
It’s that typically modern mix of stylised – the angular seating, the shiny finishes, the polish – and rawness, with exposed brickwork areas and durable wooden flooring.
Wide ramp walkways encouraging people to “walk and talk” as they navigate the space spiral round a central, well, atrium, making for an environment that manages to bring the outdoors inside, reminding even the most industrious worker that life exists away from a screen.
Throughout the space sit a number of “casual zone” areas that break up the more traditional co-working spaces, meeting rooms, private offices and kitchen amenities, with the entire plan built for flexibility.
If a company begins with a four-person space and grows, for instance, it’s easy to open up the office by knocking through to the space next door.
Interchange tenants include(d) : Cisco Create (a division of Cisco focusing on new technologies); Fever Up, an event recommendation app; Satago, a fintech company; and Inpost, a delivery startup; Osper, a company specialising in mobile banking for young people; Doctify, a site which connects patients with healthcare professionals; IncuBus an early-stage startup accelerator,
The huge central ground floor area uses a section of reclaimed brickwork flooring, and capitalises on an original tunnel-like seating alcove as both a resting spot and design feature.
This space can host up to 3,000 people, and is frequently used for events and parties in the evening, while offering ample room for presentations or screenings during the day.
Topics so far have included fashion, creativity, advice from company CEOs on starting a business and insights from DJs and music producers.
The look and feel of the space references both this idea of looking outward to the local area, and fostering diverse and creative conversations.
Barr Gazetas designed the Atrium Building for members of the Interchange community to have access to facilities, ranging from screening rooms, event spaces, a bleacher-style seating area, speaker’s corner, 3D printing, leisure facilities and a new restaurant called ‘Atrium Kitchen.’
Natural light floods in through the central glass roof, and each level offers ample views across the market.
A new podium level has been carved from an awkward collection of steps and ramps, creating a fluid and seamless entrance to the building that provides a perfect platform and stage venue for events.
Three floors of alternative working styles are situated above the podium level, offering private, hot-desking and breakout spaces.
A key feature of Atrium’s existing architecture is its three story winding ramp facing the offices.
Inspired by art gallery windows, the office shopfronts reveal glimpses of people working within the units
The wooden decking-style flooring is a subtle nod to the visible nearby train tracks, and the colour scheme and fittings are pitched at a contemporary, dynamic audience.
The colours are about having fun really, so there’s lots of rich gold and copper in there.
The Interchange buildings themselves are in the middle of Camden so you have to respond to that.
The interiors embody a raw industrial character through exposed services and careful selection of materials and colour, reflecting the nature of Camden and its unique sense of place.
This continues throughout the various types of office space to accommodate the many styles of working.
The Interchange Atrium Building also offers a range of facilities across four floors, including 600 work stations – both in private offices and hot-desking areas
While there might be the obvious signifiers of startup culture – a table-tennis table here, foosball table there, cutesy illustrations on the glass office fronts – practicality is at the forefront of the design considerations.
As well as moving into Interchange – the team from London Belongs To Me, who publish Kentish Towner and Gasholder have teamed up with us to produce Interchanger, a brand new quarterly magazine that celebrates the new spirit of the area.
In the first issue of the new magazine, we hear from cover star Tom Dixon about bringing the experience of designing spaces such as Shoreditch House to his first co-working office project.
Interview with Jon Eaglesham ( Director at Barr Gazetas )
Barr Gazetas has a lot of history with Camden, can you tell us a little bit about some of the work you’ve done here?
We’ve worked in the Borough of Camden for over twenty years.
One of our first Camden Town projects in 2007 took a dilapidated building on Jamestown road and transformed it into a vibrant mixed-use building. We’re passionate about streets being active and that requires a mix of uses to succeed long term.
We realigned the ground floor to encourage retail units, created office space in the intermediate floors and extended the top floors with private residential.
Our founding Director, Alistair is on the PHAACC (Primrose Hill Area Advisory Conservation Committee) and has lived in Primrose Hill for many years.
I’ve been in Camden for 10 years so far and although there has been change, the real changes both underway and planned will be in the next decade or so.
We’ve known the current owners, Market-Tech, for 10 years and have enjoyed being part of the transformation in the Markets too; there is so much scope and a fantastic, sensitive, ambition.
What sort of an impact do you think Interchange will have on the local community and surrounding areas?
I find Camden Town a fascinating and chaotic part of London. It’s packed with inner city life, transport networks, and history – both the good and bad. Up until the late 20c it was part of the Kentish Town Manor, which stretched from Tottenham Court Road to Highgate but it became too insalubrious and parcels of land were being sold and renamed to re-establish its desirability.
I love the way it was transformed by the gentry, and then constrained by the industrial movements including rail, road and canal. From the mid 20c the markets arrived with a thriving music, fashion and creative culture evolving it once again. This gives Camden a unique sense of place, with so many different reasons to thrive.
When we first discussed the vision for community based working, Interchange, in September 14, we talked about our role and how we needed to curate Camden’s many strands of life, to find a mix or balance that could become self-sustaining.
Metaphorically I see Interchange as a family for the full Camden community. Whether you are a designer-maker, digitally creative, musically gifted, or entrepreneurial, Interchange will work for you.
What are your thoughts on the future of work and what role does architecture and design play in this?
It’s not just the way we work that is changing; it’s the generation ‘working’ and also the output of the work itself. We’re gearing up for Gen X to be calling the shots in a few years’ time, and they are running out of time, before Gen Y won’t really need to listen.
Traditional work in the sense of a hierarchy, leadership and succession will be replaced with community and collaboration. Leadership of companies will become a co-op. Those who contribute the most will be the leaders, not those that progress the quickest.
Architecture will need to adapt to allow this transformation to take place. Understanding the users and providing flexibility will be our key role as designers.
Do you feel it is architecture and design which influences today’s work, or is it more of the opposite, that you’re responding to changes in society and technology?
I think both are true except, that as with the chicken and egg, it’s which one made the first move. Good design responds to changes in society and technology whilst allowing the future to evolve but I believe the architectural language or style is the result of creativity and imagination.
How did you approach the design for the Interchange spaces – and what aspects did you want to draw out?
Similar to the way Camden was formed, as Architects working on existing buildings you have to make the existing constraints work so much harder.
We work in many sectors and that was hugely important to helping curate the vision, considering the needs of the undefined occupier, providing the right facilities for growth and support.
Understanding technology and where technology may go was great fun and as a result the way you enter the buildings and open your office door (or co-working space) is cutting edge.
Working with Tom Dixon and Design Research Studio on the interior finishes and furniture meant we concentrated on the journey into the building, the layout of the spaces and how connected they could be. Many designers, each with their own specialism, have collaborated to help create the Interchange buildings.
What do you think lies ahead for the future of co-working?
What a great question. We’re moving offices later this year and this keeps me awake at night.As defined by Wikipedia, co-working is a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity.
Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization.I think this is too finite to be a very long standing definition.
Co-working is a relatively new definition but not a new social characteristic. It’s obvious that Gen X is dedicated to embracing it, in fact so are the Baby Boomers and as long as we don’t try and put it in a box I see a great future for it.
For the ones co-working it brings you together, improves connectivity, opens up new networks and incubates ideas. It normally does this more economically too.
The Interchange Building
The Interchange Building is a 5,750 sq mtr. Grade II listed property which forms an important extension to Camden Lock Market.
It was converted into an office in 1989, and is currently leased to global media group, Associated Press.
The Interchange Building was originally a Victorian railway warehouse and is of particular architectural interest due to its prominent water tower and bold detailing.
A private canal inlet runs beneath the warehouse and so once did railway lines to allow for the direct transfer of goods between train and barge during the 19th century.
The Interchange building reveals Camden’s past better than any other local building.
It shows that Camden Town was once a major manufacturing and transit centre, full of industry, with goods from both here and abroad on the move day and night.
The Regents Canal towpath crosses the Interchange Basin, known popularly today as the “Dead Dog Hole”, by a bridge dating from 1845 when the LNWR started planning its first interchange facility.
Underground vaults built in 1854-6 west of the Interchange Basin, were formerly used for storing wine and beer.
The red brick building straddling this interchange dock is called the Interchange Warehouse and was completed in 1905.
Aerial photograph of Goods Depot, 1948
(English Heritage/National Monuments Record)
Historically, it is where all railway and canal goods were loaded onto horse and carriage to export across the country.
The history of trade.