The major new headquarters for Bathroom Brands and Crosswater has completed in Dartford, South East London. The new expansive HQ, for the bathroom specialists, sees the creation of a new office and warehouse as well as a state of the art bathroom showroom that creates an imaginative and intriguing experience like no other.
Creativity and functionality combine as Young Architect of the Year nominated, Threefold Architects, designed the refined offices and Coppin Dockray Architects, the dramatic showroom, complete with a waterfall experience and an immersive chandelier installation that acts as a guide throughout the showroom.
Coppin Dockray were briefed to create a memorable showroom experience that would display and showcase each of the company’s brands. The result is a new 10,000, sq ft showroom, ‘The Gallery’. The showroom was designed and constructed in just eight months, along with the entire warehouse. In the transition from the office spaces into the showroom, the visitor is greeted by an oval entrance chamber that acts as a dramatic pause to enhance anticipation.
Upon entering this space, a sensor is alerted producing a cascade of water from showerheads above, disguised behind a veil of golden basin chains, creating an atmospheric but calming entrance for the visitor. As the visitor moves through the space, a series of square arches define the gallery. Over 5000 glass spheres swirl through the central arcade, acting as navigation through the showroom. Taps and basins are located in a geological landscape where diagonal plinths bring the products to life as the visitor weaves through the curated display. Zig-zag fabric and mirrored wall panels create myriad reflections within the space. While moving through the space, floor to ceiling windows offer a glimpse into the vast warehouse and storeroom.
The journey through the showroom is a sensory experience of being plunged into areas of darkness with soft lighting before moving into brighter spaces. The final element of the showroom is a darker area of glowing spotlights that illuminate taps and shower controls around a golden glowing pool, made up of gold and silver ball chains. These products can be played with as overhead showers turn on and off into a golden chain lattice controlled by the visitor.
Materials synonymous with bathrooms and plumbing such as mirrors, ceramics, chains, brass and copper piping are used in unfamiliar ways throughout the showroom in contrast to the bright office space. As well as designing the ‘The Gallery’, Coppin Dockray created the staff bathrooms that include artwork and the products of both the companies. The office, designed by Threefold, unites the various departments of the company under a single roof and incorporates a café and event space.
In response to this need for unity, Threefold designed a multi leveled office consisting of circulation spaces and connection points named ‘The Bridge’. Conceived as a continuous folded surface, ‘The Bridge’ is constructed from prefabricated cross-laminated spruce. ‘The Bridge’ creates large and small-scale meeting and social spaces enhancing the working environment. The architects also felt that the connectivity was a vital aspect of the design and should help to choreograph a journey from the office through to the showroom.
Four hundred white timber laser cut fins line the walls and ceiling, creating an undulating surface around ‘The Bridge’ and office spaces. These fins diffuse and reflect light, softening the space and connect with the floor plates. Acoustic baffles that hang from the ceiling, control the acoustics on both levels and also creates a subtly coloured cloud-like surface across the office.
The architects shadowed the staff to understand the end user, they undertake this for every project in order to truly understand their client. In response to the client’s brief and after shadowing the staff, the overall concept for The Bridge was developed adding a new, bright café and outdoor terrace was created with a playful bar area, dubbed, ‘The Man Cave’. Together these create a social space for both staff and visitors.
The building has achieved a BREEAM Excellent Rating with design elements such as daylight sensitive lighting to keep constant lighting levels in the office. Both Coppin Dockray and Threefold have, through intelligent design created two exemplary spaces, demonstrating how more can be achieved beyond the basic functions of an office and showroom. These designs prove that dramatic experiences can be realised in any environment.
The Gallery showcases the products of both Bathroom Brands and Crosswater in dramatic but functional settings. The two companies have a growing share of the UK market and are now embarking on international expansion, exhibiting at the recent Cersaie exhibition in Bologna. The building is open for architects and their clients to use and see the latest in bathroom trends and products.
Architect: Threefold Architects and Coppin Dockray Architects