A new life for an old factory

old factory

How a lightweight timber frame and engineering know-how turned the Gramophone Works into the building it was always meant to be.

In its long and varied history, it has been the headquarters of Sanderson Fabrics and British independent record label Saga Records. Today, The Gramophone Works is a landmark commercial scheme featuring a shared cafe, reception and event space, with generous amounts of external space at ground and roof levels.

Sitting next to the Grand Union Canal, The Gramophone Works is are development of a historic site in West London. It houses a mix of refurbished, extended and new build contemporary office spaces. The developer, Resolution Property, had wanted to reuse as much of the original structure as possible. The existing old Gramophone Works building was therefore extended outwards and upwards.

Gramophone Works from Studio RHE

A lightweight timber frame sits atop the Gramophone Works’ original steel structure

Becoming the building it was always meant to be

The ambitions of the original building’s architect were at long last fulfilled, as the existing structure could be used as the foundation for the additional storeys. Minimal strengthening of the existing building was all it took to add a large mass-timber extension. This upped the building from two to six storeys and added 60,000 sq ft of commercial office space.

The building is playful, functional and adaptable. Contemporary in form and style, it’s honest in displaying its material and construction methodology. Structural timber is integral to the form and aesthetic of the building. Glulam frames, CLT panels and steelwork complement the retained reinforced concrete and other original features to create a building which optimises outcomes for the client, end users and the environment.

Timing is everything – and teamwork too

Resolution assembled an experienced team led by architects Studio RHE, with Heyne Tillett Steel (HTS) as structural and civil engineers. Graham Construction were appointed as the main contractor, while structural timber specialists B&K Structures supplied and installed an integrated package of engineered timber and structural steel elements.

The design concept of having much of the building’s M&E services on view across the soffits, rather than concealed by suspended ceilings, required many of the CLT panels to be routed in the factory ready to take pipework and cabling. B&K worked closely with supply-chain partners Binderholz and Derix for the just-in-time delivery of the cross laminated timber (CLT) and glulam elements respectively. They liaised with Graham Construction and HTS to refine the structure’s design and sequence its construction.

Gramophone Works from Studio RHE

Gramophone Works from Studio RHE









The design and structure

The property comprises two distinct parts. The Studio contains 19,892 sq ft of industrial-style workspaces with resin floors, Crittall-style metal-framed fenestration and a timber canopy, along with feature staircases. Then there is the Dock. Its 64,132 sq ft is an expressed timber structure, with contemporary engineering solutions employed throughout to optimise the building’s functionality as an attractive, healthy and sustainable workplace.

A new, lightweight glass and timber structure was built over and around an existing two-storey reinforced concrete frame. Its lightness meant that the existing foundations could support four additional storeys without the need for strengthening.

A steel transfer deck sits above the existing roof slab with a new glulam frame and CLT floors spanning between secondary beams. New cores are threaded through the building which provide stability. On the timber levels these are constructed in CLT and reinforced concrete to the lower levels on new pile caps above basement level.

Gramophone from Studio RHE

Build light, build sustainable

The hybrid glulam and CLT structure is light enough to be supported by the existing building, thereby avoiding demolition. This was a significant contributing factor in achieving its BREEAM Excellent certification. The building’s use of mass timber sequesters biogenic carbon throughout its working life. A CLT building can reduce embodied carbon by up 34% compared to a traditional build. The self-finished, visually expressed material reduces the need for maintenance.

1,726 m3 of glulam and CLT were used, sourced and supplied with 100% PEFC chain of custody, which ensured sustainable reforesting and transparent COC from seedling to site. 1,292 t of carbon have been sequestered and all of the timber can be calculated to have regrown in just six minutes and 18 seconds.