Black & White Building takes Lathams back to the future

black and white building

TDUK member James Latham played a pivotal role in the development of the landmark Black & White Building in Shoreditch, London.

The Black & White Building was completed in January 2023 as the latest in flexible workspaces from co-working provider The Office Group (TOG).

Designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects and interior design specialist Daytrip Studios, the building showcases and celebrates the use of timber in contemporary urban architecture. At 17.8m, it is also the tallest mass-timber commercial building in central London, and the first to be built for more than 400 years, standing out among Shoreditch’s concrete high-rises.

James Latham was initially approached by specialist façade contractor, Pacegrade, and asked to provide timber for the building’s high-performance curtain walling system.

© The Office Group

Lathams’ role in the project would evolve further when it was discovered that the site was originally occupied by James Latham’s first warehouse. This historic connection, coupled with the architects’ impressive vision, and the project’s holistic celebration of timber, led to the distributor providing further materials for the interiors.

The Black & White Building holds deep, historic significance to James Latham, as the site was once the location of its first drying shed and warehouse.

It was the establishment of this site back in 1850 that marked the beginning of James Latham’s ongoing aim to champion timber as a preferred architectural and joinery material, and to make it accessible for specifiers, fit-out professionals and furniture manufacturers.

Style, strength and sustainability

© Ian Tillotson.

The Black & White Building uses timber extensively in every aspect of its design and construction.

The curtain wall façade is a particular highlight, with the architect keen to make as striking a visual first impression as possible.

Pacegrade needed to use beautiful, sustainable wood with a stylish finish to meet the exacting brief.

After a consultation with long-time distribution partner James Latham and its dedicated façade-specification team, PEFC-certified Holz Schiller European Spruce was chosen.

The material is one of the most sustainably engineered woods on the market, and met the project’s low-carbon requirements while also providing the strength and finish required by the design. Its use was both aesthetic and functional, combining strength and elegance to frame the structure’s floor-to-ceiling glazing and enhance other features and finishes.

Viroc of Ages

Daytrip Studios needed a suitable material for the feature skirting panels, so they consulted Debbie Northall of James Latham’s specification team.

She recommended Viroc, a robust composite panel made from pine wood particles and bound in cement. This resulted in the supply of 96 sheets of Grey, Ochre, and Red Viroc, which was used in high-traffic communal areas as hip-height skirting, and for a large outdoor table on the building’s rooftop terrace.

The specifiers and fabricators were particularly impressed with the board’s full-body colour.

Reaching higher ground

James Latham also became closely involved in TOG’s Makers & Mentors scheme, a charitable initiative launched as part of TOG’s ongoing commitment to social responsibility.

The scheme saw TOG team up with social enterprise POoR Collective to launch a scheme to help design students bolster their expertise before heading into the industry.

Under the expert guidance of three design mentors (Sebastian Cox, Matteo Fogale, and Andu Masebo), three students created objects referencing the sustainable design principles that underpin The Black & White Building.

James Latham donated hardwoods and panel products for the participant, who created a bench, a rocking horse, and a side table. These will remain in the building for occupants and visitors to use and enjoy.

James Latham is one of the UK’s largest independent distributors of timber, panels and decorative surfaces. It supplies products to a broad range of customers, from contractors and merchants, through to designers and makers.


*  This article was originally printed in the May/June issue of Supplying Timber magazine.