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Academy House in London, John Robertson Architects, Great Britain, Photo: Matt Livey

Perforated curtain of steel: Academy House in London

Oxford Street cuts through the centre of London and is regarded as one of the best-known shopping thoroughfares in the world. The buildings lining it generally have retail premises on the ground floor and offices on the upper ones – a typology also adopted by John Robertson Architects for its refurbishment of Academy House.

The building, which can look back on a fascinating history of cinemas, clubs and music, is located at a corner situation close to a large number of listed edifices, and has a core stemming from the 1980s. In view of the rich palette of materials to be found in the surroundings, its makeover was to likewise display a varied mix of colours and shapes.

Materials and colour concept
The exterior elevation is now determined by floor-to-ceiling glazing and horizontal strips of ribbed terracotta that comes in a dark blue resulting from a glaze involving cobalt, red iron oxide and titanium. The shiny surface produced in the process is regarded as particularly durable and weather-proof.

The artist Catherine Bertola has created a perforated steel artwork for the entrance area, and given it an ornamental pattern that references the stage curtains that once hung in Oxford Street theatres.

An industrial-type aesthetic is to be found in the interior, along with the neutral hues of white paint and grey exposed concrete.

Sustainability aspect
It was a key concern of the architects to keep existing elements and re-use them in the makeover, and accordingly about 80 percent of the primary structure has been retained. In addition use was made use of natural materials such as terracotta and an energy-saving concept was devised – all sustainability aspects that have gained the project a BREEAM Excellent rating.

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