The refurbishment and extension of the former Cass School of Art and Architecture provides over 150,000 square feet of office space. Located opposite the Whitechapel Gallery, it takes inspiration from Rachel Whiteread’s Fourth Plinth, adding to the existing six storey building with an equal volume above. The new build element mimics the horizontal banding and the rhythm of the panels of the 1960s concrete building but contrasts this with a steel structure and dark metal palette.
Tension between old and new is highlighted by an inhabited gap, marked out by a playful piece of public art visible from the street to create a visual break. This space forms one of several external spaces, including a large planted terrace at roof level and shared multi-use amenity space for the building users.
At ground floor, a generous reception space connects the building to the surrounding area with a café for building users and the public space. Above this the existing building is refurbished to provide large open plan offices punctuated by retained elements of raw concrete structure, as a reminder of the building’s industrial past.
While concrete defines the existing building, steel is the predominant material of the new build elements. The upper floors feature an exposed steel structure with large 10 metre spans and generous floor to ceiling heights, defining a much sharper aesthetic compared to the floors below.
Two additional buildings connecting back to The Rowe complete the urban block. On White Church Passage, a break in the street is infilled by a three storey brick building taking its cues from the historical building stock; meanwhile, above the service yard at the rear, a five storey metal building with cantilevered balconies addresses Manningtree Street.