Yellow Building

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris began working with Peter Simon and Monsoon Accessorize in 2000 when they won a competitive interview and began the transformation of the then derelict British Rail maintenance depot building & neglected, yet grade II* listed, architectural icon at Paddington Basin into the award-winning Monsoon’s headquarters. As the company expanded Peter Simon pursued a new opportunity: this time a site, identified by David Rosen of Pilcher Hershman, which was covered with a series of anonymous sheds on the Dale at the bottom of Notting Hill. 

AHMM’s focus was on creating a new seven-storey headquarters building, which went through planning as an amendment to an earlier outline masterplan.  This was to form the backbone of a much braver plan: the creation of Notting Dale Village (NDV). The aim being to ultimately create upwards of 46,000m² of new buildings, offering a proper west London mix of uses. These include not only the Yellow Building as the Monsoon/Accessorize HQ is known but also its neighbour The White Building (offices) and the Studio Building (small workshops). Future Phases with consent and in planning include more commercial and apartment blocks which will all work to create a new small but vital piece of city and go some way to repairing the damage caused by the West Cross Route which created a peripheral wasteland of dead ends and streets. 

Notting Dale Village is about a shifting of both perceptions (of the area and of mixing uses) and scale (the first two phases of taller buildings mark and line the West Cross while the third, fourth and fifth phases will repair the historical grain.

The new headquarters, The Yellow Building, is the catalyst for change. Change for the specific area but also for the general office market. This building is a speculative office building which is also an HQ; it is designed to be either and both. Currently 4,600m² is available to rent; which will allow Monsoon/Accessorize to expand and contract without relocating.

Whereas 7,400m² houses all the Monsoon head office staff, a number of its design departments, mock-ups of Monsoon shops, a café for staff; there is also a new public restaurant adjacent. The design challenge was to create a new landmark building whilst learning valuable lessons from the warehouse feel of the much loved original icon on which the team had all collaborated a few years previously.

The client was used to the four major drivers of the project; used to being by a major road, used to occupying a landmark, used to concrete and used to large volumes. This shared experience allowed AHMM to focus from the beginning on the idea of the warehouse office: big thermally massive floors with high ceilings and little by the way of finish. To the four driving themes of the original conversion a mile or two east the team added in the brief for a new ‘city room’ that would create the connection between all the floors - something the previous HQ lacked.

A drive for economy, reflecting the fact the project is further out in an untested area, suggested the deep and high floors, the large plates of 1,860m² net and the simple robust industrial process and aesthetic. Indeed this search for the most extreme and efficient pushed the core as a single robust yet refined volume outside the cube of accommodation. The roadside location suggested the need for a landmark colour that would not be associated with the head tenant brand: as with the concrete AHMM pursued yellow from the outset; it was the precise colour and tone that proved the challenge. So much was given by the setting and shared experience.

As the volume developed its own inevitable logic of efficiency and delight AHMM struck upon the idea for a triangular structure which coincidentally reflected the original Monsoon logo; with the core outside this assisted in the bracing of the massive plates. AHMM also decided to invest the concrete with a sense of individuality, refinement, experimentation and even decoration. The lattice is perfect for bracing and it offers a new structural identity; it can sensibly taper, it was a challenge to all and (although also very structurally efficient) it has a defining personality not offered by columns.

AHMM developed, with the help of Adams Kara Taylor, a very economic yet refined, diagonal concrete lattice which wraps around the new building providing structural rigidity with the need for shear walls focused to the south end alone. Columns taper in size to reflect the decreasing loads placed on them.  This grid supports all the floor slabs, carrying their load from behind the external face of the building across to the atrium. This structure is visible behind the cladding of low-e glass and sunflower yellow spandrels.

The new building is part office, part workshop, part gallery, part HQ, part speculative office. It has stripped away the detritus of detailing that defines so much commercial space and as such suggests there are better ways to work and play and speculate (both financially and architecturally). The Yellow Building is an environmentally smart, thermally massive, structurally light building that suggests that the office of the future can be as delightful to occupy as the factories of the past are to re-inhabit.


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