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Interview Liam Spencer, Anomaly

Anomaly is a London-based architecture firm and interior practice that specialises in retrofitting buildings. They emphasise storytelling through their projects and operate without predetermined rules or established in-house style, fostering creativity. In this interview, we spoke to Liam Spencer, the company’s founding director, to talk about one of their latest projects, The Eversholt.

In order to preserve The Eversholt’s rich heritage, Anomaly transformed it into a contemporary workspace. What were the challenges you faced during the project?

Working with any existing building creates challenges unique to that site, but that is why we love working with them so much. With the Eversholt specifically the layers of challenges were almost threefold – firstly given the Grade II listing, we had to consider what would be acceptable for Heritage and Planning Officers, while importantly designing a market-leading office product for the client and agency team. The third layer is always the building itself, and what it can or can’t do physically. The beauty of these 100 year old spaces is often they were designed with some much capacity for more, but navigating the physical limitations to make something work is always a very real challenge.

This building is, in fact, three buildings as part of a historic terrace – interconnected in some places but not in others, which is fantastic to play with but by no means straight forward. Different levels of refurbishment were present throughout the asset when it was purchased by the client, meaning that a blanket approach was not possible, and each area had to be considered independently to get the most value out of the approach. When you see the completed product though, you realise just how worthwhile the challenges are. 

Can you discuss the significance of using heritage colours like Racing Green, Deep Aubergine, and Terracotta to tie the buildings together while adding warmth and character?

As so many of the original internal features had been replaced, there was an opportunity to create distinctive, contemporary designs rooted in historical richness without it being a lazy caricature of ‘Railway Heritage’. The three colours were chosen with the client team as a coherent palette for the building – as there are three separate entrances to the three buildings within the terrace – it was decided that individual but related colourways would create a strong brand identity for the building. The three colours are used carefully to accent a rich heritage palette of off whites, and fabrics within the furniture choices and joinery. Equally, working with the art consultant to hand select the artwork appropriate for each made for such a strong design approach and transformation.

After previous renovations stripped away The Eversholt’s character, what challenges did Anomaly and Akoya face in restoring its original charm?

The large historic volumes were present and impressive but a lot of the internal detailing had been removed over the years. Generally speaking the internal spaces now felt clinical – white walls, carpet tiles and very bright lighting. Few archive internal photographs or drawings remained – but we were able to establish original principles regarding lighting and paintwork to the walls and windows.

A challenge was to create a respectful, interesting and characterful design that was not a pastiche or replica of what was there originally. We used heritage concepts, such as the suspended globe lights in place of contemporary linears, to create more subtlety to the workspace offering – which paired with richer colours, and warmer natural materials – returned ‘charm’ to the building.

How were sustainability principles incorporated into the design process, especially in regard to repurposing existing elements and integrating sustainable materials?

Working with a historic building and the Grade II listing, there needs to be a practical and heritage balance on sustainable upgrades. In collaboration with the MEP engineers – TB+A – we were able to assess the key failings of the building from an energy consumption and heat loss perspective. By addressing these areas, through a wholesale central plant replacement to air source heat pumps and additional secondary glazing, we were able to make a significant improvement on the energy consumption of the asset. The additional work with sustainable materials and re-purposing of on-site furniture, added to these fundamental moves to ensure that the design was creating a sustainably driven office design. Furniture that was present within the building was audited and repurposed into a different area of the building, ensuring that there was no unnecessary wastage from previous fit-outs.

Considering historical significance and forward-thinking design, what lessons can future office refurbishment projects learn from The Eversholt?

The Eversholt is a fantastic example of retrofit in action, a tangible case study that the ‘greenest building is the one that already exists.’ How the space can be re-imagined for modern office use shows that it is not just shiny glass boxes that can provide workspaces – in fact, the balance of heritage richness, contemporary functionality and large, airy volumes creates a fantastic place to work, collaborate and thrive.

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