MaterialDistrict

From disused railway arch to affordable workspace

London based architectural firm Boano Prišmontas developed a modular plywood structure assembled with dry-joint techniques to turn disused railway arches and other pocket spaces in London onto affordable workspaces.

The aim of the Arches Project is to create a kit of part that can easily be assembled and eventually redeployed, and provide a way for quick creation of affordable workspace for local businesses and start-ups.

The project started in 2017, when Meanwhile Space launched a competition, supported by the Mayor of London and Lambeth Council, to create a kit of parts to transform unused railway arches in a way that could be installed by certified contractors. The design had to improve the thermal quality of the space, be water tight, cost effective, safe and, most importantly, it had to be freestanding, fully demountable and reusable.

Boano Prišmontas’ winning design is a plug-in space made of repeating modules of boxes and beams. The boxes are CNC-cut certified birch plywood modules that are repeated to infill the space as much as possible and can be stacked on walls to support the beam as well as the external polycarbonate cladding. The beams are also CNC-cut plywood pieces joined together to cover a maximum span of 7.2 metres. They are the support on which the insulation sheet is clipped.

Wastage is minimised by using a CNC machine to cut geometrically efficient pieces The offcuts and dust Boano Prišmontas reused in several design pieces and as a substrate to create mycelium boards.

The boxes are sized to host the polycarbonate facade, which allows to fill the internal space with natural light. The polycarbonate panels also spill light on the street showing a glimpse of the activity taking place inside the space.

Being modular, the design can come with various internal finishes and include different internal features such as bespoke CNC-machined doors, furniture pieces and a peg wall. It can also infill any shape or form.

Each part of the design form the plywood structure to the façade cladding and the insulation sheet, is meant to be re-deployed when dismantled. The dry-joinery techniques allow the structure to be assembled without the use of screws, nails or glue. Each piece slots together, which makes both assembling and disassembling easy, even by unskilled workers. According to the architectural studio, “Eventually, each part can be transported and redeployed to activate other unused spaces, making this project not only a piece of temporary architecture but a design strategy, an urban vision for the future of London.”

“The railway arches are a unique urban asset as they host all sorts of retail activities and productive spaces such as studios, laboratories, workshops, mechanics, shops, micro breweries, and coworking spaces to name just a few,” Boano Prišmontas states. “Railway arches are the backbone of the ‘productive London’. The Arches Project aims to preserve and promote the diversity of uses by quickly creating a spacious, warm and dry space that delivers affordable workspace for local businesses.”

Photos: Boano Prišmontas

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