Ewan Jones and Chris Patience of global architecture practice Grimshaw have been tasked with transforming One Brannan Street, the only triangular site at Wood Wharf, into a dynamic space for offices and retail. The team have utilised the wide-spanning views as a not-so-secret weapon.
How challenging is it to design for a triangular shape?
All the conventional bits of a building are rectangular, so the challenge was how to be efficient in our design without any bits left over. The practical things were challenging; there were about 100 core layout iterations. You have to think about every level at once. It also wasn’t an equilateral triangle. That means the balconies in each corner are slightly different, but that ultimately adds to the character. And, the location benefits greatly from its position at the edge of the Blackwall Basin, resulting in a spectacular triangle that makes the site very special.
What did you hope to achieve with One Brannan Street?
Part of our goal was to make sure the building is visible from multiple viewpoints. The corners of the building were therefore designed to act as striking visual markers that respond to sight-lines through the masterplan. Corners become less useful as office space as they get narrower so we’ve exploited those spaces to be social or meeting places on almost every floor in the form of balconies and winter gardens. There is also a series of roof terraces accessible to tenants.
With this building, it’s less of a single statement we’re trying to make, and more about offering glimpses from different vantage points. The projecting winter gardens and balconies are designed to draw pedestrians towards the building, and onto the waterfront and retail area under Carter Circle.
How did you maximise the landscape?
There’s a change in level around the site, which means we’ve essentially got two ground floor levels. It forced us to think about how to make the best use of that. We turned things around to serve dual purposes. We moved the loading bay to the other side of the building where there’s better access to a road in a place with less foot traffic. More importantly, relocating the loading bay preserves the area around the edges of the basin as retail and café spaces, strengthening
the connection between pedestrians
and the water.
One Brannan Street is one of few places in the development with such a wide-reaching view. We’ve taken advantage of this by designing large, open plan spaces with a picture window looking out over the basin.
How have you maintained the history while forging a sense of identity for the building?
We use the essential components of a building to create its character. For One Brannan Street, the triangle theme is very strong; the building footprint, winter gardens and other elements share the triangular motif.
The forms of the winter gardens are also consistent with the historic cranes of Wood Wharf, enhancing the identity of the dockside by creating a visual memory of the activities that once took place there.
We’ve tested the building with an exposed ceiling, which provides better sense of volume and more of a warehouse feel, reminiscent to the historic wharves and industry of the area.
It was important to us to ensure the basin was visible, so everyone who enters the building sees a view of the water to keep people connected to it.
Interview by Amy Guttman