Piercy&Company has completed the refurbishment and extension of Harella House, a 1930’s warehouse and former clothing factory in London’s Clerkenwell on behalf of Chait Investment Ltd. The building now provides 3,107 m2 of light filled, flexible office space over six floors, is rated BREEAM Excellent and achieves a 47% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the existing building.
The building has a fascinating history as home to what was, in its heyday, one of the UK’s largest and most successful women’s clothing exporters – Harella International Fashions. The building’s high ceilings and large crittal windows were originally designed to create suitable working conditions for the textile firm.
Harella House was sold in the 1970s and converted into office space and by the time architects Piercy&Company came to the project in 2016, the building’s character was hidden under decades of unsympathetic internal office alterations. The architects stripped out these elements, as well as layers of brickwork and concrete. Riveted steel columns, perimeter brickwork piers and concrete encased beams have been revealed and celebrated, creating an authentic and characterful palette of materials.
Piercy&Company researched the heritage of the Harella brand for inspiration to shape the interior detailing. Echoes of the Harella company’s distinctive hand painted advertising posters and fabrics can now be seen in the interior colour palette of grey green and warm oak with accents of black. The architects introduced subtle motifs of woven thread which appear externally on the terraces, where the railing patterning resembles threadwork, and internally on the stair balustrades with the threadwork pattern executed in woven tensile leather by Bill Amberg Studio.
The building’s spatial qualities have been improved through a series of sensitive additions, cuts and insertions, all of which prioritise natural light. A 4.76m high reception space was created by lowering the existing structural slab to street level. Lit by large street-side picture windows and clad in timber and terrazzo the space is linked to the upper ground lift lobby by an elegant terrazzo and steel feature stair.
A single storey steel and concrete extension on the south side of the building creates a deep upper ground floor space that is lit by new clerestory glazing, large glass sliding doors and a 17.6m linear rooflight which expresses the junction between new and old elements.
On the top floor the existing slate tile pitched roof was lifted up to accommodate a new top floor mezzanine space with a large south facing picture window.
The refurbishment of Harella House has resulted in an environmental upgrade that has reduced the energy consumption and carbon emissions of the building. The energy modelling that was undertaken as part of BREEAM (‘Excellent’ rating achieved) showed a 47% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the existing building.
The refurbished Harella House now provides 3,107 m2 of high quality office space from lower ground to fourth floor. And importantly, the Harella story has been articulated in the building’s very fabric, connecting the building’s new users to this fascinating history.