The “egg box” of Euston Road
For decades the old council headquarters of Camden council were maligned as the “egg box” of Euston Road.
Its mid-seventies design of precast concrete and tinted windows stood in stark contrast to the neo-gothic grandiosity of Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Midland Grand, now the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
Facing demolition, the office block earned a reprieve in 2014 when The Standard hotel chain rescued the building for almost £60m. With brutalism undergoing a revival in the UK, newly appointed Shoreditch-based architects, Orms, had lofty ambitions for the structure – in turn demonstrating concrete’s circular economic credentials with the ability to repurpose existing structures.
The precast panels on the façade of the building were in good condition, though were in serious need of cleaning after 45 years of exposure to the pollution of the Euston Road. This was not without its challenges, with a small Banksy original on one precast panel, extra care was required. After cleaning with a mild abrasive system, the concrete, which has a large whitish aggregate in it, came up much brighter than had been imagined.
The building’s exterior was brought into the 21st century with the removal of its tinted windows. These were replaced with double-glazed clear units, each with various coatings, to improve building efficiency and limit solar gain.
Further adding to the appeal of the brutalist icon, Orms architects included a sprightly external red bubble lift, providing passers-by with a nod to the vibrant surrounds they can expect when stepping through The Standard’s doors. Once a polarising symbol of mid-seventies design, the exterior of The Standard is now a symbol of brutalism’s revival in the heart of London.
The most notable change to the structure was the addition of three extra floors to the top of the existing annexe. This added 1,914m2 to the building’s existing 15,360m2 and proved vital for the commercial success of the project.
On the inside, the building has been designed to wow Instagram-aficionados that seek out the best in contemporary art and design. Fusing the rawness of the concrete with bold colours, vintage furniture and striking patterns has helped to re-imagine the “egg box” of Euston Road as a go-to destination.
The re-imagining of a previously tired council office block as a boutique hotel equally points the way forward for an emerging trend in building design to recycle and reuse. Concrete’s inherent robustness, flexibility, and whole-life performance mean buildings such as The Standard it can easily be updated and future-proofed to meet the differing demands of occupiers in generations to come.
Image copyright Timothy Soar