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Soft Touch

London, UK

Topped with an architectural crown of glass blocks, Grzywinski+Pons’ Buckle Street Studios for apart-hotel group Locke combines warmth and translucency

With its warm-toned brickwork, radiused corners and round-headed windows, Buckle Street Studios seems to have brought some of its architect Grzywinski+Pons’ home city of New York to London’s Aldgate East. This is the latest project for design-focused apart-hotel brand Locke, and the two firms are by now serial collaborators – Grzywinski+Pons has helped to define Locke’s distinctive aesthetic across multiple locations including London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

The mixed-use building includes a coffee shop and concept store, co-working space, and private and rental apartments, with Grzywinski+Pons working across the interiors as well as the architecture. The building aims to bridge the gap between the area’s smaller Victorian buildings and the neighbouring high-rises, breaking up the 13-storey structure by the means of three different materials: standing-seam nickel panels on the ground, floor, brickwork above, and finally, two storeys of glazed brick that crown the top, lending it a visual lightness as well as gently diffusing the light that comes from within.

The ground floor is described by the architects as “equal parts gallery, lounge, coffee shop, retail concept and living room,” with a brief to be as open and welcoming as possible. A soaring double-height parabolic arch draws the eye upwards, its soft curves echoing the rounded corners employed on the exterior; the co-working space sits up on the mezzanine, with the descending arch visible from the banks of desks.

There’s a softness to the interiors in the communal spaces, with a timber balustrade on the mezzanine, fluted panelling, clay plaster and draping pale-pink curtains. The furniture includes New Zealand brand Resident’s Offset stools, one of its three legs edging out from the base, and lots of fixed, integrated seating that lend the space the air of a playful landscape of geometric shapes. The room is also punctuated by a series of glass vitrines that invitingly display the merchandise for the concept store.

The uppermost storeys of glazed bricks come into their own when it comes to the interiors, lending character to the apartments – especially as they trace the building’s curved corners, skimming behind chunky pillars – as well as making for spaces that are full of natural light. These glass bricks have a strong geometry, and the architects have softened this with some of the same materials and features used for the communal ground-floor areas, with lots of warm timber, clay plaster and generously gathered curtains. Grzywinski+Pons took inspiration from boat interiors for some of the joinery, to make the most of compact space while keeping things functional, including compact tiered tables, shallow shelves and hanging timber trays.