People architecture

Simon Saint, Principal at Woods Bagot, the London based architectural firm, explains his approach based on people needs, and his latest projects as The Makers, the new 175-apartment development in Shoreditch

The Londoner, Leicester Square
The Londoner, Leicester Square

“We always ground our projects in the experience and needs of the people who engage with our buildings, which is what our strapline People Architecture means”. Simon Saint, Principal at Woods Bagot, the London based architectural firm, explains his approach based on people needs and experiences: “Our design approach is really focussed on the people who will use the spaces we are designing, whether that’s a homeowner, a guest or the staff who work in the building. We extend this even further to include the community in the surrounding area, to make sure that anyone who interacts with our buildings has been considered”. But also with a huge respect of the history and the places, like in The Makers, the new 175-apartment development in Shoreditch: “The interiors are inspired by the heritage of craftspeople in Shoreditch and the surrounding neighbourhood”.

Simon Saint

Simon Saint, Principal at Woods Bagot

The Makers_Hall

The Makers, Shoreditch

In the vibrant and dynamic Shoreditch is born The Makers, the new 175-apartment development.
“The interiors of The Makers are inspired by the heritage of craftspeople in Shoreditch and the surrounding neighbourhood. Shoreditch’s historic furniture-making trade inspired hints of the 1920’s in the overall styling. The material palette is a collection of finishes that craftspeople worked with inside the building; the timber panelling, terrazzo flooring and brass features are all crafted elements. Even the feature tile in the lobby was selected from a Dutch manufacturer who has hand-made tiles for over 400 years. In addition to this recognition to the history of the area, The Makers also supports modern life in Shoreditch, with incredible access to the lifestyle and creativity in abundance around the site”.

The Makers is an urban retreat, 28 storeys, houses five studio flats, 155 two and three bedroom apartments and a small number of family duplexes with private roof gardens, with many amenities and common facilities. How did you manage to connote the different areas?
“In designing The Makers, we started with the people who would be living in the building and then those who live nearby. We always ground our projects in the experience and needs of the people who engage with our buildings, which is what our strapline “People Architecture” means. We started with the homes and understanding that the residents would mostly be a mix of young people drawn to Shoreditch and families who already live in nearby areas. While there are a number of variations amongst the apartment designs, they all start from a single approach of simplicity with accents of luxury or depth. This allowed us to make the amenity spaces really luxurious in response; this is demonstrated with the grand terrazzo stair in the lobby and warm garden room next to the terrace.

But while keeping these all in the same design language, we wanted each space to respond in its own way, to reflect the activities in those spaces. The screening room is reminiscent of a traditional cinema with its red velvet finishes, the gym is an active and high energy space, the lounges take a more relaxed approach, and the mail lobby with a feature joinery mailbox that is beautifully finished but functional in design”.

The material palette that takes inspiration from the 1920s.
“The atmosphere really is one of functional decadence, spaces and designs which work well and support people in their day-to-day life, but with a sense of craftsmanship and materiality that is luxurious and timeless. We wanted to make sure that the parts of the building that people interacted with created these experiences that worked, while also feeling incredibly special. The brass door handles were custom made to suit the apartment doors so that entering your apartment has a sense of quality. The timber slatted wall is lit by bespoke lighting to make the experience of climbing the feature stair special and textural”.

What about the furniture?
“We were lucky enough that a lot of the furniture in the project was bespoke in terms of its elements. We worked with Lema to create wardrobes as part of our design, but that used the standard Lema elements, so we knew that the functionality would be as good as the quality”.

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Which are the dreamy corners?
“The private roof gardens for the duplexes were an amazing addition to the project and the winter gardens in the tower offer outdoor space without full exposure to the elements, but I think the corner I’d like to curl up in the most is the garden room. The warm materials and windows out to the shared roof terrace would be perfect when the weather’s grey. At the other end of the spectrum, the penthouses with the outdoor terraces are the ultimate spot for a summer drink with the view over the city!”.

In general, could you tell us about your design approach?
“Our design approach is really focussed on the people who will use the spaces we are designing, whether that’s a homeowner, a guest or the staff who work in the building. We extend this even further to include the community in the surrounding area, to make sure that anyone who interacts with our buildings has been considered. We think about who these people might be and what they are looking for, what are they attracted to and what do they want to achieve? Alongside this we are of course always working with our clients to achieve their goals as well”.

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What about the upcoming projects?
As a global practice our work is incredibly diverse and we cover a long list of sectors. We do a huge amount in residential schemes around the world, for example, two great projects we are currently working on, in this region, include one for Argent in Brent Cross and one for Hutchinson’s in Greenwich. We are also working with First Base on the Old Soapworks site in Bristol, which is a mixed-use scheme including an office, residential and the conversion of the heritage Soapworks building into a food and beverage hall. We are also getting very close to completion on The Londoner in Leicester Square, a flagship hotel complex in the heart of central London, with the deepest habitable commercial basement in the world! At the other end of the scale our library building for St Mary’s girl school is also nearing completion, so we are looking forward to seeing it all finished”.