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The Architects Behind Interchange

Interchange is a new community for creative entrepreneurs in the heart of Camden. Our spaces have been designed by the award-winning architecture practice Barr Gazetas, who have been responsible for projects including Battersea Studios, Seven Dials, Glasshouse Street.

Jon Eaglesham is Director at Barr Gazetas and has built projects at Peninsula Square, Berkeley Square, Regent Street, Broadgate Tower and Bloomsbury Square, amongst many others. We sat down with Jon about Barr Gazetas’ vision, and how they were applying it to the build of Interchange, Camden, London.

Barr Gazetas has a lot of history with Camden, can you tell us a little bit about some of the work you’ve done here?

We’ve worked in the Borough of Camden for over twenty years. One of our first Camden Town projects in 2007 took a dilapidated building on Jamestown road and transformed it into a vibrant mixed-use building. We’re passionate about streets being active and that requires a mix of uses to succeed long term. We realigned the ground floor to encourage retail units, created office space in the intermediate floors and extended the top floors with private residential. Our founding Director, Alistair is on the PHAACC (Primrose Hill Area Advisory Conservation Committee) and has lived in Primrose Hill for many years. I’ve been in Camden for 10 years so far and although there has been change, the real changes both underway and planned will be in the next decade or so. We’ve known the current owners, Market-Tech, for 10 years and have enjoyed being part of the transformation in the Markets too; there is so much scope and a fantastic, sensitive, ambition.

What sort of an impact do you think Interchange will have on the local community and surrounding areas?

I find Camden Town a fascinating and chaotic part of London. It’s packed with inner city life, transport networks, and history – both the good and bad. Up until the late 20c it was part of the Kentish Town Manor, which stretched from Tottenham Court Road to Highgate but it became too insalubrious and parcels of land were being sold and renamed to re-establish its desirability.

I love the way it was transformed by the gentry, and then constrained by the industrial movements including rail, road and canal. From the mid 20c the markets arrived with a thriving music, fashion and creative culture evolving it once again. This gives Camden a unique sense of place, with so many different reasons to thrive.

When we first discussed the vision for community based working, Interchange, in September 14, we talked about our role and how we needed to curate Camden’s many strands of life, to find a mix or balance that could become self-sustaining. Metaphorically I see Interchange as a family for the full Camden community. Whether you are a designer-maker, digitally creative, musically gifted, or entrepreneurial, Interchange will work for you.

What are your thoughts on the future of work and what role does architecture and design play in this?

It’s not just the way we work that is changing; it’s the generation ‘working’ and also the output of the work itself. We’re gearing up for Gen X to be calling the shots in a few years’ time, and they are running out of time, before Gen Y won’t really need to listen.
Traditional work in the sense of a hierarchy, leadership and succession will be replaced with community and collaboration. Leadership of companies will become a co-op. Those who contribute the most will be the leaders, not those that progress the quickest. Architecture will need to adapt to allow this transformation to take place. Understanding the users and providing flexibility will be our key role as designers.

Do you feel it is architecture and design which influences today’s work, or is it more of the opposite, that you’re responding to changes in society and technology?

I think both are true except, that as with the chicken and egg, it’s which one made the first move. Good design responds to changes in society and technology whilst allowing the future to evolve but I believe the architectural language or style is the result of creativity and imagination.

How did you approach the design for the Interchange spaces – and what aspects did you want to draw out?

Similar to the way Camden was formed, as Architects working on existing buildings you have to make the existing constraints work so much harder. We work in many sectors and that was hugely important to helping curate the vision, considering the needs of the undefined occupier, providing the right facilities for growth and support. Understanding technology and where technology may go was great fun and as a result the way you enter the buildings and open your office door (or co-working space) is cutting edge. Working with Tom Dixon and Design Research Studio on the interior finishes and furniture meant we concentrated on the journey into the building, the layout of the spaces and how connected they could be. Many designers, each with their own specialism, have collaborated to help create the Interchange buildings.

What do you think lies ahead for the future of coworking?

What a great question. We’re moving offices later this year and this keeps me awake at night.As defined by Wikipedia, coworking is a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization.I think this is too finite to be a very long standing definition. Coworking is a relatively new definition but not a new social characteristic. It’s obvious that Gen X is dedicated to embracing it, in fact so are the Baby Boomers and as long as we don’t try and put it in a box I see a great future for it.For the ones co-working it brings you together, improves connectivity, opens up new networks and incubates ideas. It normally does this more economically too.)