Second Home London Fields is located in East London, on Hackney’s neighbourhood, one of the most popular ones of the city at the moment. The old working-class neighbourhood of East End, grey and marginal, has transformed its image, becoming an alternative point for multiple trends, thanks to the hosting of young middle-class designers and artists who couldn’t afford the extremely expensive rentals of the city centre.
Name of the Project: Second Home London Fields
Architecture Office: Cano Lasso
Completion year: 2019
Built Area: 1.812,98m2
Location: Mare Street 125-127, Hackney, Londres
Photography credits: Iwan Baan and Second Home
Architect in charge: Gonzalo Cano Pintos
Design Team: Gonzalo Cano Pintos / Diego Cano Pintos / Alfonso Cano Pintos
Clients: Second Home / secondhome.io
Engineering: Webb Yates Engineers / www.webbyates.com
Landscaping: Noel Kingsbury
Consultants: EXA Group UK Ltd. / www.exagroup.net
Ignacio de la Vega Copado
Rosa Cano Cortés
Ana Olalquiaga Cubillo
Rocío Marina Pemán
Carlota Galán Daries
Alfonso Cano Abarca
Second Home’s arrival to Hackney with its diversified co-working program, its free provision of multipurpose spaces, the cafe, nursery, etc., meant a new opportunity to facilitate the creation of emerging activities of the Local Community.
It was one of the project’s goal, in addition to Hackney’s conversion, the adequate adjustment to SECOND HOME’s program of a building, well located, in Westgate Triangle in front of Broadway Market, which had a noticeable heterogeneous nature, caused by the deep transformation of the original building. The old Morly House theatre, built in 1800 during the revival’s period, lost its frontage and therefore its historicist façade during the WWII bombing. In the 60’s, a four levels volume was built on the remains of the old theatre, generating a new façade following the style of the contemporary language of those days.
The building’s adjustment to the program and to Hackney’s conversion, was focused on two basic interventions: First, the façade, which had to mean and represent a new reference point, a change of image from the tradition to the trend; And Second, a different interior, applying the “illusion’s theory”, which allows us to escape from the common boredom. SECOND HOME’s diversified program and innovative spirit allows for numerous possibilities, combined with the enhancement of the limited original elements of the old theatre.
The façade went through a long process. At first, there were developed a couple of proposals quite utopian, but the idea to create a veiled façade existed from the beginning. I always found really poetic Popea’s veil story. She was Neron’s wife, the roman emperor, and, according to Tacito’s stories, her face had an extraordinary beauty, which she always covered by a white silk tulle to generate the desire to see what she so subtly hid. The veil’s concept brings us to a multiple interpretation, the act of gazing can’t be completed in a moment, nor limited by the mere confirmation of the appearances.
The façade’s veiling went through a process of different materialities. It came up the reference of Cedric Price’s Aviary in London, a simple metallic mesh stretched by a light structure based on internal supports, which created an intriguing and subtle transparency as filtering the gaze through the almost invisible mesh’s blockage. This idea was dismissed as the veiling’s subtlety needed the air void as background.
Finally, we decided to go for a veiling with an ETFE membrane; its more opaque transparency would work better with the solid volume it tried to hide. To give shape to this membrane, the intuition, learnt from Frei Otto’s experimental processes, allowed us to generate a topography based on rigid points placed randomly. When I say intuition, to understand and clarify, I want to express that the references can never be applied literally, we should always go to the idea’s origin. That’s the only way not to lose the originality.
The challenge remained in technically solving the ideas, a long period of work with the specialists. The first problem appeared on Frei Otto’s membranes, usually designed to be roofs, where the stress points generating the shape were produced with oposite actions to the gravity. In this kind of models, the surface’s curvatures are generated by natural deformations caused by the light weight of the membrane, being the theoretical field of observation limited to a unique plane, the vertical one. As the stress on a point is bigger, its reaction causes a wider curvature range generated on the surface, always maintaining the dimensional relation between the force applied, the gravity’s reaction and the curvature’s deformation. In a very simplified way, we could say that the membrane’s main weight, under the gravity’s action, naturally models the surface just by applying stress points opposite to the gravity on it.
In our case, as the membrane had a vertical position, the gravity wasn’t an ally to generate the surface’s shape anymore, so our curvatures had to be created on a transversal plane and we needed to cancel the gravity’s load. When I previously mentioned the intuition, and that the references had to be applied from their origin, I meant that in this case, our observation point should be again the nature, on Frei Otto’s membranes’ origin. Why the spider webs, for efficiency reasons, usually are on a vertical position? And how do their membranes work against the gravity and wind’s load?
Its observation and analysis, added to the intuition learnt from Frei Otto, allowed us to generate a geometry divided by regions; on the center of each region, it was placed the stress point and, as on a spider web, radially formed, we could model the curvature lines of the surface and the patterns of the membrane
It was also really interesting the process of cancelling the wind and gravity’s loads. In order to achieve it, it was designed an inventive tridimensional structural system, based on very light tripods that generated a stress ring on the center of each region, also transferring at the same time the wind and gravity’s loads to the resisting elements of the building. A clever game which distributed the loads applied to the membrane on multiple directions, optimising their dimensioning and lightening their weight.
In the internal intervention, we managed with special care the relation between the space and the atmosphere’s quality of use, and how it affects on its way of living it. It is basically to go further beyond the superficial and common coding that the functionalism has given to the conventional space.
It is also a constant on SECOND HOME’s spirit everything that has to do with the fantasy, the invention and the manufacture; the lightness and fragility, the transparency, the light and the colour, and the reference to nature. To work with natural tectonics allows us to approach the understanding of the logic between nature’s shape and the synthetic logic of geometry. We are interested on nature’s tectonics facing inertia, gravity and rigid spaces; the architecture as a way to look or as the essence of the perception.
As in nature, where there’s no unique point of view, our interest is to show the people that the space is relative to its perception.
In London Fields, we’ve tried to explore the landscape, with a plastic expression which, from our sensibility and experience, appears to generate other spaces, phenomenons, maybe natural, with another scale. This way, the space becomes an atmospheric and a landscape experience.
The spaces are always opened to the whole building, allowing at the same time the individuality of the diverse uses, in order to be able to recognise an own space area, creating limited regions. To achieve it, the different sub-spaces are defined by the furniture, the plants and separated cells created by see-through partitions. These elements allow for the different uses and activities to be limited by spacial contractions and expansions. With a simple gesture, the space is self-arranged with endless possibilities.
The space as a whole and every of its parts have the same value, and therefore the feeling of lack of hierarchy allows for the space to keep changing constantly as in the natural landscape.
The formal articulation-spacial distribution can reference an endless number of shapes, with a clear idea of the limit, understanding that it’s not where it stops, but where something that appears to be ending, starts again. Facing the cartesian conventional space concept – limit and end, we suggest the active relation between the shape and the void it takes up.
The always present light is intensified by areas, so that the constantly changing perception of the building, not only route wise but also time wise, generates the loss of the idea of finding ourselves on specific facilities to end up waking up the awareness of being in the middle of a living landscape.
In the end, to work attentive to SECOND HOME’s innovative spirit, solved with great efficiency and clarity on both of their previous buildings, Hanbury st and Holand Park. They are both great examples to understand the disappearance of the rigidness and he evidence, and to this way discover that the poetics reside in the perception.