Brock House: From music hall to oasis of calm

Brock House has enjoyed a colourful history. It’s been a music hall, cinema, car dealership and now, finally, it’s our latest Work Space in the West End

At TOG, the character of a building is a key consideration as to whether it’s a good fit to become a Work Space – and relatively few buildings pass muster. With Brock House, though, TOG’s newest West End Work Space on Great Portland Street, the building’s backstory is colourful to say the least.

“Originally it was the site of a church, then Brock House was built as the Philarmonic Hall in the 1910s and played host to lots of jazz orchestras, and Shackleton actually displayed the silent films from his Antarctic Expedition there in 1919 and 1920,” explains Parvathy Vipulendran, an architect from long-time TOG collaborator, SODA, who worked with TOG’s design team to transform Brock House. “Then, in the 1930s it was reopened as a cinema with a car showroom on the ground floor and latterly the building was the radio headquarters of the BBC.”

These various different chapters in the building’s past were a lot to digest at first, but bringing Brock House to life in a way that felt both contemporary and respectful of this heritage was a compelling challenge for TOG. Fidel Sáenz de Ormijana, TOG’s senior architect, explains: “My first impressions of the space were very positive. It’s a handsome building, and it feels very compact and sturdy in its own way. For projects like ours, you don’t have many standalone island buildings like Brock where you’ve got every single elevation to work with, either.”

The centrepiece of Brock House is the ground floor, which is filled with natural light care of its huge showroom style windows on all sides (said windows were first installed – you guessed it – during the space’s tenure as a car dealership) with a spacious lounge area filled with design features that hint at the building’s roots. Ensuring that members had a truly comfortable space to either focus or take a few moments to reset was key to Brock’s design scheme, and the lounge sits across the ground and lower ground floors.

Deep blue accents run through the space too, as does the use of chrome, both of which allude to the Brock House of the 1930s, and lend the dual-floor lounge a sophisticated feel. “It was about striking a balance between what you’d think of as typical art deco design from the building’s cinema period and putting our own spin on it,” says TOG’s senior interior stylist, Emma Archer. “Whereas you’d expect to see lots of velvet and brass, we’ve used chrome instead to reference the automotive chapter. We’ve also installed a beautiful sculpture finished in car paint by Ian Tricker, and pieces like the Sofa With Arms by Shiro Kuramata also feel a bit ‘30s, although that piece was designed in 1982. It’s quite a timeless space in its own way.”

“These references to the past are very subtle,” Sáenz de Ormijana continues. “We’ve interpreted the building’s history mostly in the use of different materials and finishes – rather than through bold colour and pattern. It’s deliberately not very literal. There are sweeping curves in the space’s lighting and hard surfaces, and lots of features that could invoke the lines of a car. There’s also a lot of drama with the lighting in the space, which is very cinematic. It has a slight Stanley Kubrick feel to me.”

All of which feeds into Brock House’s other calling card. As an island building, set back from Great Portland Street and just a few minutes walk from the throng of Oxford Circus and Regent Street, Brock House is an unusually peaceful destination in the heart of the West End. Capitalising on this to create a sense of calm in the space was high on the design team’s list of priorities. “The simplicity of the colour palette helps Brock House to feel really quite serine,” says Vipulendran. “Plus, there’s lots of planting in there, great natural light care of the windows on each floor, and the whole space just feels really zen. High ceilings help too.”

“Despite having such a colourful past, nothing in the design of Brock House is shouty – I think we’ve managed to reference the past in an understated way,” adds Sáenz de Ormijana. “It’s a great space to escape to, sit and focus, or to gather your thoughts during the working day. It really is an oasis of calm.”

To learn more about Brock House or book a viewing, contact TOG here.