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Alexander Pringle — The Viable Foundry

Elements of the cladding, core and structure are cast on site and form the external skin of the new foundry. The combination of digital technology with the historic crafting techniques becomes the signature language of the building.

The Viable Foundry — The re-imagination of Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 21st Century working environment, intensifying the site’s cultural significance. By Alexander Pringle.

 

Location

Whitechapel Road, Tower Hamlets, London. E1

 

Objective

To preserve the craft of casting metals and form a centre for the study of casting as well as provide apprenticeships and educational schemes for innovative craft. To preserve the UK’s oldest continuous industrial building.

 

Motivation

The loss of cultural, industrial and historic pieces of city for the benefit of the few can be seen as a form of ‘cultural vandalism’. Current plans for the site include a boutique hotel and restaurant with severely limited retention of historically significant functions.

 

Strategy

The original foundry will be sensitively repurposed as a series of archival and educational spaces. An extension to the rear will house larger scale spaces for more industrial functions and larger groups. Exhibition spaces, apprentice accommodation and a lecture hall will also be built.

 

Impact

The Viable Foundry is an opportunity to preserve the use and form of London’s historic industrial past and connect the public with craft to celebrate the process of making.

 

The section through the series of spaces shows horizontal and vertical connections of each space and resultant activity. The ground floor is left largely open for visitors, with upper spaces used for scheduled exhibits and residents.
The proposed structural approach will contribute to the foundry’s design life. Both the industrial and gallery spaces are designed and finished in the same manner to allow for maximum flexibility and adaptability over time.
The bell yard separates the old and new foundries with a visual break to emphasise the change in age, process and scale
The rear extension houses a collection of spaces that both support the existing foundry and provide new spaces for innovative technology and viability. Street facing elements are fragmented to draw the public through into these more industrial areas, reflecting the existing configuration.
Dormitory style bedrooms sit above individual workspaces which are connected by a long gallery along the street for students to exhibit their creations.
There are moving elements to compartmentalise spaces for multiple uses and occupants, prolonging the lifespan of the new building to allow it to age alongside the already historically significant Old Foundry.
There is a large lightwell to the centre of the new extension to allow light into the building. As the site is confined by multiple party walls, the internal courtyard floods the area with light and presents itself as a flexible function space.
A cast metal container sits within the brick structure providing seating spaces for viewers to engage with visual performances.
Cast iron panels with bell shaped profiles subtly reference the buildings original use while creating a varied facade which on the oblique gives the impression of a monolithic block. Though in the evening, the perforated panels allow the internal use of the building to become the facade.

 

Further work 

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