The Cass, Whitechapel, London
The Cass: A sense of city and exteriority
The extensive floor plate (approx. 1400m2) has been liberated by moving the existing service core that was located directly in front of the main lift and staircase lobby, to a position along the north wall of the building. This has given the possibility of making an urban space with a sense of city and exteriority within the building. When entering the new floor from the main staircase, one arrives in "the boulevard", a large shared space that connects a tapestry of studio spaces on the floor. This tapestry is structured in a similar way to Paul Klee’s painting In der Sromung sechs Schwellen, (Six wiers in the current) 1929, with its parallel bands of varying sizes of fields – a series of comb-like structures arranged next to each other.
Three geographies are arranged next to each other running in a north-south direction parallel to the Boulevard space. On the east side of the Boulevard is the geography of Room Studios. This is a series of rooms each with a large door and window facing the Boulevard, like a row of small houses on a street. Each room has a view to the city over east London. The geography facing the Boulevard on the west side are three meeting rooms and an existing light well in the centre of the floor plate. Between the Meeting Rooms there are passages that connect the Boulevard to the 3rd geography, the Open Studios on the west side of the building. The Open Studios are divided with large plywood screens to allow use by different studio groups. The intention is that this large studio hall that extends the entire length of the building is a more flexible and multi-use space that can be easily cleared for an end-of-year exhibition or rearranged for varying sizes of student groups. The windows along the western façade have a continuous floor-to-ceiling curtain to diffuse the afternoon sunlight.
As the entire building is intended to be the home of the new joint School of Art, Architecture and Design, two new open staircases have been introduced in Phase 01 to connect the fourth floor architecture studios directly to the third and fifth floor studios, like internal staircases in a house. The idea is to promote informal contacts and dialogue between students and staff of various courses, by giving the possibility of easy vertical connection from floor to floor without the necessity of using the main staircase and lifts. The Domestic Stair in the Boulevard connects the Boulevards on the fourth and third floors, and a more tower-like Domestic Stair in the Open Studio connects the fourth and fifth floor studios. It is intended that these stairs will ultimately connect the first floor to the fifth floor in a continuous promenade through the studio spaces of the entire building.