Case Study

Elsley House Practising What We Preach

London, UK

The Challenge

After 10 years in London, HKS Architects had outgrown its Soho base. The search began for new premises that could accommodate five teams that had been spread across three sites, as well as an environment that acts as springboard for growth. The practice settled on refurbishing and remodeling the ground and lower ground floor of a 1930s Art Deco building with a prominent street presence in Fitzrovia. The aim was to design for a studio, not an office, to enable a cross-fertilisation of ideas, to promote staff health and well-being, and to celebrate design excellence in all its forms.

The Design Solution

Design solutions embraced collective requirements, such as: areas that promote chance conversations that stimulate idea generation, improve connectivity between floors, and places to accommodate different modes of working. Roof-lights and a new double-height multipurpose space draw natural light into the depth of the plan and create a heart to the studio. Subtly inserted fully-glazed meeting rooms create calm, soundproof spaces. A well-equipped kitchen with a dining area that also doubles as a meeting space, is one of the busiest places in the building. The ‘shopfront windows’ feature graphics and displays that will change theme and message to engage passers-by and visitors alike, animating the streetscape. In addition, the double-height space plays host to events for both the architectural and local community. Many of the building’s original features are juxtaposed against a state-of-the-art design studio. As the building was stripped back to reveal its original character, a simple palette of black, white and natural brick evolved; a blank canvas to showcase the architectural process. The works uncovered interesting original fabric and the design was adapted to feature the period brickwork. Riveted steel columns were uncovered and restored, as well as the original Crittall windows in the main studio, paying tribute to the building’s industrial heritage.

Most interior spaces have direct access to natural light, while large windows draw daylight into the heart of the plan. Lighting systems automatically respond to the level of incoming daylight and adjust as required to minimise energy consumption. The LED lighting scheme is also designed to supplement daylight, ensuring that the interiors achieve proper EML levels; a lighting metric tied to Circadian rhythm, enhancing staff wellbeing.

The Design Impact

The new office embraces spaces, configurations and technology that inspire creativity and collaboration, allowing for flexibility within teams and the wider practice. A pre/post move analysis helped us understand occupant experience, environmental, and workplace performance. Findings already indicate a high degree of employee satisfaction, comfort and environmental performance.

Read more about the impact our design has in an Impact Report outlining the measurable outcomes of our energy, financial and well-being goals.


Project Features

  • 1,120 square meters (12,070 square feet)
  • Open plan offices
  • Meeting rooms
  • Private workspaces
  • Kitchen and refectory
  • Gallery and event spaces
  • CAT B fit-out
  • BREEAM Excellent
  • Seeking LEED Gold certification
  • Seeking WELL Platinum certification


  • 2018 IIDA Global Excellence Award