The Proud Archivist is a mixed-used cultural venue including gallery, bar, restaurant, cafe and event space. The project is designed to echo and revive the traditions of London’s grand 17th & 18th century coffee houses. The brief was developed engaging The Proud Archivist’s anticipated audience in a series of prototyping testing sessions that resulted in a space that successfully caters for a multitude of uses. The space is extremely flexible and functional – it is able to cater for gallery openings for over 300 guests and provide seating for up to a hundred covers.
“How can you fit a bar, cafe, restaurant, library, gallery, events space and private hire space into a relatively small floor plate?” asks Oliver Marlow. “The answer is effective programming of events and clear synergies across spatial zones, this is one of our specialities at Studio TILT. It’s exciting to see a restaurant turn into a bar, then an exhibition, then a venue.”
The Proud Archivist is Studio TILT’s first opportunity to have creative control over all aspects of the project. “As designers of the brand as well, the client wanted this to all come together in a cohesive cogent way,” Marlow added.
“I like the story that the Enlightenment began in coffee houses,” said Marlow. “Suddenly clean[ish!] water was available, people drank this new fangled drink called coffee and found it convivial for thought and conversation.”
“They are the original co-working spaces,” he continued. “We wanted to create a space that offered this atmosphere of creativity and conviviality, where you could believe great things were about to happen.”
Located between De Beauvoir Road and Kingsland Road, the restaurant is split over two levels. The impressive 484 sq. metre ground floor space is anchored by a 6.5 metre long bar and kitchen that opens out onto the Regent’s Canal towpath. A double height Library Wall situated on the eastern wall gives the space a personal scale that will, over time, allow the building to develop its character through books, photography and exhibitions.
The restaurant continues upstairs to a light and airy mezzanine level with impressive views of the canal. The steel-structured mezzanine separates the open kitchen from the dining area above.
TILT’s design carefully balances an open and flexible gallery space with the need to provide privacy and seclusion. Differing materials have been specified to designate the various zones: a simple palette for the bar, restaurant and mezzanine areas contrasts with the highly finished elements of the event space. The whole area is unified by untreated, larch ceiling fins hung at 90-degree angles to a floor made from reclaimed mahogany boards. A set of huge, white-panelled steel doors delineate the boundary between the event space and restaurant.
The gallery’s prominent feature is the full length Light Wall constructed of a steel frame and faced with 5mm polar frosted acrylic. Lit by 33 six-foot fluorescent tubes – London’s largest light box – this is the perfect canvas for displaying vinyl printed artwork as well as flooding the gallery with an impressive glow that can be adjusted to suit events.
As Hector Proud, founder and Managing Director says:
“Quite simply it wouldn’t be possible to have programmed a fraction of this without Studio TILT’s deep, practical consideration of our need for a flexible space. The space works because of a large number of small ideas working together to make a functional space that can adapt to myriad uses. Alongside this, Studio TILT’s rigorous (and, at times, challenging) standards ensured that none of this came at a cost of aesthetic appeal. The result is that we’ve been provided with the perfect, organic platform we’d originally discussed – enabling us to gradually overlay character, story and meaning to the space through a wide and diverse programme of cultural events.”
Portions of this copy appeared in the Dezeen article about the project here.