London-based Bene, which retails a line of office furniture, opened its first showroom in Clerkenwell, England, two years ago. However, its recent expansion doubled the space by tanking out the lower-ground floor and integrating it with the original showroom. Designed by London-based Pentagram Ltd., the new "think and work tank" is a design laboratory with partitioning systems and a large floor area, called the "playground," where clients can sample combinations of furniture from Bene's compact office systems. The previous design featured planes of blue, yellow and red at the back of the ground floor. The new version, however, is much more cool and bright. Moving the main entrance to the south end of the showroom allows more natural sunlight. Additionally, a perforated-steel staircase takes visitors down to the lower level where a galvanized-steel floor and plain white walls reflect natural light through the glass entrance and stairs.
Glass partitions lining the sides of the lower showroom frame a display of available surface finishes at the far end. Pentagram also made the most of a clerestory at street level by placing reflecting mirrors in the soffits to draw natural light into arched recesses under the pavement. And a sophisticated lighting system for the new floor offers a contrast to the zig-zag aluminum fitting on the upper floor.
Architect: Pentagram Ltd. -- Lorenzo Apicella, Hilary Clark and Matthew Foster Structural Engineer: Alan Conisbee & Assoc. M&E Engineer: Fulcrum Consulting Lighting Consultant: Zumtobel Staff Lighting Main Contractor: Shannon and Co. Shopfitters Suppliers: Zumjtobel Staff Lighting (light fittings); Interface Europe (flooring); Burgess Architectural Products (ceilings); Sovereign Stainless Fabrications (staircase)