18 August 2023

Green light given for reinvention of former ‘fun factory’

Jonathan Tuckey Design have received planning approval for the reinvention of a former ‘fun factory’ production and performance space in south London.

Realised by theatre impresario Fred Karno in 1906, this elegant and slender property was once used for rehearsals, prop construction and set design; with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel said to have kickstarted their careers here. On the street facing façade, decorative window pediments are a unique contextual feature, whilst internally exposed steel trusses and large apertures shed light on the building’s dramatic industrial aura. The building is currently mixed use, with working and residential spaces interspersed throughout the floors.

Proposals will alter the 592m2 four storey layout sympathetically, with a garage volume on the ground floor culminating in a statement staircase leading to a mezzanine, flexible workspace and open plan living areas. The design plays with the buildings gregarious former use, exploring the extremities of size; with elements that appear to be larger than human scale. This is illustrated by grand joinery and bespoke furniture that sit in concert, like site specific sculptures within a gallery. The project seeks to translate a functional brief into a series of elegant and alluring spaces. At the rear of the building a steel structure is proposed to connects all levels, providing terraces and outdoor circulation. The delicate skeleton will nurture climbing plants, offsetting the substantial brick edifice from which it stems, both in density and materiality. The mixed-use canopy will be defined by restored window panes, utilising the top floor vantage to open up vistas towards London’s iconic skyline.

Improving energy efficiency is an imperative aim for the project, with subtle alterations pared with enhanced mechanical and electrical layout. Additional thermal breaks in the steel window frames will seal thresholds, contributing to an upgraded thermal envelope. Hemp ceiling panelling, timber partitions and cork flooring are all incorporated into the scheme to soften interiors and minimize the project footprint. Establishing a greater relationship to the buildings floor plan whilst retaining the rich and whimsical history of the ‘fun factory’ will be realised through renewal of original elements and improved accessibility.

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