The Hult School is housed in a Victorian building in Whitechapel which had previously been a brewery, a whiskey bonding house and a textiles warehouse before lying derelict.
Sergison Bates was responsible for transforming the building, retaining original features such as its cedar floors, brick walls and cast iron structure. The oldest section of the building is divided into four zones containing a mix of lounge areas and study pods, while a newer extension houses classrooms.
Images: Graphic Thought Facility
With a relatively simple layout, Stevens said the aim of signage and wayfinding was primarily to inject some colour and character into the space. Drawing on the building’s history, GTF used stencil lettering inspired by type on whiskey barrels (barrels will often house several drinks in their lifetime, from whiskey to port and sherry, with a new layer of lettering added each time to create a visual history of their use, explained Stevens). The studio painted letters and numbers on found materials such as leftover flooring and scrap wood, and arranged them on shelves to signpost the relevant floor number, zone and room number.
Cooler shades of blue and grey were used for lower floors, progressing to a warmer palette on higher levels (a system devised by Kennedy and also used for furniture and interiors). Floor numbers are obscured by overlaid signage at a reception desk by the building’s entrance, shown below – an unusual approach but as Stevens points out, “most people are familiar with the sequence 1,2,3,4. They don’t really need to be able to see the numbers.”
The studio also created some graphic displays aimed at helping improve acoustics in the space by absorbing sound (the building has an open ceiling with exposed air conditioning unit, a metal floor and brick walls). The company used offcuts of felt fabric by Kvadrat, a client of GTF‘s, to create a series of wooden boards studded with felt discs for the walls of each room, to match the colour scheme on each floor. 40,000 discs were pressed in by hand and holes were cut by a car gasket manufacturer in Birmingham.
The dot motif is continued in window displays and a series of art prints for rooms and study spaces, which were created with Why Not Associates’ Andy Altmann and print studio Jealous. These were inspired by a series of prints by Altmann and Charming Baker, which featured Charming Baker’s drawings screen printed over vintage posters collected by Altmann.
Artwork is designed to evoke a sense of place using London ephemera, says Stevens. GTF drew on the area’s boxing heritage (there are still a number of clubs in the surrounding area) and used old boxing posters collected by Altmann, over printed with Cockney rhyming slang in bold red type.
Many of the phrases feature slang for money: “It was perfect for where the school is situated – it’s the near the City