London Borough of Enfield / Bloqs
Arup / Stace
London Borough of Enfield / Bloqs
Arup / Stace
5th Studio have worked with the London Borough of Enfield and social entrepreneurs Bloqs to create the UK’s first open-access factory as part of the £6 billion regeneration in Meridian Water, London.
Bloqs is a brand-new facility providing professional makers and maker businesses with affordable workshop space, access to state-of-the-art equipment and the opportunity to become part of a supportive community of fellow makers.
Bloqs offers an ambitious new model for open-access working, economising space and facilities on a scale never done before, simultaneously maximising the scope of the businesses, organisations and individuals that use it.
The new facility – designed by 5th Studio in close collaboration with Bloqs – provides 32,000 square feet of workspace with an amazing diversity of facilities for woodworking, metalworking, fabric & sewing, engineering, spray finishing, as well as training resources and services such as courses, classes and hireable meeting rooms. This ‘making Manhattan’ is part new build and part adaptive reuse of a former vehicle testing facility. The light-filled building is 8 -metres tall with direct access to a service yard. New amenities open to the public include a café/event space and a shop stocking tools and materials.
William Morris – whose family home was less than a mile from the site – campaigned for better conditions for makers. In a pamphlet called The Factory As It Might Be (1884), he asks why a working environment shouldn’t be pleasant, safe, exhibiting “…on their outsides what they are for, reasonable and light work, cheered at every step by hope and pleasure”. In creating a light, clean and warm working environment based around cooperation and education, Bloqs achieves many of Morris’ aims.
A new steel-framed building extends an existing built language of industrial forms, elevating standard components and ordinary materials such as profiled aluminium and translucent polycarbonate with carefully considered architectural detailing.
New public amenities include a café selling high quality food, as well as a supply of fresh local ingredients to take home. A shop sells tools and materials to members. An event space, opening onto the edge of the River Lee plays host to events and performances.
Users have access to £1.3 million-worth of light industrial equipment, usually beyond the reach of most new businesses, including: industrial mills, lathes, sanders, saws, 5D CNC routers, laser cutting, 3D printers, spray booths and specialist sewing machinery.
The scheme represents a key step in a staged development masterplan by 5th Studio that embeds the long-term principles of Meridian Water – a major £6bn, 25-year programme led by Enfield Council to bring 10,000 homes and 6,000 new jobs to the Borough. Bloqs plays a vital role in defining the character of the emerging district with making and creativity at its heart.
Central to the evolving masterplan is sustainability – with the adaptive reuse of buildings, materials and landscape aligning with circular economy principles. As a major move towards retrofitting a large-scale industrial landscape, Bloqs leads the way in providing maximum social utility at minimal financial and environmental cost. The facility is heated solely from waste material from its timber machining workshops. A comprehensive and highly sustainable building servicing strategy is expressed externally in the sculptural forms of a silo-like dust extraction system and waste-powered space heater.
An investment of £4 million by the Greater London Authority and Enfield Council has enabled this groundbreaking concept to treble the scale of Bloqs’ operations and meet the growing demand among professional makers for affordable workspace in London.
The opening of the new facility cements Bloqs’ status as a pioneering business model with the scale and vision to maximise the potential of the many small businesses, organisations and individuals it serves.
Tom Holbrook, Director of 5th Studio, said:
"Space for making things in London is diminishing rapidly as development displaces the capital’s contingent and productive spaces. Building BloQs forms an important bulwark and demonstrates that space for physical making is actually a growing need in the city. Bloqs is the latest in a series of productive spaces 5th Studio have helped create and its breadth and generosity are quite unique. The project delivers a critical part of the Meanwhile Masterplan for Meridian Water which is helping to inform change on the ground: shifting perceptions, improving connectivity, scaling up existing uses and embedding vibrant new ones.”
William Morris – whose family home was less than a mile from the site – campaigned for better conditions for makers. In a pamphlet called The Factory As It Might Be (1884), he asks why a working environment shouldn’t be pleasant, safe, exhibiting “…on their outsides what they are for, reasonable and light work, cheered at every step by hope and pleasure”.
In creating a light, clean and warm working environment based around cooperation and education, Bloqs achieves many of Morris’ aims.
Placemaking strategy, meanwhile masterplan, makerspaces and studios for a major new development area in the Lea Valley
Special Prize winning submission to the IBA 27 for a new sustainable urban quarter
Photography: Claudia Agati / Timothy Soar / Bloqs