Peter’s Perspective – April 2016

The Farmiloe Building came alive with Clerkenwell Design Week. Our columnist bids a fond farewell to the event space and film set

So adieu, Farmiloe Building. No longer will you host Clerkenwell Design Week – or indeed any other meanwhile uses. Your warehouses will become offices, retail space and affordable workspaces. The Grade II listed building has been owned by the Farmiloe family for 150 years; their builders’ merchant business closed down in the 1990s and since then Tim Farmiloe has been pondering what should be done with the site, conscious that having worked in Clerkenwell man and boy he wanted what was best for the area.

I organised the London Architecture Biennale there in 2004 – up until then Tim had leased it out as a film and TV location. It was the bright idea of Richard Jones, MD of Old Street-based building consultants Jackson Coles, that it might make a good venue for cultural events. I remember the office spaces were like the Marie Celeste, the desks and timber-lined cubicle offices just as they were on the last day of business; the cellars were full of papers, files and copy invoices a century old.

Since then the building has come alive with events like the Biennale and Design Week – the loading bays and car park making the ideal location for a cafe and open space; the Pilkington Glass Warehouse a functional exhibition space, the rest of the 1868 building providing a mix of uses – lecture hall, retail and display space. Architects FCB Studios have now designed a new ‘sister’ building alongside the historic St John Street facade. Retail space has been incorporated on the ground floor with the workspaces to the rear and office space above.

It is sad to lose this amenity – but the Grebelius Brothers are bringing the Old Sessions House back into public use and, no bad thing, CDW will spread further and deeper into the spaces, community and buildings of the area.

Peter Murray is Chairman of NLA: London’s Centre for the Built Environment