In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

The Safe Deposite

The Safe Deposite, is the reincarnation of former local safe deposits, and re-imagining of a cabinet of curiosities creating a cellular exhibition space, visible to the public but protective of its contents.

The structure fills a missing corner and completes the smile of the existing granite plinth. It is both a folly that allows for architectural playfulness and a space capable of hosting a range of public performances, exhibitions and other events.  The pavilion acts as a stage addressing the new public square created as part of The Crown Estate and Oxford Properties redevelopment of St James’s Market.

Analogous of a jewellery box, the contrast between the stark black exterior and the ornate interior of the pavilion help to catch the eye of passerbys on Regent Street St James’s. The ceiling is covered in a bucolic, wheat-field design in gold leaf. Wheat, a common gold, once used as currency in the barter and exchange of the old St James’s Market is representative of The Safe Deposite’s cabinets baring their contents for public view.

Sands & Randall used a mix of hand craft and digital techniques to bring the relief pattern to fruition. The deep ‘chimneys’ bring daylight across the pattern to the cabinets below, and create a deep ceiling void where security shutters are nestled ready to protect the maximised facade openings.

The cabinets of walnut, patinated copper, glass, sycamore and brass host exhibits, services, equipment, and tailoring inspired marquetry.  

Image credits: Polly Braden and Fernando Manoso

With thanks to Leslie Green.

The design of the pavilion, its proposed construction methodology, and the curatorial vision all connect toone single theme:mentorship.Our pavilion was designed with an imagined mentor in mind, tube station architect Leslie Green (b. 1875) who, with his father, architect and Crown surveyor Arthur William Green, designed the Pall Mall Safe Deposite that previously stood on this site in 1898.

By 1903, a 28-year-old Leslie caught his big break. Having set up his own practice and delivered a number of successful but relatively insignificant projects, he was commissioned by American business tycoon, Charles Tyson Yerkes, to design over fifty tube stations. A colourful character, Yerkes arrived from America and at the point at which he met our Leslie, was poised to build what would become the Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Northern Lines. Leslie was contracted to design all of the stations for the three lines. The then cutting edge technology of a steel frame structure was employed in order to build the stations quickly and economically, allowing Yerkes to sell real estate above them. Another innovation, driven in part by cost, was the use of ox-blood ceramic tiles, moulded into various decorative details that make each station unique.

The pace and pressure of this huge commission soon took its toll on Leslie. Despite being a young man his health was deteriorating and when Leslie was just 32, he was effectively forced to retire. He died from tuberculosis in August 1908, aged 33.

In February 2014, Leslie Green celebrated his 139th birthday. In the 106 years since his untimely death, Leslie has overseen the development of a number of designs, beginning with the posthumous mentorship of his former assistant Stanley Heaps who was tasked with seeing Leslie’s original commission through. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Leslie had a difficult relationship with tube station architect Charles Holden. The two men fell out time and time again, not least due to Charles’s radical changes to Leslie’s Archway station. Leslie also begrudged Charles being considered the London Underground architect’s architect.

We had just begun working on the St James’s Market commission when Leslie approached us, explaining that the Pall Mall Safe Deposite site had great sentimental value for him as one of the last buildings he worked on with his father, and that he would be delighted to offer his guidance.

Leslie approved of our idea of creating an homage to the two safe deposits of the area, but suggested that we – as he had – consider creating a cabinet layout suitably non-factory like and befitting the area, despite containing a relatively gridded programme of safes. He explained to us how the view of the building from Regents Street St James’s (formerly known as Lower Regent Street) was critical and mentioned his irk that the architect of St Albans House refused to take his advice on this.

 Leslie engaged us in a scintillating conversation about our approach to extending the plinth and creating a jewellery box like interior to draw the eye from Regent’s Street St James’s. In his designs for the tube stations, Leslie had always considered that the buildings would become the bases for future developments.

 He also applauds our suggestion that we allow for the craftspeople that work with us to be given some free reign to add certain details, perhaps because this rings true with details such as the cricket bats and wicket at Leicester Square station. 

This mentorship, however unorthodox, has been very valuable for us in the design of the pavilion and we think Leslie would agree that showcasing a programme of design mentorship between the traditional craftspeople of the St James’s area with young designers would make a fitting theme for our Safe Deposite.