MATA retrofits three listed buildings in Spitalfields to create new workspace

The architect’s vision for a light-filled courtyard has been completely fulfilled with a striking glulam frame and glazing package provided by Ecovia, together with a stunning polished aggregate resin floor.

The project saw the extension and comprehensive refurbishment of the existing buildings dating from the 18th through to the 20th centuries as a workspace for a visual effects company.



Architect’s view

From a project manager’s point of view, the aim is always to be in a collaborative team that work well together. We had already worked very successfully with the main contractor, quantity surveyor and structural engineer on another historic listed building. MATA, brought on board by Freefolk, had previously worked with the M&E and heritage consultant. The team gelled well from the outset.

Practical matters such as upkeep and maintenance of M&E plant as well as perimeter gutters have been cleverly integrated into the finished building. There are always limitations when working with historic buildings, however the transformation of this building has been profound. All the spaces have been used creatively to provide a superb working environment with much better access for all.
Kevin Mckenna, Project Manager, The Tollgate Partnership

Our approach has been to celebrate and enhance the architectural character of both the 18th and 20th-century buildings. The scheme provided an opportunity to reinstate original features within the earlier buildings while emphasising the lighter, more open and contemporary nature of the 1960s light-industrial building to the rear. In doing so, the distinct character of each part is revealed, fostering a greater awareness of the unique nature of each.


Over the course of the 20th century, much of the historic fabric of the original buildings was eroded and compromised with one of the properties receiving a light industrial two-storey extension in the 1960s  As a result, when we first visited the site at the start of design work, we found that behind the street façade, once inside the buildings, it was often difficult to distinguish between 18th and 20th-century elements.

Start on site May 2022
Completion date April 2023
Gross internal floor area 865m2
Gross (internal + external) floor area 928m2
Form of contract or procurement route Cost Plus
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect MATA Architects
Client Tollgate Partnership + Freefolk
Structural engineer  The Morton Partnership
M&E consultant P3r
Quantity surveyor Dudley Smith
Heritage consultant Montagu Evans
Party walls Goodman Mann Broomhall
Acoustic consultant Gillieron Scott
Project manager The Tollgate Partnership (in-house client PM)
Principal designer Shore Engineering
Approved building inspector Shore Engineering
Main contractor TJ Evers
Glulam frame + inset glazing subcontractor Ecovia
CAD software used Rhino, Microstation powerdraft, Enscape


The extension takes the form of a glazed glulam timber frame covering an external yard to the rear of one of the original houses, creating a new internal space bathed in natural light. The newly covered courtyard acts as both a new reception area, lobby, circulation and break out space.

Our company’s move, after many years as a tenant in Soho, to a new headquarters in Spitalfields, was driven by growth, changing business needs and a desire to invest in our place of work as a means to draw staff and clients back to the office and attract the best new talent.


Client’s view


Project manager’s view

Source:MATA Architects

Project data

Refurbishment of historic buildings is never without the odd surprise and this project was no exception. The building had been neglected for some time with a succession of patch-ups which hadn’t addressed some of the underlying issues. There was also widespread asbestos-containing material, which had to be removed. This was costly and time-consuming. The fabric of the building was carefully stripped back and restored/reconstructed to ensure that the building stays in good order for many years to come. There was enough fluidity that good constructive suggestions could be included as the design was realised.

The result is a profound transformation, both of a long-neglected site and of the way our people come together to collaborate as an organisation. We particularly enjoy the newly covered courtyard that has become a hub of scheduled and unscheduled serendipitous events and activity.
Jason Watts, creative director, Freefolk

MATA took the time to critically appraise and understand key aspects of our organisation; the spirit of our company and the way we work. The architects looked carefully at the way we occupied our previous workspace, identifying constraints and opportunities, and these insights were creatively applied to developing ideas for our new site at Elder St.

The glazed glulam frame interfaces with both 18th and 20th-century building fabric, tying the two together and creating the next, 21st-century chapter in the story of this layered site.
Dan Marks, director, MATA Architects