House of Vans London

Using concrete, rubber and lights Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex transformed for Vans an underground theater in London into a cultural hub with an art gallery and a skatepark.

Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex, House of Vans London
The House of Vans London, designed by skateboarder and designer Pete Hellicar and architect Tim Greatrex, together with Black Sparrow Presents, is a new mixed use creative venue for Vans enthusiasts and those interested in skateboarding culture.
The new venue includes an art gallery, Vans labs creative spaces, screening room, live music for 850 people, a premium café, numerous bars and a three tier indoor concrete skate
Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex, House of Vans London
Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex, House of Vans London
The House of Vans London sits within the 150 year old brick arches of the railway lines heading out of Waterloo station and next to London’s famous graffiti street, Leake Street. The site was previously used by the Old Vic Theatre. The area of the site is approximately 2,500 square metres and contains 5 separate long tunnel spaces. Due to the site being located within the historic arches of the railway lines above, restrictions were clearly set to disallow any form of structural fixing or disturbance to the existing brickwork.
The requirement from Vans was to provide a cultural hub for skateboarding, art, film and music. Utilising the layout of the tunnels, the site was delineated into the four main functions of the brief so that each were housed within a specific tunnel. They were separated into the following: a tunnel for art – a gallery with artist’s labs to create and display art exhibitions; a tunnel for film – a cinema and screening room; a tunnel for music – an 850 capacity gig venue; and a tunnel for skateboarding – a skatepark for all levels of skateboarding ability.
Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex, House of Vans London
Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex, House of Vans London
The overall aim was to create a space that incubated creativity. Concept discussions led on to the linking of skateboarding and architecture and how in particular a skateboarder samples the environment he is about to ride. This was incorporated into specific design interventions of the site for example the main entrance counter, the transitioning ramp into the space, the skatepark areas, the cinema seating and the café kitchen enclosure – all incorporate elements of skateboarding forms. These re-appropriated forms are influenced as far back from the origins of skateboarding from California which includes the citywide rudimentary forms of concrete banks and transitions, and from the early years of skateboarding within vacant swimming pools and large concrete pipes.
Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex, House of Vans London
Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex, House of Vans London

The plan for the skatepark was for it to accommodate three tunnel spaces to allow for varying layouts and abilities. The main space is the concrete ‘bowl’ predominantly for professional use, the second area is the ‘street scene’ for medium ability and the third is the ‘mini ramp’ skate park area for beginners or relaxed users.

The five separate tunnels of the site are unified with the large and impressive rubber floor. The iconic sole of the Vans shoe inspired the layout of the hexagon and diamond pattern, with the strip of hexagons of the sole made to align with an enfilade of arches to delineate a main axis and corridor through the Venue. The rubber floor provides a clean and comfortable surface but at the same time visually creates a strong contrast to the raw and textured brick walls and vaulted ceiling.

Due to the underground nature of the site it was important to light the space sufficiently for use whilst also elegantly expressing the form of the tunnels. Long linear strips of warm light were used throughout the tunnels, positioned at the intersection of the brick wall and the beginning of the brick arch, to graze the brickwork to create a dramatic cathedral like space. Neon lighting was also employed in the space, as it seemed appropriate within the subterranean environment. The branded neon signs create evocative focal points within the space – at the entrance, bars, stage and within the green room.

House of Vans London
Program: mixed use venue
Design: Hellicar & Lewis and Tim Greatrex
Event Production and Construction Manager: Black Sparrow Presents
AV, staging and project management: Zero Degrees
Project Management: Building Construction Solutions (BCS)
Skatepark Design: Line skateparks
Skatepark Construction: Pete Warboys
Electrical + Lighting Contractor: HPES Electrical
Lighting Consultant: Panagiotis Andrikopoulos
HVAC Design: Mecserve
HVAC Contractor: Chapman Ventilation
Rubber Flooring: Dalsouple DRF, Tac fast
Joinery and General Builder: Illiyan Petrov
Area: 2,500 sqm
Completion: 2014

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