The Creative Space: Chris Gwyther, Founder & Creative Director, Phoenix Wharf
In this part of our Creative Space feature, we discover an innovative space that Chris Gwyther, Founder of Pheonix Wharf was inspired by recently…
Chris Gwyther, Founder and Creative Director of branding, graphics and spatial design agency, Phoenix Wharf, part of the Blue Flint Group, a Bristol and Indianapolis-based collective of creative consultancies.
Phoenix Wharf is a challenging and change-oriented agency, promising a fresh pair of eyes for regional, national and international brands and institutions, including The National Trust and SpaceNK. Its latest project, ‘Pigsty’, was a neighbourhood restaurant in Bristol, featured previously on Design Insider.
So Chris, where is your chosen ‘Creative Space’?
The art of renovating and re-purposing old buildings has seen many high-profile successes in recent decades, including power stations transformed into art, retail or cultural hubs – e.g. Tate Modern or Battersea Power Station – and Norman Foster’s glass-domed renovation of the Reichstag, completed as the reunified national German parliament, which managed to be both historically-sensitive and aesthetically-impressive.
My chosen ‘Creative Space’, however, whilst along the same lines, is on a humbler scale and shows just what transformation can be achieved out of great building stock. ‘Market Hall Fulham’ by FaulknerBrowns Architects with W Design Studio, which opened in May, is a new hospitality hub housing ten independent F&B producers and traders, located in a former Edwardian, Grade II-listed London Underground ticket hall. What’s most inspirational is that it manages to tread the very fine line between restoration and preservation of the original fabric and the creation of a vibrant new space that is absolutely about the here and now.
It feels communal, collaborative and full of natural light, thanks to the original glass atrium. Impactful new design insertions, although modest, draw inspiration from their surroundings and echo the original purpose of the building.
Although undeniably impressed by the reimagination of an obsolete building, at the same time the space does also make me somewhat nostalgic and reflective. When you see the interior quality of a place like this, it’s hard to imagine some of today’s interiors, with their universal cladding and PVC window frames, being of any great interest to future generations. Here, instead, is all the quality and attention to detail of an era where engineering and civic pride were at their highest and when there was no reason not to invest in the best.