London College of Fashion’s New Home: A Factory of Fashion in the Heart of East London

Allies & Morrison’s £216m building celebrates the area’s industrial history while providing a state-of-the-art facility for London College of Fashion students.

Perched on the top floor of the new London College of Fashion (LCF) building, a student presses their garments while enjoying a breathtaking view of the Olympic Park and the City of London. This 16-floor “factory of fashion” stands as a testament to the area’s industrial past and serves as a hub for creative craft and design. Designed by Allies & Morrison, the building is part of the East Bank cultural quarter, adjacent to the V&A East and the BBC music studios. With its striking architecture and purpose-built facilities, the LCF building is set to become a vibrant center for fashion education and innovation.

A Tribute to Industrial Heritage

Architect Bob Allies drew inspiration from the Yardley soap factory, a historic mill building in the area, to create a design that pays homage to the neighborhood’s industrial roots. The architects wanted to showcase the college as a place where serious craftsmanship thrives, going beyond the glamour associated with the fashion industry. The building’s exterior features concrete cladding reminiscent of needlecord, while a zigzag sawtooth roofline evokes a factory-like aesthetic.

A Building of Contrasts

While the LCF building may appear as a dour office block from a distance, a closer look reveals its thoughtful design. A 15-meter-high colonnade of concrete columns lifts the building, preserving views of the V&A East. A cascade of terraced seating creates an inviting space along the towpath, where the college plans to hold catwalk shows. However, the connection between the different venues within the East Bank cultural quarter feels disjointed, with wind mitigation screens appearing as an afterthought.

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A Theatrical Entrance

Stepping inside the LCF building, visitors are greeted by a dramatic lobby. A swoosh of concrete spirals down from the floor above, creating a tight corkscrew effect that plunges below ground and billows up in oval arcs overhead. The architects drew inspiration from Italian baroque architecture, resulting in a space that celebrates its structural elements. This multilayered lobby sets the stage for fashion shows and provides a dynamic environment for students to showcase their work.

Architecture as a Canvas

The architects intentionally designed the building to allow the students’ visually exciting creations to take center stage. The interior features a simple palette of exposed concrete, black steel, and blond maple, providing a neutral backdrop for the colorful inhabitants. While fashion motifs are kept to a minimum, subtle nods to the industry, such as stitch-patterned window shutters and geometric grillwork, can be found throughout the building.

A Purpose-Built Home for Creativity

Before the LCF building, the college was spread across six sites in London. The new facility brings all departments together for the first time, fostering collaboration and synergy among students and staff. The lower floors of the building are open to the public, creating a sense of openness and connectivity with the surrounding area. Teaching rooms, studios, and workshops are designed with flexibility in mind, allowing for future adaptations as teaching needs evolve.

Conclusion: The London College of Fashion’s new home is not only a striking architectural landmark but also a testament to the area’s rich industrial heritage. With its purpose-built facilities and thoughtfully designed spaces, the building provides an inspiring environment for students to pursue their creative endeavors. As the East Bank cultural quarter continues to develop, the LCF building will play a vital role in injecting subversive life into the area and contributing to the ongoing regeneration of East London.

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