The Beams – Engineering a ‘centre for new culture’
The Beams, in London’s Pontoon Dock comprises a collection of disused buildings adapted to create a 55,000 sq ft. centre for new culture for up to 5,000 guests. Characterised by high ceilings and wide-span steel structures, Civic Engineers has designed various alterations for our client, Broadwick Live, to convert the warehouses to two large-scale hybrid spaces. Buildings ‘A’, a single storey steel frame, and ‘B’, a two-storey reinforced concrete frame, have a capacity for 5,000 and 1,500 people respectively.
Our engineers undertook a structural appraisal of the warehouses to determine the feasibility for re-use. Having undergone multiple alterations over their lifetimes, certain aspects of the refurbishment to the buildings proved challenging. One aspect of which was establishing how to add the necessary sound insulation to a lightweight sawtooth roof containing asbestos in its cladding. Additionally, to serve as a world-class cultural venue, a complex arrangement of lights and speakers suspended from the trusses had to be considered. However the resulting design has maximised their industrial self-expression to good effect.
Our brief was to retain as much existing fabric in the design as possible, affording the buildings their most authentic aesthetic. Forensic analysis of archive material and historic codes, coupled with site surveys, were used to justify strengthening works for structure. Reusing existing steelwork with targeted local strengthening removed any need for a new roof, creating a more sustainable and efficient project programme.
The project requirements ranged from expansive to detailed. From the survey we identified additional investigation works needed to develop the design, including cladding and steelwork analysis, trial pits to investigate existing foundations and a CCTV drainage survey. An adaptive working style was required to suit the materials available to the contractor in difficult market conditions and working with a fast programme. As such, our engineers regularly tweaked modelling systems according to changing criteria on the various structures.
Civic Engineers has been fortunate enough to work on several other major projects with Broadwick Live – the Printworks venue in Canada Water, Dockyards London; The Drumsheds in Enfield; as well as the popular Depot Mayfield in Manchester.