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The 55 Group

Hull, UK

Client The 55 Group

Form of Contract Design & Build

Size 1476m2

Value £Confidential

Year of Completion 2021


The 1878 building on Whitefriargate in the centre of Hull contains a remarkable amount of original, in situ decorative details, from stunning ceilings and a glazed dome lantern to rich wood work, stonework and window details.

We worked directly with The 55 Group to fit a flexible, vibrant office space within this remarkable heritage asset. Spread across a basement and five floors, the space had to provide workspace and breakout space for the group’s staff across its various brands, plus a members’ bar, private roof top terrace and three floors of offices that could be let out.

In the ground floor entrance, SGP’s design creates a welcoming waiting area with a glass balustrade that allows clear views into the higher level, open plan offices. A stunning decorative ceiling, picked out in white and dark blue, arcs over a mix of informal and formal workstations, complete with circular juice bar. A cantilevered mezzanine floor, which leaves the original decorative features and columns untouched, is flooded with light from the dome lantern and generous windows across the main office space. Opened out to the adjacent rooms, the whole area becomes a contemporary practical workspace combining formal and informal areas, with kitchenette, accessible from both the ground and first floors.

SGP’s design embraces the Victorian boldness with colour, mixing pure white with deep, rich blues and fresh green highlights. The wider heritage context was reflected in the flooring of the main office, with a cobble effect carpet echoing the cobbled streets still found in Hull today. In the upper floors, moss effect concrete vinyl tiles bring a softer feel into the space.

The basement level, complete with old bank vaults, has become a welcoming relaxation space, with kitchen, games area and pool table and comfortable seating. SGP’s design incorporates a black ceiling and white walls to balance the low ceiling with a feeling of space. Surface lighting and cable trucking is exposed to create a semi-industrial and functional feel to the general spaces, contrasting with feature decorative finishes in the staff areas.

The decorative flourishes continue into the second floor, albeit in a slightly simpler format. The floor-to-ceiling windows have kept their original details and the rooms retain their ornamental elements such as timber fireplace surrounds, deep skirting and embellished architrave. In the office that will be used by Hotham’s Gin School, an unusual wooden panelled ceiling in a geometric pattern is the star of the space.

There is a rooftop bar, partly for Hotham’s events but also accessible for other staff in the building. Overlooking Hull’s grandiloquent Victorian skyline, the clean lines of the pergola timber bar area and simple outdoor seating contrast their surroundings and offer a relaxing venue for social gatherings.

SGP’s design works with the relatively low ceiling height to create a 1920’s speakeasy feel, with dark painted retained brick, chevron wood flooring and low level lighting. The beautiful timber from the old cashiers’ stations and clerks’ cubicles will be re-used as feature panelling on the walls, and also as partitions, with the bar back being built from old bookcases found elsewhere in the bank. Exposed metal work harks back to the reinforced steel of the vaults whilst the original metal grills will become back-lit wall features, draped in ivy to mix natural and man-made materials. Brass and copper metalwork add soft, warm reflections.

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