Writer Felicity Notely sits down with Märraum founder Michael Hormann to talk about making Jubilee Warehouse a reality.
In collaboration with architect Peter Skerrett, Michael was one of the key players in Robotmother’s conversion of the Jubilee Warehouse in Penryn – with the enviable task of taking an idea, a dream, a sketch and making it happen.
The warehouse has been completely redesigned from the inside out, and now houses 13 studios that are used by small local businesses, artists and artisans.
Take a look at the Jubilee Warehouse video and you’ll get an idea of the amount of time and effort that went into the project – but of course it’s nothing compared to real time. I like to think about it this way: it’s a meditation, a reminder that nothing can be achieved without hard graft.
Sitting down with Michael, I’m taken on a time-bending journey. Flitting between images on two computer screens: plans, source material, photographs of the finished build. It is a privilege to gain access to the creative process in this way, moving between the before, the during and the after at will.
“One source of inspiration was the Arthurian round table,” Michael tells me. “We wanted to create a space where people would naturally come together to talk and share ideas. The whole building has been designed to foster creativity and shared endeavour.”
The table is situated in the atrium, a spacious glass-roofed courtyard at the very heart of the building. Gloriously, it’s surrounded on four sides by a piano, a bench, a library and a kitchen. For creative people, in fact for anyone who realises that work and play feed off each other, this is a dream come true. There’s even a table-tennis table.
When Michael talks about the building, he uses the term “future proof” – a concept that entails a certain amount of modesty on the part of any architect; an acceptance that what is designed today may not be what is wanted in the future. If there is in-built flexibility, there will be more benefit to be gained from a building and ultimately less waste. In this conversion, the guiding principles seem to have been simplicity, practicality and good craftsmanship.
“I think that the best sustainable building is the one that gets good use,” he says.
The building is well insulated and photovoltaic panels on the roof deliver renewable energy. The toilets are all situated in one location – more economical and ecological than providing a toilet for each studio – and they flush with rainwater. There are even two electric car-charging points.
When I visit the Jubilee Warehouse to see all this for myself, what strikes me most is the pervading sense of calm. The building is warm, both literally and metaphorically. Beautifully finished timber absorbs hard reflections. It’s tempting to stroke the smooth surfaces. Small details lift the spirits. The materials used are authentic: timber is timber, brick is brick.
One of the tenants tells me: “It’s quite a privilege to walk into this building and see everything we’ve got. The kitchen area, the piano, the table-tennis table…” Another says that what he likes best about the building are the shower facilities, which enable him to go surfing before work, living the Cornish dream. Altogether, it certainly must be an inspiring place to work.