Brixton has been at the centre of art, culture and the community for more than 150 years. Back then just a small village back straddling the trunk road into London, the area underwent a dramatic transformation in 1876 when The Bon Marche department store, and by the mid-1920s Brixton had become the shopping capital of London.
After almost 50 years as a retail destination, the site was converted into a variety of uses but eventually fell vacant. Architects Squire & Partners purchased the dilapidated Edwardian building in 2015, renaming it The Department Store, and have entirely reimagined the space allowing the existing fabric and layers of history to inform the new design. Collaborating with craftspeople, furniture makers, and technology specialists, the restored and extended building provides an exciting array of creative workspaces, amidst which a new café bar restaurant has evolved: Bellefields at The Department Store.
Audio Visual Integrator: Flux London
Brief: A brief went out to Flux London, who Squire & Partners had successfully contracted to fit out the rooftop members’ club in the same building – Upstairs Brixton. “The K-array formula worked so well in there that we proposed a similar setup for Bellefields,” said Flux Director Harry Hawkins.”
“Music has such a huge impact on people, probably more than they realise – try watching a film without a soundtrack – and you can use it to control mood and atmosphere,” noted Tim Gledstone, Partner at Squire & Partners. “When you walk into a room, lights and smells are all very important but having the right sound, the right mood, the right character to that space is really critical.
Hawkins’ challenge was to steer high quality and potentially loud audio into the right areas, but with the ability to notch it down to lower levels at the same quality. The restaurant / café area required a more relaxed feel overlapping into the outside patio, while the main bar at the front heats up with a lively atmosphere as that’s the main focus for customers coming in for the evening. The separate member’s lounge is a more subtle environment during the day but opens up after a set time in the evening and fills the void. In all three zones the line arrays are set high and angled down on standard K-WALL brackets, focusing energy quite locally into each area with very little overspill.
“We needed to be able to change the atmosphere at will as there are three primary uses during the day – restaurant, bar, and privately accessed workspace which closes at 5pm, and then we need to turn it up a bit. So we needed a lot of versatility from a sound system.”
The K-array system mirrors one that worked well for Squire & Partners’ venue at Upstairs Brixton and consists of Python-KP102 metre-long line arrays and Python-KP52 half-metre line arrays split into three discrete zones for versatility, with Thunder-KMT12P passive subwoofers on the floor to make sure we could deliver solid low-end response for when things get lively. In all three zones the line arrays are set high and angled down on standard K-WALL brackets, focusing energy quite locally into each area with very little overspill.
Being essentially a new build, Flux called in K-array’s UK distributor, 2B Heard, at an early stage of the project to provide some acoustic modelling. “2B Heard were brilliant, they came in and did some heat maps of the space, and those simulations helped us to optimise the best locations for the speakers,” said Hawkins. “Dave Wooster also spent a day here to EQ the system and give it that specialist touch, that extra 10%.”
The speaker system is powered by K-array Kommander DSP amplifiers from the basement rack room, while overall control of the system is provided by a touch panel display which can control the individual zones from behind the bar. DJ gear can easily be brought in and connected for up-tempo nights or parties.
Gledstone is keen to differentiate Bellefields from other restaurant bars, in that it offers its customers an inclusive, creative work-and-play environment that encourages collaborative thinking and community engagement. Central to that environment was the need to create the right infrastructure and fill the space with a sound system of exceptional quality, designed to keep evolving and be able to add to rather than opt for a solution that may have been less expensive but would have a shorter shelf life.
“Good sound sets the scene, using it to not only punctuate the day but it can also accentuate your week and where you are in time,” he emphasised. “Running three different zones allows us to transcend from breakfast right through to club time with people getting ready to go on to the Academy. And we can seasonally adjust to the weather – when the sun’s out in Brixton there’s a little taste of the Caribbean, and to be able to do that straight away is essential. We are never strictly shut/nightclub/shut, it’s much more fluid than that. This is a place where you can enjoy jazz with a cup of coffee; a flavour of Buena Vista Social Club and all the way through to ‘A Bat Out Of Hell’ to close the night out.
“Flux responded fantastically to our needs. We’ve known them from early beginnings in their Waterloo office as a group of people with passion and enthusiasm for what they do, and an obsession for quality over commerce. The teamwork was absolutely brilliant on every level, understanding our needs intimately, knowing us, living the dream with us, being members of our bar and restaurant and hosting events themselves – such is the hand-in-glove relationship. When it came to Bellefields there was no question as to who we should work with because of their knowledge and passion.”
“Aesthetically it’s a win – we have a simple palette here of natural materials in the brick and cross-laminated oak timber that play off each other, and the black K-array speakers just sit elegantly as beautiful objects in their own right on the primary structure. They don’t need to be hidden because they’re every bit worth viewing.”
Tim Gledstone, Squire & Partners
“We got gripped with K-array at an ISE show some years ago when we were shown the tiny Lyzard speakers. We were blown away and realised that if we were picking up on these qualities then our customers would be too. With the success rate we had with Upstairs Brixton – and especially since our clients are very big on design – that was a key factor in going with K-array. I don’t think any other speakers could have sounded as good and look so good.”
Harry Hawkins, Director, Flux London
Chelsea, London, UK Audio Visual Integrator: Cornflake In the realm of advanced audio technology, one company stands out for its commitment to exceptional sound quality and innovative design: Cornflake. With its origins rooted in the 1980s retail...
London, UK. Cinch Technology, a leading provider of high-end residential audio solutions, recently undertook a project to provide a comprehensive sound experience at an upmarket Grade II listed London property. Known for their expertise in...
London, UK. A custom K-array loudspeaker solution has been deployed at the London HQ of Australia’s largest global insurer, QBE, as part of a major upgrade of its AV systems. The loudspeaker system provides localised audio coverage of the company’s...