Continuing its theme of using of decaying and derelict buildings as venues, Clerkenwell Design Week 2015 has taken the opportunity to use the former 18th century Middlesex Sessions House or the Old Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green for Icon’s House of Culture while it remains empty before refurbishment.
The classical building with its fine interior plasterwork was built around 1780 to designs of the architect Thomas Rogers as the Middlesex Quarter Sessions, ie the senior magistrates centre for Middlesex, and it continued in use as a busy courthouse until 1921. In 1931 the building was taken over by Avery, the weighing-machine and scale manufacturers, as their headquarters until they moved out in 1973. The building then stood empty and deteriorating until 1978 when it was restored and converted to a Masonic conference and social centre. This too has now moved elsewhere and the Old Sessions House is proposed for refurbishment as a private club, restaurant and bar, restoring many of the spaces to their former glory, including the original two-storey main courtroom which has since been subdivided and the judges’ dining room. It is also proposed to construct a roof extension to create two roof terraces, including a rooftop swimming pool and have a food court with small shops on the ground floor.
During Clerkenwell Design Week, the Old Sessons House has provided a unique backcloth for Icon’s House of Culture, showing collections from leading European furniture companies, interior and lighting designers and landscape firms. These include the Danish furniture companies Fritz Hansen and Gubi, Italian lighting designers Artemide and furniture company Moroso, and British designers Pinch and Timorous Beasties. Vitra is here too, though there is more to be seen in its showroom ten minutes walk away. Fritz Hansen’s display includes “7 Cool Architects” – 7 architects who have taken on the challenge of updating Arne Jacobsen’s iconic Series 7 chair designed 60 years ago.
Icon’s House of Culture provides an opportunity to see the beautiful interiors of this fine building and anticipate what they will look like when refurbished. As contemporary furniture and lighting has fitted here so well for the fair, it is hoped the owners will have the courage to use the best of contemporary furniture when they carry out their refurbishment.