By Amanda Birch
Project: Paperhouse kiosk
Designer: Heatherwick Studio
Structural engineer: Tall consulting structural engineers
Location: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Newspapers have to work harder than ever to get themselves sold. Yet in London, they are often purchased from ramshackle newsstands positioned near most London Underground stations. Their frequently makeshift appearance was cause for concern for Kensington & Chelsea Council’s deputy leader Daniel Moylan.
Moylan, who has been spearheading a campaign to de-clutter the borough’s streets and make them cleaner, commissioned Heatherwick Studio to design an alternative kiosk that was more distinctive and ergonomic. The solution was a cold-patinated bronze-clad kiosk with a mild steel and plywood frame and a glass fibre roof floating over a polycarbonate clerestory window.
Two of the 2.5m-tall Paperhouse kiosks were installed earlier this year — one outside Earls Court Tube station and another at Sloane Square, transferred there from a pitch outside the Victoria & Albert Museum during last summer’s London Festival of Architecture. Two more have been built and are being fitted out at subcontractor 2D:3D’s workshop in London’s Park Royal.
Stuart Wood, a designer at Heatherwick Studio, explains that while the ambitious base model design, costing £30,000, is a constant, each kiosk is modified to match its vendor’s individual needs. For example at Sloane Square, the kiosk vendor wanted refrigerators incorporated into the interior, while the Earls Court vendor wanted extra display space for newspapers and magazines.
Toby Maclean, director of structural engineer Tall, says: “The form follows the geometry of the tiered shelves on which the magazines and newspapers are stored and displayed, and the doors themselves rotate open to reveal yet more shelving.”
“In operation, the Paperhouse is open and welcoming and when out of use it remains a sculptural object in the street scene.”
When conducting early research for the design of the kiosks, Heatherwick and Wood visited the vendors early in the morning to gain an understanding of their needs. They discovered that it took about an hour for the vendors to set up every morning and to pack up at the end of the day and there was little protection from inclement weather.
Heatherwick Studio’s response is a structure that is permanent. Each morning the vendor simply unbolts the padlock to the doors and slides them open. The newspapers, cigarettes, food and drinks are already arranged in the plywood shelving so the vendor doesn’t have to spend time setting up.
The kiosks have a flat back so that they can either be leant against a wall or left free-standing. They are designed to be stable without having to be fixed down to their sites, and are delivered on the back of a lorry, placed on the site and plugged into the electrical mains. If the pavement is uneven, six screw legs fixed to the structure’s underside can be adjusted
Standing inside the kiosk, it feels secure, and vendors have a good vantage point as the platform in the kiosk where the vendors stand is at a higher level than the customers.
David McDonald, conservation and design team leader at the borough of Kensington & Chelsea, which project-managed Paperhouse, says there has been a mixed reaction from the public. “People do remark on them, but perhaps this is more to do with the shock of the new,” he says.
The planned sites for the next two Paperhouse kiosks are still to be decided by the council, though McDonald says South Kensington tube station is a likely location.
Toby Maclean, director at Tall Consulting Structural Engineers, says that the structure of the two-tonne Paperhouse is driven by its geometrical form.