Central Saint Giles - London (GB)

Ladies and gentlemen, ceramic tiles!

A vibrant new development by Renzo Piano puts ceramic on London's architectural map
Elena Pasoli
Renzo Piano Building Workshop architects
Fletcher Priest Architects
Year of completion

Located in Camden in north London and connected to Covent Garden and Bloomsbury by a series of pedestrian routes, the Central Saint Giles multifunctional complex stands amongst mediaeval streets and modern buildings. The development, created by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in cooperation with Fletcher Priest Architects, has replaced an old brick building and has already become a celebrity in the capital. In this traditionally conservative city, Central Saint Giles stands out for its stunning combination of iridescent facades in an alternation of orange, yellow and acid green tones, each with a different orientation, colour and relationship with natural light. At the same time it uses a multiplicity of materials dominated by glass, steel and above all ceramic. «Ceramic is a material that comes from the earth and will return to the earth. I look at it and fall in love,» explained Renzo Piano in an interview with the Financial Times and published in Italy by Il Sole 24 Ore. «The colour idea came from observing the streets around the site with their many brilliant colours. It adds an element of surprise. Cities should not be boring. Colour brings humour and magic.»
The development features a number of unique and surprising solutions. A six metre high all-glass façade gives the building the maximum transparency and permeability and at the same time creates an extraordinary effect of lightness, offsetting the visual bulk of the building and softening its impact on the surroundings. «The building appears to soar above the site, standing on a glass base that raises it from the ground,» explained the great Genoese architect. I like the idea that the building does not selfishly take possession of the land but dialogues with the streets….. people can walk around or through the site. Now that the building is raised from the ground, it has become permeable.»
Central Saint Giles, nominated for the London Planning Awards 2010 in the Best New Place to Live category, provides more than a hundred apartments as well as numerous offices, including the London offices of Google and NBC Universal. Between the seventh and tenth floors there are more than 1500 square metres of terraces and splendid winter gardens, creating a sense of continuity between the interiors and the urban context. The development also has numerous shops, restaurants, bars and a piazza.
Ceramic also plays an important role in the interiors. Particularly noteworthy is the use of Artech porcelain tiles from Refin, chosen in the Perlato colour, a material with a luminescent effect that gives the surfaces a fascinating and almost metallic appearance. Suitable for application in a wide range of spaces, it is adopted in the central lobby, in the corridors and on the numerous terraces, covering a total surface area of more than 5,500 sq.m in an alternation of pale and cool tones that enhance the sense of scale of the spaces and balance the vivid colours of the exteriors and the lightness of the building as a whole.

Refin, Artech series
porcelain stoneware
30x60 cm, 60x60 cm
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0,2%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 175 mm³
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): ≥ 35 N/mm²
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant
Certifications and awards
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