Alva Coachworks by Ackroyd Lowrie

Modern, spacious studio with industrial design, skylights, mezzanine, white cyclorama, and natural light.


Alva Coachworks is a unique retrofit project that has transformed a former  Victorian tram repair depot into one of London’s most innovative new photographic studios and event spaces. The project unites the creative vision of two trailblazers from the UK’s lighting and photographic world with the character and beauty of a vacant historic building near Kings Cross to create an exemplary hub for the fashion and photographic industry. 

The brief centred around the client’s desire to create a hospitality experience where luxury and history are interwoven with a high level of flexibility for different arrangements. They had identified a gap in the market – many UK studios were poor quality, uninviting and cold. Instead, they would offer a beautiful and unique space, focused on attention to detail and great food, especially for teams on long shoots.  


To create the fully flexible space our client imagined, we completely reconfigured the building’s existing floorplan to form a vast, hotel-style entrance. This connects to a central service route which includes a restaurant, boutique bathrooms, VIP lounge and roof terrace. Either side of this connection, large studios can accommodate multiple configurations – from an 800 person catwalk event to three simultaneous, independent photoshoots. 

A harmonious blend of old and new details are expressed in layers to create a visual historical record, whereby riveted steelwork structures contrast with detailed concrete plinths, and modern glazing juxtaposes historic brickwork, all encased by a newly insulated sawtooth roof.  


Our approach was to celebrate the building’s existing fabric and character, whilst reconfiguring the layout and reducing energy consumption. After finalising the overall concept, we adopted a two-stage process to specify materials and products.   

Our Virtual Reality process enabled existing and proposed scenarios to be modelled and agreed with the client. Details such as wood finishes, window treatments, handrails and floorcoverings were all tested at 1:1 scale, enabling a true sense of both the practicalities and aesthetics.  

With these decisions made, we then collaborated closely with specialist installers on each element to achieve desired quality. Extensive testing, sampling and analysis was undertaken on the basement, metalwork, sawtooth roof, sliding partitions and new hydraulic ramp, including working with experts outside the typical realm of architectural suppliers.  

Two complex yet critical details were the sliding partitions and the hydraulic ramp. In order to create the versatility required, we worked alongside Accordial to develop unique, 5m high acoustic partitions. These flexible panels can be folded into concealed recesses to create one large space or left independently as three individual studios. The end panel was purposefully designed with a bespoke curve to fit the photographic infinity cove, whilst automated fire exit doors were included in central panels.  

In order to facilitate the studios’ required ceiling heights, we had to reduce the basement which caused a level change between street and studio. After struggling to source a ramp or lift manufacturer that could create a system to enable vehicular access, we approached hydraulic specialists, Dhollandia (who normally work with automotives), to develop a bespoke, folding 8.6m hydraulic ramp.


Alva Coachworks is our third collaboration with Alva Studios, and has been extremely well received with advance bookings for 2021 and beyond. Together, we’re now exploring further locations for future projects. 

“Alva Coachworks is a game changer and represents the next stage in our evolution from the incredible Alva West, also designed with Ackroyd Lowrie. At Coachworks, we have created the most beautiful stills and moving images studios in central London; there simply isn’t anything else like this.”  – Nick Haddow, co-founder, Alva Studios 

In addition, Alva Coachworks was Highly Commended in the 2021 AJ Retrofit Awards (Workplace under 2,000m² category) with the judges praising the scheme for its “wow factor” studio spaces, calling the transformation “a technical tour de force”. Read more on this at  

Finally, the scheme was also featured on the cover and within the AJ Specification supplement as a project of interesting technical merit. 


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