In London, the studio between grass and bricks of designer Paula Gerbase


“Rochelle School is an oasis in East Londonlaunches Paula Gerbase. We really have the impression of being in a world apart where, from the outset, we feel good. » Nothing in this place seems to be able to contradict the designer. This former Victorian school, built entirely of bricks, up to its surrounding wall which hides it from view, has been home to an artistic community since 1999.

The buildings, built at the end of the 19the century, have been transformed – inside only – to fit out creative studios where architects, designers, photographers, artists and Paula Gerbase, therefore, the founder of a ready-to-wear, jewelry label, are installed and decoration that bears his name, created in 2019, then relaunched in 2021 after a pandemic break.

The garden, whose flowers begin to bloom in the month of April, adds to the charm of the address where there is an undisturbed calm. ” In the mornings, when the weather is nice, I help the gardener water the plants, taking advantage of the silence,” says the designer.

Lair of thugs in the XVIIIe century

Rochelle School, located in the arty and trendy area of ​​Shoreditch, is part of the Boundary Estate – the city’s oldest public housing project, implemented as a result of the Working Class Housing Act of 1885. ” This explains why the architecture – a set of brick buildings in the Victorian style – is so homogeneous here, which is rare in London”, explains Paula Gerbase. These houses were built in place of the Old Nichol, one of the most infamous slums in the capital.

The garden of Rochelle School, in London, a former school converted into a residence for artists and creators, on April 19, 2023.
Resident mailboxes, April 19, 2023.

In the XVIIIe century, this disreputable district is a den of thugs, where crooks and scoundrels thrive on a background of poverty. A century later, it is in such a deplorable state that the country’s reformers and philanthropists, shocked, are mobilizing. The wide avenues of the Boundary Estate then replaced the winding alleys of Old Nichol. Rochelle School was founded in 1895.

The school, privatized in the 1980s, was bought in 1999 by James Moores, the founder of the Liverpool Art Biennale, who then encouraged his artist friends, such as choreographer Michael Clark, to use the building for their rehearsals . Fashion designers Luella Bartley and Giles Deacon then settled there. A community of artists is thus gradually emerging.

Projects during discussions

It is therefore here, between grass and bricks, that Paula Gerbase set up her studio a little over a year ago – spaces are now available for rent for creative people. “I was going to sign elsewhere when I learned that a place was freed up here. It was my dream to have a studio at Rochelle School, but it was almost unimaginable, the place is so perfect that the residents do not leave once they are installed. There’s a real sense of community and that’s exactly what I was looking for. You just have to go down to the garden, sit on a bench and you meet extraordinary people. »

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