Feature, Hospitality/Leisure

Into Lighting takes Britain’s first gym from boxing ring to Belle Epoque

The restaurant interior resembles a modern take on the grand pre-war cafes that were seen in railway stations in European cites during the Belle Epoque.

The German Gymnasium is slap bang in the middle of London’s newly developed King’s Cross, but the building was there well before the face-lift. The imposing red and brown brick structure on King’s Boulevard is sandwiched between the concourses of King’s Cross and St Pancras stations and it has a fascinating history.

Built in 1864 and designed by Edward Gruning to become the first purpose-built gymnasium in England, the building was a hive of bare knuckle Victorian boxing.

The structure was commissioned by the German Gymnastics Society, which was founded in London by Ernst Ravenstein, who was quite a character. A geographer and a cartographer, Ravenstein was obsessed with trying to estimate the planet’s population and predicted that the world would reach saturation point and run out of resources in the year 2072….so time is getting short.

He also loved boxing and his gym went on to host events during the first modern Olympic Games in 1866 and was home to some long forgotten sports such as Indian club swinging and broadsword practice. The gym was also known for its forward-thinking and liberal approach, women were just as welcome to train as men.

All these things are worth bearing in mind when you go for dinner at the German Gymnasium, the restaurant that now sits in Ravenstein’s former palace to fitness, serving European classics with a German twist. The mammoth dining room is operated by D&D London, which is behind Bluebird on the King’s Road in Chelsea and the Skylon restaurant in the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank.

The two imposing black staircases that sweep down from the mezzanine are the primary architectural  elements of the space.

The restaurant interior resembles a modern take on the grand pre-war railway cafes that were seen in European city stations during the Belle Epoque. Designed by Conran and Partners the interior retains many of its original features, including the vast timber roof trusses and the original hooks on which the athletes trained.

It was with the building’s heritage firmly in mind that Into Lighting approached the lighting design. The primary architectural elements of the main dining space are the two grand staircases that sweep down from the mezzanine. The imposing black staircases feature an integral LED handrail that subtly illuminates the stair treads, while not distracting from the venue’s impressive ceiling.

Linear LEDs were used to light the large bottle displays behind the bar.

Feature wine displays sit beneath both staircases and are illuminated using integral LED details to provide both functional and feature lighting. The bar on the ground floor is situated in front of the open kitchen and large bottle displays are located on either side. These were illuminated using linear LEDs, placed under each of the glass shelves with a separate LED to highlight the metallic surface on the back walls of the displays.

On the first floor, the main bar has an expansive LED backlit bottle display, along with integral LED lighting on the front of the shelving, providing illumination to the front face of the wine on show. The booths running down either side of the venue are illuminated using miniature LED spotlights discretely mounted on high level beams, which provide for specific table illumination.

An integral LED handrail subtly illuminates the stair treads on the main staircase.

A concealed LED profile, mounted on top of the beams, highlight the original and arching timber ceiling. While the listed ornate columns which span the venue are up lit by low glare floor recessed LED ingrounds with a colour correction filter that always ensures a warm colour temperature in maintained.

The orginal columns that span the venue are up lit by low glare floor recessed LED ingrounds.

The timber arches are sympathetically lit using surface mounted LED projectors, while the bespoke artworks either side of the first floor are illuminated with specially made LED picture lights designed specifically for each piece of art. The LED lighting throughout the project is controlled using a DMX protocol allowing the lights to be dimmed down low when necessary.

A trip to the German Gymnasium may no longer contribute to to your fitness, but it will certainly appeal to your sense of style. The dapper Ernst Ravenstein would almost certainly approve.

  • The Lux Awards will be held on the 24th of November 2016 at The InterContinental London – The O2 on the Greenwich Peninsula. Tables are on sale now and you can find out more here. A full list of this year’s nominees can be seen here.