Imperial College London

From lab to lounge - Electrical Engineering's former lab benches are transformed


Level 5 Teaching Lab benches before and after transformation by Goldfinger

Lab benches before and after transformation by Goldfinger

A partnership with a local furniture maker and social enterprise is giving new life to old benches, and an opportunity to own a piece of EEE history.

When the teaching labs in the Electrical Engineering building were refurbished last year, our Building Manager Zia Rahman and Technical Services Manager Danny Harvey were determined to find a worthy home for the teak lab benches — which have been part of the Department for generations.

They teamed up with Goldfinger — an award-winning furniture showroom, woodworking workshop and teaching academy located in the iconic Trellick Tower in North Kensington.

Goldfinger provides skills training and assists people in gaining or returning to employment, as well as offering designers, makers and craftspeople a platform to develop and sell bespoke furniture and homeware.

Tables at Fat Macy's cafeFrom the Department's donation of the old benches — amounting to one ton of reclaimed solid teak — Goldfinger artisans crafted ten tables (above) for a new café opened by Fat Macy’s, a social enterprise that organises supper clubs and catering, providing skills-based training for young Londoners living in temporary accommodation.

Launch of the Ayrton Collection: own a piece of EEE history

For London Craft Week 2021, Goldfinger is holding a fundraising auction of first edition pieces from their new design collection, handcrafted from more of the reclaimed teak donated by the Department, combined with Douglas Fir, sourced from local trees that have been felled to make way for urban development.

The name for the collection — suggested by Danny and Zia — honours electrical engineer Hertha Ayrton, who was the first woman to publish a paper at the Institution of Electrical Engineers and a proud suffragette.

The Ayrton Collection features a desk, chair, side table and bench. It has been designed and handcrafted by Goldfinger’s in-house designer and maker Daniele Barco. The minimal design and brass detailing a nod to its former life as lab benches. 

The Ayrton CollectionThe Ayrton Collection - bench detailProceeds from this fundraiser will support their teaching arm, Goldfinger Academy, funding free spaces on Goldfinger craft workshops for local residents on low income, and supporting their apprenticeship scheme for local young people who are not in education, employment or training.

“Our new furniture collection brings together our minimalist design aesthetic with our commitment to sustainability. I’m so grateful to Imperial College London for donating the rare teak that made the Ayrton collection possible.” — Marie Carlisle, Goldfinger Co-Founder and CEO

Bidding opens this Thursday 23 September ahead of its official launch for London Craft Week, and closes on October 7.

On October 6 from 6-9pm, Goldfinger is hosting an event to celebrate the launch of the collection, including music, talks and silent auction.

Visit to RSVP to the event, and find out more about the collection and online fundraiser.

Designer and maker Daniele Barco at the workshop(above) Zia and Danny met the Ayrton Collection's designer and maker Daniele Barco at the Goldfinger workshop.


Jane Horrell

Jane Horrell
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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