Today's television studios not only have to function efficiently, they must also provide an environment that is sufficiently appealing and stimulating to attract and retain a young, creative workforce in a fiercely competitive industry. This was one of the main challenges facing architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), when it won a limited competition to design a London office for Manchester-based Granada TV.
The new offices are in a former warehouse building in Southwark, south London, with street and rear elevations and a deep plan approximately 25m x 25m. The building had to be refurbished to house Granada's production departments, including entertainment, drama, children's, comedy, factual drama and the executive group, as well as the entire production team for This Morning with Richard and Judy. The brief called for a difficult mix of denselypopulated open-plan office areas, along with several cellular offices, accommodated within physically distinct departments.
When Granada took over the top two storeys of the warehouse (the lower floors were already occupied by LWT productions) they had already been crudely fitted out with raised floors and WC cores; daylighting to the centre of the deep-plan floor plates was extremely poor, despite the presence of an existing lightwell. Clearly, there was scope for major improvement.
By developing customised office furniture and partitioning systems, AHMM achieved an extremely dense layout which released sufficient space to introduce a new top lit double-height space immediately outside the lifts. This luminous void became central to the success of the scheme and has had a significant impact both in terms of its function and how it reflects the organisation.
First, it creates an unexpectedly dramatic point of entry as staff and visitors emerge from the lift and step into a space which doubles as a reception area and welcoming cafe; this reception/cafe area acts as the social heart of the two floors and links them visually, giving views to the board room and upper floor and, conversely, allowing upper floor occupants to view comings and goings on the floor below. Most important, it accomplishes the difficult task of bringing light into the centre of the deep plan. It also serves as an informal meeting area and break-out space, vital to informal cross fertilisation of ideas and planning in an organisation that depends on the exchange and development of ideas.
The furniture developed by AHMM for the project - an evolution of the practice's own office furniture - has made possible a highly structured arrangement of openplan work stations set out on a departmentby-department basis. The core element of the workstation is a standard 'back-to-back' twin module which combines desks and personal storage for two people, as well as integrating data, power distribution and uplighting. This module can be employed in varying numbers to suit the requirements of each individual department.
Module worktops are leg-free to allow the numbers occupying a set of workstations to change frequently - an ideal arrangement in an office where staff levels vary as production teams expand and contract in step with programme schedules. By integrating uplighting within the workstations, AHMM has avoided the need for suspended ceiling and retained ceilings at their maximum height of 3m. All other services, including ventilation and air-conditioning, are exposed but carefully co-ordinated to reflect the logic of the desking layout below.
The cellular offices are small (2.4m and 3.6m wide modules) but efficiently laid out, with fixed desking and shelving on the rear wall, and loose desking towards the front.
The shelving is of the same design as the workstations and also contains uplighting.
Two standard-sized offices are positioned against party walls to yield the number of cellular offices required by the client without reducing the limited levels of daylight from the front and rear-facing window walls. Specially-designed glazing to office front and rear walls helps to enhance internal illumination further and create an illusion of more space than is actually available.
The full height glass panels and frames form a continuous line of glazing, with the painted doors set behind both glass and frames.
Without compromising cleanness of line and lack of clutter, graphics - which were worked out with Studio Myerscough - have been used throughout the scheme to add information, texture and colour to individual spaces, as well as acting as a subtle means of branding. For example, a programme listing, hand-painted on the wall behind the bar, acts both as 'wall-paper' and as a reminder of Granada's most popular programmes, such as Coronation Street and The Royle Family. This theme is repeated on the upper level balustrade wall - a wall of fame rather than a hall of fame.
The contract value, excluding all servicing and furniture, was approximately £1.1 million.
CLIENT Granada Television
ARCHITECT Allford Hall Monaghan Morris: Simon Allford, Scott Batty, Jonathan Hall, Will Haggard, Paul Monaghan, Peter Morris, Morag Tait
GRAPHIC DESIGN Studio Myerscough
QUANTITY SURVEYOR Jackson Coles
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Charles Booth
ACOUSTIC CONSULTANT Paul Gillieron
MAIN CONTRACTOR Atro Contractors
SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS electrical services T Clark; mechanical services Air Improve; cafe/bar counter Premier Joinery; bespoke desking units and other specialist joinery T Edson and Sons; signwriting John McVicar; ironmongery Allgood; glazed partitions Komfort Office Environments; carpets Metric Carpets; furniture Co-existence, Atrium and Knoll
Komfort Office Environments www.komfort.com