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Ensuring a cool reception

First impressions matter. When clients enter an office reception area they are influenced by what they encounter - handsome materials, high-quality furniture and a prominent logo will have been calculated to make a favourable impression, even if the actual office accommodation is of average quality.

Architect Simon Sturgis, who was design director with Terry Farrell and Partners in the 1980s, has considerable experience of designing these spaces and knows how they work. In refurbished commercial buildings, Sturgis likes the reception areas to be contemporary yet blend seamlessly with the original design of the buildings they serve. Simon Sturgis Associates' schemes are always worked up in three dimensions on CAD. 'We try to mould the spaces to help the people using the building, ' says Sturgis. None of the schemes shown on these pages had a large budget.


The Greycoat office, in Savoy Street, was designed on a shoestring budget. Sturgis wanted to create atmosphere and interest in the windowless space. 'We had fun with the desk, ' he says of the semi-circular cherry and maple reception desk. The wall behind it has been brought forward and finished in marb le Venet ian p laster. To the r ight of the desk, the sloping blue wall of an asymmetric stairwell (a hint of deconstruction) invites visitors to mount to the two upper floors.

The uplighters, by Pensi, are a favourite fitting with SSA.


Developer Greycoat wanted the reception of this office in Moorgate to be an exotic space that would rival Broadgate. Green Indian marble, white Carrara marble and cherry wood are the chief materials. The internal layout is strongly directional to help negotiate an L-shaped plan. Triangular elements pivot on the shape of the desk and a structural column clad in ovalshaped cherry wood. Uplighters are by Spanish designer Pensi and Carlo Scarpa. The Futura lettering selected for the Moor House logo was popular in the 1950s and 1960s and is a subliminal reference to the building's history.


'A white stone box with a few trinkets in it' is how Sturgis sums up this small reception at Roman House, Wood Street.

The trinkets are three disparate elements: a green Indian marble wall at the back of the lift shaft, the desk in burr cherry and an arch (steel frame clad in burr maple), set at a slight angle which points towards the lifts and signals a change in floor finish from Portland stone to carpet. Gaps at the junctions of wall and ceiling make the small space seem less constricted. The Roman lettering is based on lettering found on Trajan's column in Rome. Bevelled slits cut into the stone walls on a staggered grid - a motif popular in the 1950s and 1960s - are continued throughout the building.


One of SSA's most palatial reception schemes is at 62 Cannon Street, for Royal Insurance. Two monumental polished Kirkstone walls embrace the white space - French limestone floor and skirtings, white marble plaster wall finish, white plaster ceiling. The handsome Roman lettering and Barcelona chair are strictly classical but the treatment of the wall opposite sets up a freer rhythm of interweaving curves - the stainless steel and glass canopy overhanging the scythe-shaped oak desk echoed by the bevelled ceiling trough fitted with spotlights.


SSA has avoided using stone in this reception to a building owned by Greycoat but made much of contrasting woods: a light maple and darker merbau (from sustainable sources, as is all the timber specified by SSA) in the flooring, eucalyptus and merbau on the screen opposite the lifts. The desk front is finished in turquoise marble plaster. To bring natural light into this windowless space, SSA has carved out an elliptical opening in the ceiling, and then reapplied the cut-out section to the ceiling over the lifts - like a pastry knob.


SSA's refurbishment for the Hammerson Group reorientated the ground floor, positioning the entrance on Basinghall Street. Sturgis sees the reception as an assembly of different components - the curved timber wall in the corner, elliptical desk, polished Kirkstone walling at the lift entrance and sculpted ceiling - all pulled together by the oval of Kirkstone in the French limestone floor, suggestive of a boardroom table. The desk, in eucalyptus with a cherry edge, is a free-form structure, precisely designed to 'do its job'.


By lowering the ceiling over the desk in the Kingsway office of quantity surveyor Davis Langdon & Everest, SSA has created an intimate core within the large Z-shaped reception space, while the taller coffered ceiling hints at the scope of activities occurring elsewhere in the building. The desk is in cherry with a continuous stainless-steel I-beam supporting the counter; floor-to-counter desk fronts conceal unsightly cabling. Blue textured wall paint heightens the sense of enclosure around the desk, as in most reception desks designed by SSA, and shows up DLE's l o go panel. The end wall is finished in terracotta marble plaster.

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