MCLAREN TECHNOLOGY CENTRE, WOKING
Foster has likened the approach to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking to the approach to a country house. There is the same symbiosis between building and landscape - the building is roughly semi-circular, the circle completed by a formal lake. There is the driveway that sweeps around the edge of the lake culminating in a gravelled entrance circle. And there is the same distinction between different classes of visitor; the picturesque arrival sequence is strictly for VIPs. The main space is a 200m-long full-height foyer/internal street that enjoys panoramic views, separated from the lake by a continuous curved glass wall developed using McLarens's own technology. The foyer gives access to eight 18m-wide fingers of two-storey-high accommodation, separated by 6m-wide internal streets. The upper floor is given over to office space. The ground floor, which houses the manufacturing facilities, challenges all preconceptions about industrial space. Formula 1 cars are developed and built in super-hygienic brilliant-white laboratory conditions. A subterranean Visitor and Learning Centre is reached by a curved route that is a display space in its own right.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis describes the building as a bid to prove that British construction, like British motor racing, can compete with the very best. Detailing throughout is immaculate and often ground breaking. McLaren developed a system of partnering whereby it worked with key suppliers to develop bespoke products, such as the windblades on the facade and the circular hydraulic lifts. The result is not simply a building, but a showcase for precision execution and cutting-edge technology.
Jack Pringle If you want an example of how to win, and how to be absolutely the best in the world, this is it. McLaren and Fosters are the perfect pairing and they have carried this out with a level of attention to detail and the pursuit of perfection that is nothing short of obsessive. That's how McLaren wins F1 races. The diagram is very simple - four operational boxes separated by wide, internal fire streets with a wiggly car showroom stretching across the front. But what cars. And what a showroom. It's a bit eerie; super-organised, super-quiet, a total control environment, a colourless 2001: a Space Odyssey - like hi-tech serenity.
Piers Gough I think it's sensational. It is absolutely perfectly done. It's put together like a Swiss watch. It's not just that the joints line up, it's that the joints between materials are all exactly the same width. I love the theatricality of the change in level between the concourse and the factory space.
Max Fordham I just think the energy aspects are not really very good because the basement is a third of the building and of course it has to be artificially lit. Even on the upper levels that is a lot of artificial lighting, and quite a lot of it is air-conditioned.
Isabel Allen I think the notion of the street sits a little uneasily with the ethos of the building. If you look at, say, Nils Torp's building for British Airways, the over-provision of staircases and street space is justified in terms of allowing for the chance encounter, encouraging communication between different parts of the business. Yet this is such an ordered environment that people don't move around in that very fluid way. Most of the time we spent in the building, the 'street' space was entirely unoccupied.
Joan Bakewell I feel it's an immaculately conceived and executed piece of work but I think it's very cerebral. Although it's got curves and beauty, it doesn't seem to have a heart.
Subcontractors and suppliers Mechanical and electrical installation Amec; lighting design and manufacture Targetti; office workstations and partitions Faram; water management design and supply Grohe; facade manufacture Schüco; screeding and admixtures Mapei; suspended ceilings, bulkheads and architectural metalwork SAS International; ironmongery D Line