De Metz Green has re-tuned the 1930s Power Road Studios in west London to appeal to creative companies whose employees like to blur the distinction between leisure and work
‘I wouldn’t mind working here myself, ’ says Amit Green of de Metz Green architects, looking out over the landscaped courtyard of the newly-refurbished Power Road Studios in Chiswick.This is just as well, given that Julian de Metz and Amit Green are typical of their own target audience. Power Road Studios is specifically designed to appeal to new creative businesses.
De Metz Green has been established for three years, and has carved out a niche designing lowcost loft projects for inner-city creative types.
Sapcote Development first got to know the practice in 1998 when they worked together on a series of loft fit-outs in the Tabard Centre, a former Victorian school in Southwark (AJ 23.4.98). Impressed by the practice’s ability to work to budgets of £30£40/sqft, Sapcote entrusted it with the fit-out of the main building at Power Road Studios. (Work on other buildings on the site was carried out by architects Johnson Naylor and Paul Brookes Architects. ) The commission represented a dramatic shift in scale. Whereas the Tabard Road apartments had budgets of between £30,000 and £100,000, Power Road came with a budget of £1.7 million.
Last used by the BBC, Power Road Studios is a complex of five buildings, totalling 6,000m2 .The location is good - just a few hundred metres from the Chiswick roundabout and flyover with excellent connections to central London and Heathrow, and the on-site parking facilities (more than 100 spaces) an obvious advantage. Aesthetically, the appeal is less clear cut. Built in the 1930s in a style best described as utilitarian, it has none of the quaint quirkiness of a picturesque historic building, or the swanky corporatism of a flagship HQ.
Wisely, the new scheme does little to try to transform the exterior, using graphics to create a more upbeat image and to transform an outsize industrial chimney into a towering threedimensional entry banner.
Sapcote envisaged a complex of studios and ‘loft-style’ offices - a work environment which suits the semi-industrial aesthetic of the existing buildings, and which seemed likely to appeal to the glut of new media and creative companies which make up much of the capital’s demand for workspace.
But there is a fundamental difference between a loft development in the inner city, and one close to Gunnersbury Tube. Although the developers are keen to emphasise its proximity to the shops and restaurants of Chiswick, this is hardly cafe culture at its most cutting edge: once the new media-types make it into work, they’re not likely to venture out.
The solution was to create a hybrid ‘loft campus’ complete with ‘hanging out’ space, where the boundaries between work and relaxation are blurred. Ample indoor and outdoor seating spaces are appropriate to the new media companies, which own the kind of technology which makes it as easy to do business in the bar or in the outdoor courtyard as, heaven forbid, sitting at an oh-so-conventional desk.
The focus of the development is a double-height cafe/bar overlooked by a reception and meeting area which immediately establishes the development’s informal atmosphere.Architecturally, it is de Metz Green’s biggest move. The earliest concept sketch shows a ‘slot’ running through the entire width of the building: a full-height space with large new openings at either end. The client liked the idea, but wanted to see for itself. ‘The good thing was that they already had the building to play with, and we were able to cut out a section of the ground floor just to see how it looked, ’ recalls Julian de Metz. ‘We managed to convince them that the drama of the double-height space would compensate for the loss of floor area.’
Much of the dramatic effect is achieved by the vast expanse of back-lit Reglit glass which forms a full-height wall to the atrium. Some 7m high and 16m long, it is the highest - and possibly the largest - wall of its kind in the country. After dark, the impact of the back-lighting is particularly dramatic, as people working on the other side of the glass appear in silhouette like a puppet show. The nineto-five day is an alien concept here - the cafe/bar is open from 08.00 to 20.00 and is frequently appropriated for after-hours parties or the occasional media launch.
At the far end of this atrium space, a pair of storey-height industrial doors are vertically aligned, creating a 7m high opening which gives both the basement level cafe and the ground floor meeting area direct access to the communal landscaped courtyard. The doors are of the type used in German fire stations, and are in keeping with the industrial aesthetic adopted throughout.
Both de Metz and Green have a fondness for offthe-peg industrial components, and a healthy indifference towards the bespoke. At Power Road, materials are put together in the simplest way, resulting in junctions which are often a little rough round the edges but which sit happily with the industrial feel of the building. ‘For one thing we enjoy the mistakes and the roughness of a certain kind of building, ’ says de Metz.’And in any case, it’s the only way to achieve results with the kind of budgets we are used to working with.’
Materials are no-nonsense and durable: mild steel handrails, fairfaced blockwork walls and an epoxy floor paint giving a smooth industrial finish to the concrete floors. Reglit cast glass structural glazing has been used to bring light into corridors, and an unexpected touch of luxury is provided by the Douglas fir used for the chunky reception area furniture and the outsize doors.
The offices themselves have been designed, as far as possible, within the constraints of the existing building. Where new partition walls have been built, the concrete blockwork has been offset from the existing grid so that the original structure remains exposed.Tenants have tended to opt for fitouts in keeping with the overall scheme. Columbia Sportswear, for example, commissioned de Metz Green to reflect the company’s ‘rugged’ clothing, and has ended up with the same palette of exposed structure and cast glass partition walls.
The grittiness of the project reflects Stuart Sapcote’s original conviction that ‘the hardedged, industrial style provides the perfect workspace for the type of people who appreciate an open, modern and friendly environment’. But the complex offers small companies practical as well as stylistic advantages.Many could not afford the support facilities and shared resources on their own, and they gain credibility from being part of a larger enterprise. Joachim Zetterland, managing director of Corechange, which specialises in setting up corporate portals, sums up the appeal for the smaller company: ‘We liked the modern design and the big company feel we can present with a shared reception and restaurant.’
De Metz Green is convinced that people are increasingly willing to pay for a sociable workplace, making the provision of shared facilities more and more cost-effective. Demand for space at Power Road has pushed rents up to around £25/sqft (£8/m2 ). This means Sapcote will get a decent return on what was essentially a pretty low-cost project - in addition to the fit-out cost of £480/m2 (including landscaping) the original building cost the company £2 million in May 1998.
De Metz Green has plans to develop a business centre with even more spaces for interaction, but in the meantime interest in Power Road Studios continues to grow. A scheme for a two-storey 1,800m2 glass penthouse roof extension is currently awaiting planning permission. The drawings suggest a crisp Miesian pavilion, but it is hard to believe de Metz Green will deliver anything quite that precious.The mind boggles at the rough-and-ready de Metz Green treatment applied to a sleek glass box.
Watch this space.
A substantial steel-framed structure with in-situ concrete floor slabs of varying thickness was found above layers of original suspended ceilings. Working with the architects and developers, the structural approach was to expose as much of the fabric of the building as possible while converting it for multitenant occupancy. Much of the work involved was in analysing the existing structure and justifying it for its new purpose. In the event, the building was found to be extremely robust and required little extra strengthening. The architects made the following key decisions which had to be addressed:
To convert the basement and ground floors to a reception/restaurant/ bar area, three structural bays of concrete floor were diamond cut and removed in sections. An existing thin section of floor was left in place over the void to form a bridge gaining access to the ground floor offices behind a 7m-high,80mm-thick Reglit glass wall. The designers chose to cut a void which was small relative to the overall structure, and located centrally. This meant the structure was not adversely affected.
Delicate mild steel balustrading to the void area was welded to the original steels and cantilevered past the diamond-cut floor edges.
Dense concrete blockwork was chosen for partitioning between the offices. The architect chose to offset these from the lines of structure by 150mm so that the structure was fully expressed within the units. Again, since the building was so robustly designed, these eccentric loads were justified.
Over the entrance doors and Reglit panels into the offices, the architects did not want to see an exposed lintel. The response was a simple concealed lintel system comprising steel tee sections recessed into pre-saw-cut blocks providing the effect of an unsupported opening.
Externally, ramped access is provided into the cafe bar and podium levels through an existing brick chimney.
Considerable structural alterations were necessary.
The team’s structural approach was to be sympathetic to the original fabric of the building and to expose and celebrate its robustness.
John Stewart, Stewart & Harris Consulting Structural & Civil Engineers
TENDER DATE 21 January 1999
START ON SITE DATE 17 May 1999
CONTRACT DURATION 43 weeks
FORM OF CONTRACT JCT Intermediate
GROSS INTERNAL FLOOR AREA 3167m2
CLIENT Sapcote Developments
ARCHITECT de Metz Green Architects: Amit Green, Julian de Metz, Sergio Green, Ivan Green, Clare Lapsley, Sally Pearce
PROJECT MANAGER AND QUANTITY SURVEYOR Chester Boothby Associates
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Stewart and Harris
SERVICES ENGINEER Monal Associates
GRAPHIC DESIGNER State CONTRACTOR Botes Construction
SUPPLIERS AND SUBCONTRACTORS Bolidt E/SL resin floor Datum Industrial Flooring, metalwork Robert McGregor, paint finish to metalwork Sigma Industrial Coatings, fair faced blockwork Stocks Brothers, Reglit cast glass panels Reglit, furniture Coexistence, pagoda glass reflector, pendant light fitting Holophane, halogen floodlights Nexus Lighting, joinery (reception desk) Southern Craft, joinery (doors) Channel Woodcraft, damp proofing ASAP Contracting, glazed fire station doors Horman door fitting Leyton Doors, signage W J Gregg & Sons, catering equipment Bartlett Catering, alarms M&L Associates, Colas Spray Grip Colas, ironmongery Allgood Costs Cost analysis and outline specification
Work below the underside of the screed, including damp-proof membrane, relevant excavation, and foundations
FOUNDATION/SLABS £6.97/m2 External light well and basement access
FRAME £4.56/m2 Alterations to existing and provision for future extension
ROOF £2.94/m2 General maintenance
ROOFLIGHTS £6.29/m2 Patent glazing to lower ground floor level
STAIRCASES £12.87/m2 Access to lower ground floor level
EXTERNAL WALLS £11.84/m2 Cleaning and repairing existing brickwork
WINDOWS £7.93/m2 General maintenance work plus new additions
EXTERNAL DOORS £12.08/m2 Glazed entrance screens
INTERNAL WALLS AND PARTITIONS £32.50/m2 Fair-faced blockwork and glazed panels
INTERNAL DOORS £11.60/m2 Oversized Douglas fir veneer and solid Douglas fir
WALL FINISHES £18.32/m2 Redecoration of existing areas and tiling to WC areas
FLOOR FINISHES £39.70/m2 Generally epoxy resin flooring and lino to stair areas
CEILING FINISHES £13.22/m2 Grit-blasted exposed concrete soffits and painted surface
FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS
FURNITURE £32.05/m2 Reception and bar fittings and furniture and kitchen fittings
SANITARY APPLIANCES £5.98/m2 White porcelain and stainless steel
SERVICE EQUIPMENT £12.07/m2 Kitchen extract equipment
DISPOSAL INSTALLATIONS £9.78/m2 Exposed cast iron drainage
WATER INSTALLATIONS £10.22/m2 General hot and cold water systems
SPACE HEATING/AIR TREATMENT £26.83/m2 Electric convector heating
ELECTRICAL SERVICES £76.61/m2 General power and lighting
LIFT AND CONVEYOR INSTALLATIONS £3.60/m2 Existing lift overhaul and new disabled access lift
PROTECTIVE INSTALLATIONS £30.23/m2 Fire alarm system, security installations, CCTV, entry systems
COMMUNICATION INSTALLATIONS £20.36/m2 Telephone system, structure cabling
BUILDERS’ WORK IN CONNECTION £5.95/m2 General holes, openings
PRELIMINARIES AND INSURANCES
PRELIMINARIES, OVERHEADS AND PROFIT £55.36/m
EXTERNAL WORKS LANDSCAPING, ANCILLARY BUILDING £196,277
Cost per m2 Per cent (£) of total
SUBSTRUCTURE 6.97 1.48
Frame 4.56 0.97
Roof 2.94 0.63
Rooflights 6.29 1.34
Staircases 12.87 2.74
External walls 11.84 2.52
Windows 7.93 1.69
External doors 12.08 2.57
Internal walls and partitions 32.50 6.92
Internal doors 11.60 2.47
Group element total 102.61 21.85
Wall finishes 18.32 3.90
Floor finishes 39.70 8.45
Ceiling finishes 13.22 2.81
Group element total 71.24 15.16
FITTINGS AND FURNITURE 32.05 6.82
SERVICES Sanitary appliances 5.98 1.27
Services equipment 12.07 2.57
Disposal installations 9.78 2.08
Water installations 10.22 2.18
Space heating and air treatment 26.83 5.71
Electrical services 76.61 16.30
Lift and conveyor installations 3.60 0.77
Protective installations 30.23 6.43
Communication installations 20.36 4.33
Builders’work in connection 5.95 1.27
Group element total 201.63 42.91
PRELIMINARIES AND INSURANCE 55.36 11.78
TOTAL 469.86 100.00
Costs supplied by Colin Chester, Chester Boothby Associates
WEBLINKS de Metz Green Architects www.demetz.co.uk