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dn-a architects brings a terracotta refresh to an ageing office block

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The Richmond-based firm has completed the redevelopment of Thames Tower in Reading

The 1970s commercial structure, acquired by Landid and Brockton Capital, is located on a constrained site alongside the recently expanded Reading Station. With no room for expansion of the footprint, a new four-storey structure has effectively been built on top of the existing ten storeys, while the concrete frame and internal and perimeter columns were strengthened.

Flexible and easily customisable workspace, along with a rooftop skylounge, aims to attract a range of tenants while a new colonnade at ground level improves engagement with the street, all wrapped in distinctive terracotta cladding. 

Architect’s view

With its chamfered corners and dated façade, the original building was tired and entirely unsuited to the needs of modern office occupiers. Its stumpy proportions somewhat contradicted its name – the Thames Tower. Sitting right next to Reading Station meant that its potential as a prime commercial location was clear.

We took our inspiration from Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York and devised a scheme which saw the original building squared off and extended upwards, stripped back to its structural frame and reclad in high-quality terracotta, the dark red of which takes it cue from the surrounding 19th-century brick buildings of the town centre. The adoption of a ’contemporary classic’ approach would, we believed, attract occupiers to the building and create a new landmark for Reading that would stand the test of time.

Working closely with the structural engineer, a programme of strengthening works to the existing concrete frame was undertaken which included steel strengthening plates being attached to internal and perimeter columns, with the approach varying slightly on different floors of the building. New floors have been formed using composite cellular beams, keeping the weight of the steel to a minimum while allowing services to be distributed within the structural depth. Concrete spandrels have been removed to allow the introduction of full-height glazing to the office floors.

170526 dna thamestower 051

170526 dna thamestower 051

Further space was added by infilling the chamfered corners to give Thames Tower a perfectly square structure. To achieve this, new steel columns were installed at each corner with two new connecting floor beams added at each floor supporting metal decking which forms the new floor space.

A double-height colonnade was introduced around the north and east facades, providing the building’s entrances with additional presence at street level. At the top, a double-height window detail crowns the building. The use of two types of terracotta tile – one flat-faced, the other fluted – add detail and accentuate the height of the building.

Internally, modern, flexible workspace has been created to appeal to the wide range of occupiers that are already in, and moving to, Reading. The concrete frame of the existing building forms a backdrop to the exposed services on each of the office floors, used for both aesthetic reasons and to provide tenants with the ability to customise spaces with relative ease. Exposing the steel structure on the upper floors highlights the contrast between the new steelwork and the old concrete Thames Tower, emphasising the building’s rebirth as a modern workplace.

The double-height entrance lobby has been conceived as a collaborative workspace as well as space for reception and concierge services. A palette of concrete-tiled flooring and bamboo panelling to the walls is softened by bespoke reception desks formed of oak beams bound by blackened steel braces.

Further collaborative work and social space has been created within a penthouse floor, a 4,000 sq ft skylounge, terrace and wintergarden. The lounge and bar provides amenity space for occupiers with spectacular views across Reading and the wider Thames Valley.

Stuart McLarty and Jai Sanghera, directors, dn-a architects

170526 dna thamestower 046

170526 dna thamestower 046

Project data

Start on site January 2015
Completion February 2017
Gross internal area 23,327m² / 251,092 sq ft
Gross external area 24,158m² / 260,054 sq ft
Form of contract or procurement route Single stage Design & Build
Construction cost £42.6 million
Construction cost per square foot £220 (NIA) £170 (GIA) £163 (GEA)
Architect dn-a architects
Client Landid & Brockton Capital
Structural engineer Peter Brett Associates
M&E consultant Ramboll
Quantity surveyor RLB UK
Landscape Turkington Martin
Lighting consultant Light Bureau
Acoustic consultant Environnoise Consulting Limited
Project manager RLB UK
CDM coordinator RLB UK
Approved building inspector Approved Design
Main contractor Bowmer & Kirkland
CAD software used AutoDesk AutoCAD
Annual CO2 emissions 21.2kg/m²


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