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Architecture Tomorrow - Offices

Derwent London White Collar Factory prototype
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This year’s Architecture Tomorrow event at MIPIM UK is open for entries. In the second of the AJ’s expert viewpoints, Derwent London’s Simon Silver outlines the developer’s approach to office projects

Frank Duffy, of architect and space planning specialist DEGW, famously proclaimed in the early 90s that office workspace was changing. This was not immediately evident, as a mixture of open plan and cellular offices continued to dominate supply. Derwent London’s letting to advertising agency Mother at the Tea Building in Shoreditch in 2000 was the first time we noticed a radical change.

At  the agency’s behest we built a giant concrete staircase from their main entrance, formerly an industrial loading bay, to the second floor, where it turns into a giant desk running the whole length of the building before banking like a race track and continuing down the edge of the floorplate. This is ‘hot desking’ in its rawest form.

Since then creative media and tech companies have led something of an office revolution, encompassing a mixture of vibrant max-packed workstations, calmer low-density break-out and leisure spaces, replete with pinball machines, table tennis tables and well-appointed canteens. Their design has incorporated the latest technologies and enhanced levels of sustainability.

Simultaneously, these modern workspaces have fostered a strong brand identity, which has become increasingly important as companies compete to attract and retain talent. 

Future office space should be flexible enough to be adapted in a variety of ways

Architects and engineers are having to step up to the challenge of providing raw space with the identity, flexibility and durability to provide for this wide bandwidth of work, life and play, and where use needs to keep pace with rapid technological change.

At Derwent London, for more than 20 years we have enjoyed converting industrial buildings – robust structures with exceptional volume and light – into exciting modern work spaces; developments such as the Buckley Building in Clerkenwell (a former 1930s factory, converted in 2013 to a design by Buckley Gray Yeoman) and Tea Building (a former warehouse converted to designs by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris) in Shoreditch. I am sure such building stock is one of the reasons for the eastward migration of a number of creative  West End occupiers over the past 10 years.

Derwent London White Collar Factory prototype

In 2014 we took a further step in commencing the construction of  White Collar Factory, a new, generously proportioned and robust office structure due for completion in 2016. It was the culmination of much research since 2008, when we decided to design an alternative to the often-boring, stereotypical, highly specified, sealed glass blocks that adorn many parts of the capital.

White Collar Factory is designed to appeal to the new requirements of today’s generation of expanding entrepreneurs that are, perhaps, slightly less precious than the traditional occupiers found in the Square Mile or the upmarket areas of Mayfair and St James’s.  

The development marks a trend towards achieving sustainable solutions, underpinned by a ‘low tech principle’ that achieves 25 per cent carbon savings. For example, cold water pipework embedded in a concrete soffit, which our architect, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, has dubbed ‘concrete core cooling’, replaces mechanical air conditioning.  With a long-life, loose-fit ethos, such a building reflects our vision of future office space: flexible enough to be adapted in a variety of ways and robust enough for conversion to different uses by future generations.

  • Simon Silver is a director of Derwent London with responsibility for the group’s development and regeneration programme

Architecture Tomorrow

Submit your projects for Architecture Tomorrow here. The deadline for entries is 12 June.

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