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Collective Heat Island design workshop for Shadow Robot Company in London

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The 400m² workshop features a bespoke CNC-cut timber modular system which was manufactured off-site using digital fabrication

new London-based multidisciplinary design studio Heat Island has completed a workshop for robotic hand engineer Shadow Robot Company, which is based at Spectrum House in London’s Gospel Oak.

Inspired by Shadow Robot Company’s complex and high-tech workflow, the workspace system was manufactured off-site using digital fabrication with minimal waste and consists of a range of bespoke modular elements. The new headquarters now consists of flexible laboratories, workshops and spaces for meetings and human-robot collaboration, all divided by stackable modules forming a colourful multifunctional centrepiece. The modules are fully demountable and can be easily replicated and reconfigured for potential changing future use and growth of the company.

Spectrum house 8 gif

The bespoke modular elements are constructed from CNC-cut triple-layered timber panels. Their profiled edges support a folded steel and peg shelving system with metal tracks for sliding whiteboards. Team and communal areas are signalled by different coloured powder-coated steel elements. 

In addition, bespoke desks, tables and furniture were also designed and manufactured for use in the laboratories, meeting areas, kitchen and break-out spaces. Heat Island also developed a prototype desk in collaboration with Shadow Robot Company’s engineering teams. 

Spectrum house 2

Architect’s statement

We were invited by Shadow Robot Company to pitch for this project alongside two other companies that happened to specialise in commercial workspace design. Our environmental approach and interest in celebrating Shadow’s unique identity through the proposal stood out to them.

The design of the new headquarters – from the overall layout to the detail of individual workstations – required a clear understanding of Shadow’s workflow. We interviewed staff in London and abroad: talented software, RnD, electrical and production engineers, accountants, admin and business development teams. As the company is a specialist in robotic hands, we were fascinated by the amount of equipment needed close at hand and the need for careful curation of these items. We mapped all of their equipment together with the storage, data and servicing requirements that would enable their highly curated work. We discussed how to mitigate issues of IP, privacy and screening in a creative way.

From the outset, we proposed digital fabrication techniques to manufacture their space. Fully demountable, a bespoke modular approach offered future flexibility for growth and change in a fast-moving industry. Off-site manufacture minimised time, cost and material waste reflecting our environmental agenda. The digital approach chimed with their position in the world of automation and robotics solutions.

The result is a series of stackable storage modules that form a colourful centrepiece and partitioning system and flexible laboratories, workshops and spaces for meetings and human-robot collaboration. Constructed from CNC-cut three-layer timber panels, their profiled edges support a folded steel and peg shelving system and useful attachments such as sliding whiteboard tracks, cable reels, drawers, plant boxes and additional folding desk surfaces. Changing colours of storage elements demarcate different team and communal areas. 

Pocket sliding doors and acoustic curtains periodically screen off IP sensitive demonstrations. Bespoke tables and furniture are custom designed for use in labs, meeting areas, kitchen and break out spaces. Air-purifying planting forms an integral part of Shadow’s air-quality monitoring programme.

Feedback shows that the resulting workspace has dramatically improved staff well-being, It has helped create the efficient, adaptable work environment that echoes Shadow’s unique and forward-thinking position within the tech and robotics industry.

Negin Ghorbani, architect, Heat Island

Spectrum house desk design exploded gif

Project data

Start on site October 2018
Completion date January 2019
Gross internal floor area 400m²
Form of contract or procurement route Traditional 
Construction cost £154,000
Construction cost per m² £385 (including bespoke furniture)
Architect Heat Island
Client Shadow Robot Company
M&E consultant Heat Island
Landscape consultant Celine Weber (planting specification)
Acoustic consultant Heat Island
Project manager Heat Island
Approved building inspector Stroma Building Control
Main fabricator Livesey Workshop 
CAD software used Revit, Solidworks (for CNC fabrication)

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