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Designing for the digital age

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The only form capable of accommodating today's electronic business operations would be an infinitely flexible shell, fitted with moveable, expandable floor decks and wired into a central system that could offer an infinity of services.Who would guess that behind the frigid facade of that displaced ice cube, Marco Polo House in Battersea, lurks the pulsating headquarters of ONdigital, a new broadcasting company offering a multichannel digital service?

As you weave through the peripheral corridors on the two floors occupied by ONdigital, and fitted out in record time by Harper Mackay, you sense that this is an office where technology reigns supreme. The curved wall of screens in the transmitter room is like a high altar, approached through a glass partition. The Central Apparatus Room (CAR) is the inner sanctum, with ranks of computers occupying the centre of the technical floor, cocooned in a dust-free environment, behind glass walls. This is where analogue systems are received and converted into digital before being transmitted digitally. Arranged round CAR is the staff, seated behind rudimentary walls of filing cabinets, desks bristling with anglepoise lamps, or seated more spaciously in sound-proof glass-partitioned training rooms, sales offices or meeting rooms. The employees on the east side of the building have a truly magnificent close up view of Battersea Power Station.

ONdigital receives analogue channels, converts them into digital and transmits them from the building. Anyone with a set-top decoder box can become a subscriber to ONdigital and select any or all of the channels on offer. 'No dish. No cable.

Simply an aerial, ' is one of its slogans.

Architect Harper Mackay, specialist in media fit-outs, has injected warm 'human' touches wherever space permitted. Integral wall cupboards and the few blank surfaces are painted in bright colours - cerise, duck-egg blue, lime green, purple and yellow; and staff kitchens are slotted in among the partitions, offering comforting glimpses of Nescafe grinds and 1999 kettles. Floor finishes are a mix of timber, profiled rubber tiles (orange) and dark carpeting; a ramped corridor accommodating 45km of cabling flanked by a yellow wall, leads to the technical area on the upper floor. But by far the most eye-catching feature is the exposed ceiling fitted with ventilation ducting and legions of metal-clad baffles to combat noise from the chillers overhead, ensuring that equipment in CAR is kept at a constant temperature.

Insulation issues, temperature control and cable provision dominated this interior fit out during the contract period and will continue to do so throughout occupancy. Technology rules OK.


CLIENT ONdigital

ARCHITECT Harper Mackay: Ken Mackay, Alex Cooper, Kenny Forrester





ACOUSTIC CONSULTANT Sandy Brown Associates

IT CONSULTANT Arup Communications



MAIN CONTRACTOR MACE SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS glass partitions Bene, Wolfgang, Stix; joinery Swift Horsman, Oakland Joinery; electrical CMS; mechanical Sulzer Infra (UK), CMS Electrical; office furniture Knoll, Wilkahn, Bulo, Hawworth; carpets Milliken; rubber floor tiles Dalsouple; paint Dulux

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