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Remaking an entrance

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The new entrance to a 1960s office building in Bracknell, Berkshire, owned by the Commission for New Towns and refurbished by Haverstock Associates, illustrates the importance of a well-designed entrance, writes Deborah Singmaster.

In its 1960s state, the foyer of Highview House was overhung by a concrete canopy. Used as a store and means of escape by the previous owner, it made no contribution to the architecture of the shopping square in which it sits. The new owner wanted to both make the building more attractive to potential tenants and improve its immediate surroundings.

The scale of the entrance was altered by recladding part of the building over the first two floors in toughened white glass, fixed to square stainless- steel box sections bolted back to the building. Clear glass screens and new doors distinguish the foyer entrance and open it up to the shopping precinct, Charles Square, while the levelled threshold provides access for people with disabilities.

The concrete canopy has been partly demolished and replaced by a suspended glass canopy which continues the sheltered shopping route around the square. The canopy frame of polished stainless-steel tubing is bolted back to existing reinforced-concrete columns; suspension wires on the frame are also secured to the existing structure. Glass panels are hung from the underside of the frame. A stainless-steel gutter within the line of the new cladding takes away rainwater.

The brief included refurbishment of the interior. New ceilings, floor finishes and light fittings have been installed and a curved plasterboard partition, on metal studs, leads visitors to the new reception desk. The client had no trouble letting the building on a long lease soon after completion.

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