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Richmond in Surrey David Richmond + Partners' headquarters building for Canon in Reigate draws inspiration from an existing Regency villa to create a contemporary office complex with classical proport

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building study

There is an elusive goal in architecture: the combination of the sustainable, the beautiful and the useful. It presupposes a relationship in which beauty is so much a function of the other two categories that it can be permitted to move from the subjective, and therefore, to many people, unreal, into a role so self-evident as to require no apology. In achieving this, the Canon headquarters at Woodhatch, Reigate, Surrey, by David Richmond + Partners is more subversive and radical than it looks. There is nothing 'fancy' about it, but it is sensitive and deeply thought out in all the dimensions required for a job of this kind, and carries existing ideas about good working environments onto a new level of articulation.

Before Canon acquired it, David Richmond and his partner Veronique Despreaux were in the process of producing an outline scheme for the site, which contained a small Regency villa, a much Victorianised interior, and an accretion of dull 1970s office buildings, for a surveyor charged with disposing of it at the beginning of the 1990s. At this stage, he was already considering a naturally ventilated building, positioned about two-thirds of the way up the hill, close to the access point to the site, with car parking on the higher levels behind. Canon held an invited competition which was won by David Richmond + Partners with a scheme close to what has been built. Richmond's interest in energy-saving architecture was in line with the company's philosophy of 'kyosei' which translates as 'living and working together for the common good', with attention both to human needs and saving energy and resources.

After training at Birmingham, David Richmond worked for Denys Lasdun and Farrell Grimshaw, following Grimshaw when the practice split. He was project architect for Grimshaw's factory at Castle Park, Nottingham, in 1980 and from 1983 a partner in Robshaw Richmond, whose AA Data Centre at Basingstoke of 1987, beneath a large curving roof, would not look out of place if built today. He can be categorised loosely as belonging, with Michael Hopkins and Birkin Haward, to the English school of humanised High-Tech. An influence from another direction was the year that Richmond spent in 1977 with Christopher Alexander at Berkeley. That was the year, as it happens, when Alexander published A Pattern Language and was beginning to move on to his current phase of investigation of the deep structures of visual form and their potential in architecture. Subsequently Richmond travelled in India, and makes connections between the hillside palaces with massive brick walls and overhanging roofs which he admired, and similar elements which are seen in the Canon building.

'Green' architecture has tended to be polarised between its High-Tech representatives and others who like to show greenness through naive and archaic architectural forms. If one were looking for Alexander influences, they might be expected, on the evidence of the master's work, to fall in the latter category. The Canon building is significant in its ability to bridge these apparently incompatible worlds with its visually elegant form and fine craftsmanship, underpinned by an exceptionally intelligent plan and layout. Richmond has learned through Alexander the value of a kind of suppression of the designer's ego, making the building as responsive as possible to the brief and the orientation of the site, and carrying a design philosophy through all the details, so that pleasing visual form works to reinforce a social and environmental agenda. In some hands this could be a recipe for a muddled solution, but the Canon complex, despite its relaxed dress-code, also has an inner logic and coherence which counts for more than the more superficial forms of controlling geometry from which many architects derive their designs.

The 1970s buildings were cleared, as were the Victorian additions to the original villa - which, since it was not listed, other architects in this situation might have swept away. Instead, Richmond has drawn strength from it without giving it undue deference. It functions as a training centre, linked underground to the main buildings, and visually it has been echoed by a cubic, stone-clad reception block, the space between the two forming a threshold between the approach to the complex and its more intimate spaces. The little villa also sets a domestic tone even for the much larger office blocks which form a backdrop to it. The accommodation was deliberately broken down into three pavilions, each of which could potentially be used by a different company as separate units. The result is more like a hill- town, or, as Richmond himself sees it, a monastery. In particular, a memory of the approach to the church of San Francesco in Assisi seems to have guided the relationship of the reception block and the flanking colonnaded block that obliquely guides the visitor inwards between, like an outspread arm, half-revealing the larger masses of building beyond.

The sectional design of the buildings plays a significant part in their visual character and is determined by the movement of the sun, the outlook over the landscape and the circulation, both of people and of hot and cold air. The north faces, where employees enter from the car parks terraced higher up the hill, are treated with generous areas of glazing, formed in square bays. There are three main office areas of similar design, two of which share the same typical section, consisting of a three-storey atrium with open-plan office floors to north and south, and links across at the ends. The corners gather in services, escape stairs, and rooms for heat-generating equipment. Externally, these corner clusters are treated with large expanses of brick which help to give a sense of solidity, a little like Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building. The south elevations have deep overhanging eaves supported on slender cigar-shaped steel columns, supporting louvred brises-soleil at intermediate floor levels. Through the long east-west axis of the site, the central part is the tallest, with the furthest block from the entry dropping down the hill by a whole storey and connecting through to the restaurant which runs beneath the main terrace. The 'hinge' between the two other blocks incorporates the reception pavilion, leading down a dramatic stairway to a lecture theatre at basement level which forms a unit with the restaurant and the training centre with free access.

The ground floor of each of the three office blocks is formed as a colonnade of square brick piers, giving the whole elevation a kind of simplified classical hierarchy. Internally, the floors are of heavy pre-cast concrete units, modelled on the exposed undersides to give a profiled, tapering section towards the centre and a repetitive rhythm along the length. These are one of the major elements in the energy-saving plan, and David Richmond admits a debt to the PowerGen building in Coventry by Rab Bennetts, which he took Canon representatives to visit on a particularly hot day, convincing them of the viability of the heat-exchange system which it pioneered. Nigel Griffiths of Ernest Griffiths & Son was mechanical and electrical consultant for both buildings. At Canon, the complex has been awarded the highest breeam rating of 'Excellent'. The roofs employ thin-film photovoltaic panels, a Canon product, which without affecting the look of the building make it the largest solar-powered installation in the uk, if not in Europe.

Crucially, by his generous provision of escape stairs, Richmond was able to argue the case for leaving the atria unenclosed against the fire officers' presumption that they would need fire separation. Open internal communication was an important part of the design concept, and people can see across the space and move easily through it. In the central office area, which is the largest, the atrium has been made into a space with its own character by the introduction of a cafe contained in a little wooden pavilion, with chairs and tables that have proved a popular site for small conference meetings. The stone floor includes a maze and a chess-board. Other semi- informal meeting places are available through the complex, including one sheltered outdoor space by the restaurant with fixed table and benches, wired with data points.

The landscape design by Holden Liversedge reinforces the subtle poetic quality running through the whole site, retaining all but one of the pre- existing trees, leaving traces of former occupation and introducing water which, both illusionistically (with the help of massive boulders and cascades of slate) and in reality, runs through the site, crosses the terrace and shoots down in a waterfall. It forms a reflecting pool in front of the lowest office wing that also controls movement. The water passes down to newly-created lake, lower down the hill. The main terrace, with its sheltered sitting places protected by L-shaped hedges and planted with carpets of thyme, is an effective addition to the workplace. Here the skylights of the restaurant below project up like vitrines, and will be lit at night. This is one example of the lesson which Richmond learnt from Christopher Alexander - the value of interlocking space and volume along boundaries, as seen in many traditional forms of design.

Richmond describes his building design as 'bucket-loads of common sense', but it has been applied with an uncommon ability to make the qualities of usefulness, sustainability and beauty indivisible.


The concept of energy conservation was adopted throughout the project, commencing with the re-use of demolition material from the existing buildings in the form of crushed concrete and brickwork and continuing with the philosophy of incorporating all excavated material into the landscaping works, thus avoiding transportation off site.

Internally the structure forms an integral part of the environmental design by utilising the exposed reinforced concrete structure as a thermal mass to moderate peak temperatures. The underside of the floor slabs are carefully profiled to encourage air flow from the external windows to the central atria, to provide the necessary acoustic parameters and to achieve the appropriate, uniform lighting levels by reflection from the up-lighters.

In addition to these environmental characteristics and the normal structural requirements a very high standard of finish was required to the exposed structure. This was achieved by using grp moulds developed with and manufactured by Zetaform, and by partially post-tensioning the slabs to eliminate early thermal shrinkage cracking. The timing of the two stage post-tensioning was critical relative to the strength gain of the early aged concrete.

A full sized mock-up of a pair of coffers in one 10.5m x 6.0m bay was constructed to facilitate final adjustment of the design and to enable the site team to develop the timing and the techniques for the construction process.

Solar shading is an essential component of a naturally ventilated building and on the south-facing facades this is supported on tapered circular hollow sections which are a significant visual feature. The partially exposed structure to the atria roofs consist of interconnecting bowstring trusses spanning in two directions, the tapering east atrium generating a particularly interesting geometrical configuration of truss.

Merlyn Saunders, Director Curtins Consulting Engineers


Costs based on tender sum



Piled foundations, in-situ concrete ground-bearing floor slab, pile caps, retaining walls



High-quality exposed in-situ concrete circular and rectangular columns, coffered floor and roof slabs generally. Post tensioning. In-situ concrete lift, shear wall and reception structure. Reinforced concrete upper floor and roof structure

ROOF £97.58/m2

(Reinforced concrete structure included above.) Architectural steel to atria, reception and fire escape stairs. Steel to roof overhangs and plant areas. Photovoltaic roof installation, supplied by client. Aluminium cladding to atria roof edges. Zinc roofing to reception and fascias. Paving slabs and membrane finish to cloisters. Natural stone, gravel, membrane finish to podium. Planters. Plant step-overs and ladders. Balustrades and rails. Fall arrest equipment. Screed to falls with single-layer membrane, insulated covering with gutters and flashings. Cedar soffits externally. Rainwater downpipes and gutters


Aluminium-framed double-glazed rooflights to atrium roof with external brises-soleil on architectural steelwork. Aluminium-framed rooflights to reception and presentation theatre. Structural glazed lantern lights to podium

STAIRCASES £31.54/m2

Architectural steel fire escape stairs and atria and communication stairs. Glass, steel and maple internal balustrading to balcony and atria walkways


Facing brickwork and blockwork insulated cavity walls generally. Glass blocks to staircases. Natural stonework cladding to reception . Cast stone and natural stone coping and sills. Cast stone parapet and cloister feature units supported on facing brick piers. Brises-soleil supported on architectural steel. Zinc cladding. Aluminium-framed curtain walling. Motorised external blinds and solar shading

WINDOWS £69.14/m2

Timber-framed double-glazed windows and bay windows with electrically operated top-hung lights and roof windows. Structural glazing to windows and doors to reception. Integral and electrically operated blinds. Zinc cladding to windows and bay windows. Maple window boards


Revolving doors and planar glazing to reception with stainless steel architectural supports. Glazed security turnstiles to staff entrances. Zinc-clad electrically-operated shutter to loading bay. Aluminium-framed entrance doors, screens, and patio doors. Timber motorised, Iouvred screens and doors to reception


Blockwork walls generally. Glass blocks to boardroom. Plasterboard and glazed partitions to offices and meeting rooms. Folding partitions to presentation rooms and meeting rooms. Veneered panelling to service risers. Planar glazing and architectural supports to scenic lift


Veneered flush doors with maple frames and stainless steel ironmongery generally. Glazed and fire-rated screens. Presentation room sliding doors. Recycled cupboard sliding doors



Plaster with emulsion paint generally. Painted blockwork. Glazed ceramic tiling to wcs and kitchen areas. Veneered panelling to presentation theatre and presentation rooms etc. Natural stone cladding to reception


Tiered structure to presentation theatre seating. Floor duct covers. Carpet tiles on raised floor 500mm high psa mob medium grade generally. Maple-finish raised floor to restaurant. Natural stone to reception and atria with natural stone treads to atria and communication stairs. Ceramic tiles to wcs and kitchen areas. Vinyl sheet to ancillary rooms. Screed and paint to plantrooms and store rooms. Maple skirtings. Mat wells


Emulsion paint finish to architectural soffits and columns. Metal and plasterboard suspended ceilings and bulkheads to wcs, presentation theatre, meeting rooms, it rooms, business centre and atrium walkways. Cedar soffits to reception and atria


FURNITURE £32.63/m2



Office-quality wcs, urinals, basins and showers



Above-ground drainage system from sanitary appliances, vending areas etc and condensate drains from fan coil units etc in cast iron and copper pipework


Incoming mains to domestic points and storage tanks, hot and cold water distribution


Gas-fired boiler plant to radiators etc, ventilation air handling plant and distribution ductwork, refrigeration plant servicing air plants and fan coil units, dx systems. bms


hv and lv distribution, small power and lighting, mechanical systems & bms. wiring, tv1 photovoltaic roofing (wiring only)


Two passenger lifts in reception, two passenger and goods lifts, one glazed scenic lift in atrium.


Dry risers, fire alarm and Vesda system, security system, access control, lightning protection


Containment cable trays and baskets and structural wiring for it






Drainage, balancing pond, swales. Hard landscaping, screen and retaining walls, seats, bridges, gates, steps, soft landscaping, courtyard gardens, water features, bike stands. Loading bay. External services. Car park lighting. Refurbishment of lodge and ancillary buildings (excluding services)

cost summary

Cost per m2 Per cent

(£) of total



Frame, upper floors and roof 149.22 12.08

Roof 97.58 7.89

Rooflights 7.67 0.62

Staircases 31.54 2.55

External walls 98.04 7.93

Windows 69.14 5.59

External doors 24.39 1.97

Internal walls and partitions 38.02 3.08

Internal doors 18.80 1.52



Wall finishes 26.83 2.17

Floor finishes 67.33 5.45

Ceiling finishes 17.61 1.42




Sanitary appliances 8.11 0.66

Services equipment 10.89 0.88

Disposal installations 4.10 0.33

Water installations 8.78 0.71

Space heating/air treatment 149.03 12.06

Electrical services 135.49 10.96

Lift and conveyor installations 13.14 1.06

Protective installations 23.38 1.89

Communication installations 20.20 1.63

Builders' work in connection 11.19 0.91



TOTAL 1236.16 100.00

Costs supplied by Bellamy and Wareham


December 1997


August-November 1999 phased completion


Two stage competitive tender based on JCT 80


Contract value £16.75 million




Canon UK


David Richmond + Partners: David Richmond, Edward Toovey, Ian Catchpole, Veronique Despreaux, Byron Davies, Gordon Hulley, Andy Karaiskos, Sean Crummey, Paul Pindelski, Gary Rathbone


Bellamy & Wareham


Curtins Consulting Engineers


Ernest Griffiths & Sons


Holden Liversedge


Wates Construction


Tucker Parry Knowles


cubicles Amwell; stone Ashby Stone; tiling D & M Barton; sliding and folding doors Brockhouse Modernfold; plaster & screed HA Boulton Flooring; ground work WPB; roofing Briggs Roofing; curtain walling Colourminium; windows and louvres Colt International; PV roofing Contecna GMBH; steelwork Crane & Rowbury; lodge portico Darshill; concrete frame John Doyle Construction; raised floor Durabella; roofing Durable; loading bay door Express Hifold; audio-visual Focasel; gutters and copings Guttercrest; fall arrest HCL Safety; M & E Haden Young; landscaping Hillier Landscapes; carpentry Houston Cox; water features Hydrotechnology; external paving Interlock Paving; lifts Kone Lifts; doors Leaderflush, Shapland; kitchen equipment Lockhart Design; stone fascias Malling Precast; fire escape stairs Peter Marshall; demolition McKenna Demolition; zinc cladding NDM; brick laying NJC Contracts; interior partitioning Optima Partitioning; cleaning gantry Power Access Systems; carpet laying Prospect & Peachgate; timber floor Quiligotti; decorating R & H Decorators; lighting Rada Lighting; fire sealing Sanders; ironmongery Saturn Architectural; suspended ceilings Vortec; computer network Webb; facing brick Ibstock; windows Velfac; curtain walling Schuco; flat roofing Flag UK; podium desk Radmat; raised floors Durabella; suspended ceilings SAS International; carpets Interface; rubber floor Freudenberg; desks Ahrends; chairs Steelcase; storage Dovetail Maine Storwal; seating Vitra; theatre seating Figueras

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