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Future Office charrette: Threefold Architects

Future office opener 6
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Threefold proposed a membership system, allowing people to work in and out of the city centre

For its shortlisted entry, Threefold Architects put forward the idea of capitalising on The Crown Estate’s nationwide portfolio to provide flexible co-working spaces in both urban and rural environments, with workers incorporated into the system using a club-style membership.

Developing this further at the charrette, the team proposed a membership system that allowed people to work in and out of the city centre, depending on their needs. Threefold Architects director Renée Searle said the design sought to encourage ‘collaboration, connectivity and wellness’ and to enlighten workers about London’s green spaces. She added that The Crown Estate community would allow its members to work remotely. 

Crownestatecharette 264

Crownestatecharette 264

Inside the Clydesdale Bank building itself, the team reduced the amount of desk space and added a number of alternative working environments, including cafés and kiosks. Threefold Architects director Matthew Driscoll said: ‘One no longer needs a desk and a number of breakout spaces for meetings. In a number of projects we’ve successfully broken out the number of desks and reduced them.’

The practice also planned to use the basement space of the building to create affordable workspace for young professionals wanting to be based in the city centre. A garden and a predominantly glass dome were proposed for the building’s roof, which would draw light into a central atrium.

Judge Deborah Saunt welcomed the team’s focus on London’s parks and rural areas. ‘I really enjoyed the aspect of the wider brand,’ she said. ‘The idea that you’re buying into an identity and the access to other facilities is really strong.’ 

Meanwhile, Paul Finch joked that the unification of spaces could achieve ‘the landlord’s ultimate dream of making the lift lobby lettable’.

 Threefold Q+A 

Crownestatecharette 228

Crownestatecharette 228

Team: Matt Driscoll, director; Brook Lin, Part 2 architectural assistant; Ryan Hakimian, Part 2 architectural assistant; Renée Searle, director

Where did you begin with your Future Office concept? We began as we do with every project, by researching the context of the brief – in this case finding out as much as we could about The Crown Estate. Its unique property portfolio in central, regional and rural locations provided us with plenty of food for thought, and formed the basis of our approach.

What did you learn as a practice? That when encouraged to be genuinely creative, without so many of the limitations we are used to – brief, budget, planning, time – great ideas can be generated from which realistic proposals can be formulated.

What was it like to work without a computer? Both liberating and challenging. Working by hand forces you to focus on the idea rather than get caught up with being accurate or pragmatic. Equally, producing ideas to present without the assistance of a computer takes time. 

What was the best part of the day? Seeing all of the teams present their brilliant ideas. Although there was a consistency in approach, each team had a slightly different focus. 

What would you have done differently? Spent more time developing our ideas for the out-of-town element of our proposal; hopefully something we can pursue later.

What best describes your team’s approach: feverish scribbling, or slow and steady? I think we were slow and steady. Our approach was clear and our team solid. I thought we worked well under pressure.

Would you do it again – and why? Of course. Architects don’t often share their design approach with one another. It is very healthy when they do.

Do you have any regrets? I did not eat enough cake!

Do you have any good tales from the day? We will not forget the fantastic misty London skyline which definitely added to a genuinely creative atmosphere.

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