A London media and telecommunications office by AL_A , PLP Architecture and Hassell has been designed to promote flexibility, openness and a lively flow of people and ideas
Forming part of Sky’s Osterley campus in west London, Sky Central accommodates 3,500 employees and is the telecommunications and media-company’s flagship UK office. Designed by AL_A (Amanda Levete Architects, concept scheme), PLP Architecture (executive and interior architect), and Hassell (workplace design), the 45,000-square-metre development is organised over three floors and covered by one of the largest timber roofs in Europe.
A 100-metre-long street runs east-west across the plan, connecting the main entrances and housing the ‘non-standard’ workplaces, a 200-seat cinema, dining spaces, informal meeting areas and support facilities. An elevated, glass-walled, live broadcast studio allows staff and visitors to view the company’s daily operations upon entering the building. Above the studio is an H-shaped atrium incorporating a pair of ‘floating’ steel and CLT mezzanines linked by exposed stairs, ramps and scenic lifts. This arrangement is intended to promote chance encounters between colleagues. Inspired by Rome’s Spanish Steps, the main atrium staircase is designed to create a sense of arrival and identity. It also acts a performance space – a place to see and be seen.
Designed to promote flexible, collaborative, activity-based working, the floorplates are divided into a series of ‘neighbourhoods’, each housing approximately 200 people. They include a range of individual and teams settings – from interactive to focused – to suit all types of work-based activity. The neighbourhoods are supported by ‘home zones’, arrival spaces that include lockers, kitchens, group tables and casual meeting areas. The residential nature of these spaces is intended to blur the boundaries between work and home
‘Global’ and ‘local’ destinations, including bespoke meeting structures, are designed to add character to the neighbourhoods, aid wayfinding and bring an intimate human-scale to the expansive workspace. These elements, in addition to extensive planting, help to shape the quiet individual working areas, without breaking the sense of connection to the more vibrant, active spaces, explains Hassell. Measuring 2.7-metres high and made from a range of materials including, metal frames, mesh, coloured ropes and trees, the bespoke, self-supporting, modular meeting structures are designed to be easily relocated, reused and duplicated if necessary. The design of these elements was carefully co-ordinated with services engineer Arup to ensure seamless integration with the lighting, power and data provision. Prior to site installation, the structures were tested in a 1:1 pilot space to facilitate design refinement and gain end-user approvals.
Timber was chosen for the roof structure and interior finishes to create a coherent, understated and aesthetically warm palette, says PLB Architecture. Exposed ceilings and services provide a glimpse of the building’s inner workings and are intended to give the workplaces below an informal, transparent character. Designed to BREEAM Excellent, the building has attained a 40 per cent performance improvement over Building Regulations Part L 2013. This is due in part to the timber roof structure, which is estimated to save 6100 cubic metres of carbon dioxide) and the use of large, deeply recessed windows, designed to maximise daylighting while counteracting solar gain.
PLP Architecture (executive and interior)
Structural engineer, services
OWA, Sound Solutions, Ecophon
Interior timber structure