Blooming brilliant workspace, 3 Barrington Road, reached Practical Completion just before the UK went into lockdown. In the second in our series of stories about the building, we hear from the architects behind its vision.
Pozzoni Architecture are responsible for the design of the transformation from the old 90s Southmark Building to the spacious, light, bright workspace it is now.
Jamie Wood, Director at Pozzoni, and Steve Kirk, Project Architect at Pozzoni, discuss influences, design, challenges, and why it has been successful in becoming a fresh, unique feature of Altrincham’s landscape.
What is your role and what does it involve?
Steve: As one of the project architects involved from the initial client appointment, I have worked on all stages of the scheme from concept through to construction. This included working on the initial concept drawings and feasibility studies which were then developed further with supporting architectural models and construction drawings. The whole process has been one of positive collaboration with the wider project team to produce the reimagined building you see today.
What were your initial thoughts when you received the brief for 3 Barrington Road?
Steve: The initial brief from the client was quite open and our initial thought was that it provided an exciting opportunity of taking a 1990s building and bringing it into the 21st century, both functionally and architecturally.
What was your vision for the building?
Jamie: Our vision from the outset was two-fold; to improve the street presence of the building and to enhance the users experience.
The existing entrance was awkward and didn’t provide a particularly welcoming approach to the building. We’ve now created a double height lobby which delivers a focal point from the street, plus a ‘roomy’ and spacious feel internally. The design has established a real statement entrance on its prominent gateway location.
With a focus on the user experience, our priority was to make the building fully accessible for all its occupants, whilst also creating an intelligent design defined by health and wellbeing. We were also keen to create an open plan working environment across all floors that were light, airy, flexible, and offered a unique space for Altrincham.
And what inspired you?
Jamie: We drew inspiration from various themes, but we were particularly keen to take building elements and expose their true detail, their original purpose – something which has seen quite the resurgence within Altrincham’s refurbished places and spaces recently. These design principles were very much adopted at 3 Barrington Road. The conversion of the Con Club, for example, now provides a fantastic social space which features exposed brick walls, high ceilings and an industrial edge, yet carefully balances a sense of style and charm. So too the approach to the Market was considered a key influence as key contributor to the resurgence of Altrincham Town Centre.
Steve: The team has also carried out similar office refurbishment schemes before. Our Citygate scheme in the heart of Manchester was also drawn upon for inspiration as, similarly to Barrington Road, its redesign created the opportunity for an impressive double height entrance which has been exceptionally well received since completion.
What design features are important when re-imagining a large office building like this?
Steve: As mentioned earlier, inclusivity is key; creating a building that is accessible for all. With a redesign of this type it can be extremely challenging but if you look hard enough there is always a solution to the problem you face.
We carefully selected a palette of materials which were used consistently throughout the building to maintain cohesion across the scheme; from the zinc cladding, to the wooden fins of the reception ceiling, and the feature brickwork that can be seen both internally and externally.
We were also very aware of providing occupants with appropriate lifestyle facilities, for example cycle storage, showers, changing rooms and electric car charging points. To future-proof the building, not only by the technology installed, but also by creating spaces that are extremely flexible to respond to changing work patterns, we created an adaptable facility which will stand the test of time.
What sets 3 Barrington Road apart from other buildings in Altrincham?
Jamie: We think 3 Barrington Road is one of a kind in Altrincham. We’ve managed to retain the essence of the original building to express its character and originality, yet we’ve re-designed the space with the occupier in mind to champion a healthy and sustainable workspace. The building has an internal aesthetic and scale that is more akin to larger city centres, therefore to be able to deliver this in Altrincham is a really unique offering.
What challenges did you face with the re-design of 3 Barrington Road?
Steve: The biggest challenge was to create a main entrance that was the focal point of the building and accessed directly from street level. The original building had steep steps up to the entrance area which made the reception inaccessible to many of the buildings occupants. Our solution was achieved through careful planning of levels and the removal a large portion of, what was then, the ground floor entrance to create double height space without losing valuable lettable floorspace. The completed entrance now allows for unrestricted circulation through the lobby to all levels of the building.
How important is a sustainable workplace in 2020?
Jamie: Extremely important and this refurbishment had a clear focus on sustainability from the outset. Throughout the redesign the team were working to achieve a BREEAM Very Good rating which, for a refurbishment of this building type, can prove difficult. However with a lot of hard work, planning and careful design choices we developed an intelligent refurbishment that truly has sustainability at its heart. Our ethos here at Pozzoni very much embodies architecture that has a positive impact in society. A large part of this is creating environmentally friendly solutions on a fabric first approach, yet also continually researching the latest innovations to minimise carbon emissions and reduce energy costs. I think most organisations are looking to work responsibility and efficiently and their day-to-day working environment is very much selected with this in mind.
Were there any concepts or ideas you had but were undeliverable? And if so what and why?
Steve: Fortunately, I can say that we were able to implement most, if not all, of our initial ideas and concepts. The entrance/lobby took on a number of different appearances during design development, but the vision ultimately stayed the same.
What is your favourite feature of the refurbishment?
Steve: It has to be the stripped back soffits and exposed services within the open plan office space. Removing the suspended ceilings and exposing services could have been risky, but the attention to detail in the installation, so too the finish, has created a bright, modern industrial feel to the floors.
Jamie: For me, it has to be the new entrance and façade. It gives the building the enhanced street presence we were seeking and gives the building that much needed focal point.