Design Awards 2013
Scottish Water - The Bridge
Reiach and Hall Architects
Winner: Design Award
Site/Location – The site, as it existed, was challenging, located between a low quality edge-of-town Business Park and open moorland. We needed to create a new place that would give visitors/staff an atmosphere of quality and a sense of arrival.
Our first design ideas were centred on the creation of a new landscape which would highlight the quality and ambition we had for the project – this then led to ideas of massing to address the new formal landscape we were imagining.
Making A Place – We looked to the gardens of the great country houses as a precedent of how to deliver places of lasting substance and delight, in previously wild environments. The grandeur and formality of these is in the spirit of the site layout proposals rather than any direct picturesque recreation of a beaux arts garden. The landscape is on a formal axis with a very ordered and considered hierarchy of spaces – starting with a primary structure of planting to define a rigorous grid we have provided base order to the site layout. Low hedging then sub-divides the expansive site and landscape into some more discrete zones; parking and roads are then arranged within this ordered (planting) structure, with the new building and entrance designed to engage with and address the formal landscape axis on arrival.
Building Design – Once we had a clear orientation and sense of place, we started our investigations into the building form, looking firstly at a ‘Linear Box’. The brief had provided a schedule of accommodation and target area and we had the principal ambition of a sustainable and naturally ventilated new office, so the building and office floors were drawn at 13.5m wide. This ensured that everyone had a desk no more than 6m from the office perimeter wall and this would enable good quality light, natural ventilation and a view for all. These early studies told us that in order to accommodate the brief area in this relatively narrow floor width, we would create a very long building, over three storeys. This shape was obviously very inefficient, using a lot of external wall to enclose the floor area and it was potentially energy intensive. More worryingly, it would disperse users along long narrow floors, breaking social connections and interaction.
For us, architecture is about creating useful and sustainable spaces and places; we aspire to buildings that uplift and support the human condition – a building should be in the backdrop to daily life, but have an enduring value that can generate imaginative and stimulating environments surpassing occupier/visitor expectations.
Here, we had to improve on the idea of just a Linear Box, with sustainability and people at the centre of our thinking. We were drawn to the lightness and clarity of the original idea which focussed on a user friendly, sustainable and naturally ventilated new office, so we started to fold our ‘linear box’ several times – the first fold took the linear box and created an L-shape plan; the second a U-shaped plan; with one final fold we addressed the landscape and created a meeting suite pavilion, signalling the main entrance – therefore allowing the building to be organised around a dramatic central space that might be used for entertaining, conferences, music events, openings, functions, staff gatherings and informal meetings: a new Grand Room.
This shared atrium was un-briefed and has become a civic space for Scottish Water, while at the same time satisfying the need for an efficient plan form. It is protected from the weather and since occupied, has become a wonderful staff amenity for everyone to use – linked at either end by bridges, that are widened to form shared breakout spaces each overlooking both the atrium and entrance – they bring a source of activity and life to the building as well as a core for stairs and communal facilities.
Scale – The building itself has a varying sense of scale, led mostly by orientation and ambitions for a sustainable and passive building system.
To the east, the building is defined by a sense of arrival and its relationship to a formal landscaped car park with the larger moorland site beyond. This is an expansive space and the building has an enhanced scale as it faces directly onto the landscape axis. This was achieved by enclosing external plant spaces in the same noble materials as the main elevations.
The remaining elevations, with less public facades, are a storey lower, responding to their more private context.
Secondary Scale – The primary massing is elaborated with a rigorous grid expression of vertical brick pilasters and horizontal string courses of cast Portland stone. The grain of this grid is then adjusted to suit the context.
To the east, it responds to the civic and formal setting of the landscaped car park providing a deeply modelled façade with a double height expression, signalling entrance and the corporate meeting suites behind. The double height colonnaded facade for this is formed with facing brick and cast stone and is detached from the weathered envelope, creating a deep façade that provides a contrasting rhythm of light and shade, creating a more formal expression and enabling its proportions and quality to be carefully finessed.
To the south, west and north the gradation of the masonry and glass reveals are altered to respond to the reduced scale of the surrounding spaces – allowing the façade design to become precisely tailored to its orientation and the space planning of the internal layout. Every brick pilaster is abutted internally by a desk, allowing full height glazing between the desks, providing excellent daylight to every occupant.
The south and west elevations offer a monumental masonry appearance, with a significant depth of reveal which throws shadow onto the glass and minimises the solar gains. To the north, where solar gain is not an issue, a more flush expression is adopted between the brickwork and the glazing.