In October 1988 Ian Ritchie Architects were commissioned by Stuart Lipton of Stanhope to design, detail and supervise the construction to completion of an 8,500m2 research offices building at Stockley Park – Britain’s first business park – within one year and to a fixed budget.
It was delivered within time and cost.
Budgetary constraints demanded exemplary clarity of construction and material invention to match the commission. The project created the opportunity to work with Pilkington to develop a double-glazed Planar™ external skin for the entire building. It uses clear, toughened glass with low-emissivity coating and a low-level ceramic frit.
Two weeks after our first meeting with Stanhope, we received confirmation from Pilkington that they would give a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of £298 per square metre for the new façade, on the basis that we would collaborate in the development of the double-glazed wall. In twelve weeks the system was designed and tested, and Pilkington agreed – unusually – to take the trade contract.
The concept of the building, arranged on three floors, caters for single or multi-tenancy occupation and it was the first building of this size at Stockley Park to allow for this. The Planar™ glass walls are only 32 millimetres thick, thus helping to achieve a net/gross area efficiency of 91%. It is architecturally enlivened by large curved perforated stainless steel solar shades on south, east and west façades.
The building won several awards and achieved the highest rents at the park. Elements of its design, particularly the glass wall, solar shades and ‘bin frit’ (to conceal under-desk rubbish) and the solar shading, were copied over the following years by many architects.
The strong landscape qualities of the park as a whole are brought right up to the main entrance of the building. The finished building provided a sleek, beautiful, discreet and effectively organised facility of exceptional net to gross area efficiency, and was 90% British-made.