Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The new council Single Site

I've mentioned it before, but we've finally had the full plans for the new council single site issued. Tav's been looking into over at WFA as well as 'borrowing' the Shuttle's artists impression.

The main criticisms are over its looks - it looks like an office block. The daft thing is that it looks better from the air. As this rough 3D plan shows.

North is to the left of the image. The two open areas may not be fully open, the plans don't seem to indicate quite, but they are both courtyards. Now we've been told this has been made the height it is to make better use of natural light. Except the skylights are on the back away from the sun, and that jutting out 'cover' also extends down a storey. So that's not direct light. they want then? Without running a test it seems to me that the position of the two courtyards would also see them in shade morning and evening while possibly being under the full sun at midday.

Now for an office block it's a nice design, but as a council HQ it lacks grandeur for my taste. You don't want a 'kneel before your gods' temple fa├žade, but at the same time it shouldn't be mistaken for some web development studio.

I'm also guessing we'll get the same disconnect that seems to exist within every 'business' structure. The outside looks great, the reception is state of the art, the public meeting rooms (or in this case council meeting rooms) will be all shiny and glossy and the areas in which the work actually occurs will be slightly peeling beige/grey cubicle dividers. As someone who tends to end up visiting such areas it's where I tend to focus.

In this case the plans don't seem to include much in the way of storage. There's an upstairs "Data Room" so at least they've got somewhere to put the servers I'm guessing; but it's directly attached to the open offices north and south no walls, no doors to separate it. Now if this is the data storage room, then fine people going in and out; if this is going to house the servers too that needs its own space. If it housed both the paper and electronic storage imagine a fire in that room, poof everything gone.

Another oddity is the two Plant rooms, although one is listed as External Store on the ground floor plan. One is next to an open office and the other next to the Public and Committee meeting chamber with only a standard internal wall dividing them. Now perhaps it's just me, but plant indicates machinery of some description, be it a power generator, boiler, or this heat sink thing they're talking about and most of the time these things make noise. So unless this isn't the case perhaps not the best positioning for them.

I'm also looking at the roof space, it seems very high, with the skylights precluding a suspended ceiling that's a lot more volume to heat.

One final note in terms of psychology is the reception area. This is your standard glass front and rear with desk in middle, however this marks the mid-point divide between the private and public buildings. To prevent people wandering back and forth across reception a bridge link connects the two buildings on the upper storey. Fine, great, no problem; except - well it's a walkway bridge across the middle of reception. Now either it's going to be open glass in which case beware as you walk across it in a skirt, or it's going to be enclosed off which means the receptionists will be sitting directly under a suspended item. Psychologically that's not conducive to calm.

They'll be constant glances up, particularly if it's not well sound-proofed, as a reassurance that it's still in place, hasn't moved and isn't about to fall on you. I guarantee anyone placed on reception under such circumstances will be frazzled by the end of the day. Of course the entire lot could be sealed in under a ceiling, but then you lose both the natural light and view of reception from the bridge. In any case the bridge needs to be shifted to the rear of reception to form part of the wall; it'll appear more sound that way.

So all in all not that impressed.


Tav said...

Fantastic blog, you are better at analysing plans than I am.

Did you notice the Sun Path Analysis in appendix e? According to this the 'jutting out cover' faces the sun throughout year. It is more than a cover though, more like horizontal blinds. Although it unclear where they are for atheistics or they actually work as blinds.

It would make a set of small art studios more than it would as 'our civic centre'. At least when they build the Civic Centre in Stourport they gave it some stature with the curved council chamber, in-line with the library/courts/police station/fire station in Stourport. In the 1960s/70s when you saw a curved shape and you knew it was a civic building.

FlipC said...

Heh I wish I could claim talent, but I used to draw up similar items, the only hassle with these are that the resolution is too poor to make out the fine print.

I didn't even bother with the one piece of supporting documentation as such I do find it amusing to see they chose a nearly identical angle for their pen sketch version.

And now I recall why I don't bother with these - do we really need a vision statement? Okay this needs more than a comment...