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PROJECT REPORT: COMMERCIAL & WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENTS


Passive impressive Its design inspired by New York pressed metal ceilings, a major part of Bloomberg London’s passive low-energy strategy centres on its ceilings, and their design is a Foster + Partners creation which in its own right makes this building worthy of note. The aluminium ‘petals’, fabricated in Glamorgan, are shaped like open, slotted letter envelopes, and have been arranged into a carpet of flower-like formations. Their shape is bespoke-designed to not only reflect the light from half a million LEDs, but also to cool the air for the IT-heavy spaces below, with chilled water in copper coils behind each petal, and provide acoustic attenuation.


Michael Jones explains why the ceilings are central to the natural ventilation approach, developed with consultant Breathing Buildings: “If you had a normal chilled ceiling, and you were drawing summer air in, you would get condensation. So we needed to devise a ceiling that had a much greater surface area”. Part of their visual effect is the fact the LEDs’ light is ‘washed’ back upwards, giving a glowing effect.


The second key part of the strategy is the bronze fins, termed “gills” by Lord Foster, due to their shape and the fact that they enable the building to ‘breathe’. When the outside air is at the correct temperature, “which is anticipated to be the majority of the year,” says Jones, the back of the fins open, air passing over the glazing to smooth temperature peaks and troughs, and into the building through large vertical vents. With their shapes designed to optimise air intake as well as shading, they have an attractive, organic curve, which needed to achieve a large draw of air given the relatively low building height. This was developed by Foster + Partners with the help of fluid dynamic analysis, and finally a 1:1 scale model in a Battersea warehouse, with simulated climate “from the coldest winter to the hottest summer”. Jones notes that with the rapid moves to cleaner engines and electric cars, air pollution in the City is becoming less of a concern. While engines are also quieter, the fins’ design helps moderate traffic noise. Aesthetically, the fins’ varying forms give each facade a subtly different look, and also a deceptive solidity. Michael Jones: “We were asked to deliver an all glass building that looks solid – a contradiction. So from afar they look quite solid, but locally they open up.”


ADF APRIL 2018 Ramping up


Unadorned natural materials have largely been chosen for their ‘self-finished’ qualities in this project – stone, steel, aluminium, timber, wool, and in the case of the external fins but also the key circulation route internally, bronze. Spiralling up through the atrium to form a dramatic triple elliptical helix through three floors, is a ‘step ramp’. This patinated bronze-clad hybrid of a wide-tread stair and a ramp provides a place wide enough to encourage workers to stop and chat while others can continue walking. “They wanted it to be graceful, social, and a place of interaction,” says Jones. It’s an extremely effective, relaxed way to combine collaboration with circulation while opening up the floorplates, as well as fantastic views up and down the building through teardrop-shaped gaps, helping staff visually feel more connected. It also slightly overshadows the not-unimpressive achievement of the glass lifts being cantilevered off the stone exterior, developed alongside manufacturer Kone with minimal resulting steel frames.


An open plan


As Michael Jones puts it, “Open plan is very Bloomberg – it was a very good meeting of minds, because a lot of what drives them drives us, the openness, the idea of equality of workspace, and they were very willing to try and push the boundaries.”


From generous landings on each of the seven office levels, you are presented with a sea of desks, and very few columns. The architects began with a standard column grid, and “effectively took every other column out,” says Michael Jones, leaving a 13.2 m span triangular grid. Notably, in the Pantry there are no columns at all, with the structure suspended from the roof via a lot of design ingenuity. Jones says this was one of the outcomes of Mike Bloomberg’s approach of “the fact that something is new and will take a lot of development is no reason not to do it.” Desks are a bespoke, curved (slightly boomerang-shaped) ‘120’ design developed by Foster + Partners, generally arranged in circular clusters. That overarching idea of democratic equality extends to Mike Bloomberg himself having the same desk. Kate Murphy says: “We studied workplace trends, but realised that quite a lot of organisations are providing small desks. So we deliberately provided quite a generous desk to aid collaboration.” The idea behind


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