Archive for the 'Architecture' Category

Silicon Roundabout’s ‘Start-up City’

September 28, 2011

Silicon Roundabout (Old Street, London)

London-based design practice 00:/ ∫(‘zero zero’), in partnership with Space Station, have published proposals for the redevelopment of the Old Street roundabout in East London. The proposals outline a new enterprise and start-up institution at the central hub of Old Street, Hoxton and Shoreditch; an area which in recent years has been dubbed ‘Silicon Roundabout’ due to the rising success of new technology and .com enterprises concentrated in the area.

At a time when much of the economic and employment news in the UK makes for gloomy reading, Silicon Roundabout stands out as a remarkable success story, with a number of successful British technology companies emerging in one small area, and myriad new start-ups seeking to establish themselves in the area. Yet the roundabout which gave its name to this phenomenon remains, by contrast, unloved and fallow but for a small number of popular shops which inhabit the concrete underpass.

Boosted by government support for the ‘Tech City’ emerging in the East of London, the effort is now on to bring together investors, backers and the tech community to build upon this emerging London success story. “The roundabout is a landmark opportunity to articulate and amplify what is happening in the area”, explains Space Station director Russell Chopp.

Architecture and strategic design practice 00:/, themselves based in the area, have led the design for the proposals. They are already leaders in innovative enterprise environments and future workspaces: having been co-designers and partners behind the Hub network in London, which provides collaborative workspace for social entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly then, their proposals go far beyond the kind of corporate office design often associated with business campuses.

“It’s partly about realising why this place is already successful in the first place”, explain 00:/. “This is an economy which works in a completely different way, it’s far more open, far more sociable. It’s about the aggregation of many small, energetic, and rapidly growing start-ups with a sharing culture rather than single, large corporate setup which have driven the design of the sort of office buildings we got used to during the boom.”

Their proposal has a number of key distinctive features. First, the base of the structure is not a corporate lobby or a shopping mall, but a large, enclosed public space.

“In a sense, it’s about realising that London already has another major public space, sitting there, waiting to be found, used and loved” say the designers. “It should be something like a cross between Trafalgar Square and Grand Central Terminal in New York.”

The design has to respond to the very tight constraints of building around an existing underground and railway station, located at the centre of one of London’s busiest traffic junctions. Its structure and construction would have to be strongly shaped by these factors.

The resultant building, sitting astride this new public space, could not be more different from the glass office buildings of the City of London a few hundred metres further south. Not a series of floor plates, but a kind of city-within-a-city.

Within this compact city would be workspaces for companies which range in size from large to tiny, as well as shared resources and flexible workspaces for start-up enterprises of only one or two people.

On the outside, the faceted facade is a vast, programmable advertising board, reminiscent of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. “We’re told the advertising space on the roundabout is some of the most expensive in Britain. Rather than resist that, we saw an opportunity in turning that onto its head, by opening the whole thing up. By selling the façade per pixel, per minute, the building creates a system which allows small, local companies, individuals and online campaigns to use it, alongside the big global players.” The result is a kind of neighbourhood-based ‘million-dollar homepage’, reflecting outwardly the energetic entrepreneurialism which is driving the change in this part of London.

Click here to download the press release as a pdf:

Silicon Roundabout Press Release_110928

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SOAR WORKS, Sheffield

May 18, 2011

We have been very busy with SOAR Works (a 3600m2 new build community enterprise centre)  on site these last few months. Here are a few photos showing the building coming together, from seeing the steel frame in the fabrication shop, to being craned into position, and then bolted and welded on site. With all the steel frame erected, you really get an impression of the scale of the building. Floor slabs have been cast into the metal decking and internal walls are well underway – the internal rooms are taking shape.
The progress on site has been very visual over the last few weeks with windows and glass panels going in. Photos to be posted shortly. SH

Visit to the Fabrication Workshop

Erecting the steel frame

The building taking shape

One of the large workshops with a window to the studio above

SOAR WORKS, Sheffield – Work well underway

October 18, 2010

The steel frame to the north block of SOAR Works is now erected with the steel decking installed. Things are really taking shape and you can imagine the scale and quality of the spaces. I got very excited about the openings in the roof decking ready for the upstand rooflights. A lot of effort was put into laying-out and detailing the decking by ourselves and the sub-contractors. Metal floor deckings are used to cast the concrete slab and are generally concealed. Seeing it on site in its shiny splendor makes us happy with our decision to not have ceilings but exposed it. The view from the scaffolding tower allows you to grasp how amazing the view will be from the second floor conference room. At the end of last week the groundfloor slab was cast – I hear the finish is remarkable so when we have photos I will post.

SH

Ps I am also very happy with the women size site boots that the site manager (Dave) has now got me. A lot more manageable (and stylist) than the size 8 steel foot cap wellies I was previously struggling about site in!

open source table design

August 12, 2010

The (LDN) Petal Table is the first in a series of open design products we will be relesing to help you make your own co-working environments. Share, edit, remake for your own needs and to tell your own stories. Let us know what you think. And if you can – it would make us smile if you credited us…

Launch of London Hackspace in Hoxton

August 3, 2010

London Hackspace had their space warming party on Sunday to celebrate their move into Cremer Street Business Centre so I went along to find out what was going on. As soon as you enter there’s the thrill of a workshop crossed with a mad inventors lab. I saw angle grinders next to a half repaired (or deconstructed?) bike, old school singer sewing machines, a workbench, an amazing open source 3D printer by makerbot industries that replicates itself and other tools and machines that i dont know the name of. Oh and a disco ball with flashing ligts. Hackspaces as i understand it, are places where like minded people can get together and tinker around, invent, make, play, exchange ideas and tips on many things. They describe it as a communal garden shed. I thought it might be limted to a few techy boffins playing with circuit boards and computer parts but that was just my limited interpretation of hackers. Actually the members of London hackspace don’t define hacker activity to a particular area. One described hacking to me as the act of taking, remaking anything – at London hackspace, this currently includes a planned knitting class (referred to as the first type of programming language), a lock picking sports club, bike repair shop, as well as the more techy activities of playing with circuit components and a tesla aerial (just because it made a cool noise when 4000volts was run through it).

There are quite a few precedences for hackspaces – I had previously come across the more well known ones such as the NYC Resistor in New York and c-base in Berlin – the Hackspace Foundation networks these spaces together. There’s clearly a real community feel to the crowd – faces being recognised from gatherings such as hackdays and dorkbot events.

Having decamped from a shared space with an archery range where they were located for a year, London Hackspace are hoping this move to their own space means that they can grow their membership but also have the room to really have fun. The monthly membership is £40 (less if you can’t afford that) it’s 24/7 access, a proudly anarchistic operation(there are no strict rules or preset definitions of what goes) and people act very much in a shared spirit evidenced by the donated tools and kit and their openess to talk to anyone that is curious in learning.

There was much conversation on the fact that spaces and places like this don’t exist easily, particularly in London because of the commercialisation of space. How do we value these activities that are beyond hobbies but not quite “work” – yet their value in creating a skill and knowledge base is invaluable – and primarily the self taught education of exploring by doing and making. This is the real classroom that should be present in all neighbourhoods – not only do spaces like this spread knowledge and other ways of learning, they are a class in civil society itself. Go down to check it out.

AF

Scale-Free Schools

July 27, 2010

To a surprising extent, the educational architecture we have inherited today still reflects the Victorian, industrial-age mindset which conceived it. Although we no longer think about education in that way, we still design schools as institutional factories for mass-education: purpose-built, expensive, one-size fits all.

As so many aspects of learning and social knowledge sharing have been revolutionised by new technology, the architecture of our schools has lagged behind. This project we’ve been working on in the office sets out to find smarter, leaner, more responsive architectures for 21st century learning, which require us to think beyond simply the design of buildings.
AP

NESTA Local Knowledge : A case study on innovative places

July 22, 2010

00:/ were selected and commissioned to contribute to NESTA’s Local Knowledge report collection of essays on Innovative Places. Our case study explores The Hub King’s Cross, a workspace, members club and business incubator. It is centred around a series of flexible spaces for individual work, meetings and events, and is unusual in many ways such as its intensity of utilisation. Using qualitative interviews and roundtables with key individuals involved, we analysed The Hub’s underlying place-making strategy which seeks to create fertile conditions for different types of innovation. The analysis emphasises the importance of thinking both about physical parameters and about social and organisational tactics in order to succeed at fostering a different culture of daily behaviour amongst the users.

This is what we call place making for innovation – a necessity for 21st century entrepreneurialism. Have a read – see what you think…

AF/JB

Friday Film : Secret Stash Project by Yi-Ting Cheng.

July 16, 2010

A lovely re-think of everyday objects that brings a smile to the lips.

In the words of the designer, Yi-Ting Cheng

This project is about concealing valuables, secrets, bad habits and personal information in our workplaces. Here, hidden spaces/ messages were created within 8 general objects such as wood boards, lamps and disposable coffee cups.

Why doing this?
We all have the need of hiding.

We hide our valuables from being stolen, we conceal our past from our loved ones, we never show our real side to colleagues, we all have secrets. Or, sometimes we just want to keep something only for ourselves.

How?
Utilize stereotypes and visual camouflage.

We make judgments based mainly on our experiences and what we see. This dependency on visual information can create large blind spots. Thus, usual stereotypes of how we perceive solid, transparency and lighting are employed in this project to play with notions of ‘solid and void’, and ‘true and false’.

One to watch out for…

00:/ Sycamore Table prototype @Techhub

July 12, 2010

Friday night saw the launch of Techhub on City Road – a new workspace for tech start ups using a similar model to The Hub based on monthly membership subscription that can give you access to different subscription packages varying from drop in hot desking through to permanent desks depending on what you sign up for. Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) of Tech Crunch and Elizabeth Varley (@evarley) are the people behind the venture having been in and around the tech community for some years, they decided one day that what was really needed was a place that could provide affordable workspace, meeting rooms hire and a space for events where members of the tech community from around the world could come and work together – or at the least work out of their homes for a short while. The evening was launched by Brent Hoberman – founder of lastminute.com followed by a live broadcast on sky news! With sponsors ranging from Pearsons through to Google, TechHub seems set to accelerate the way tech start ups are formed and work.

We at 00:/ were glad to be part of something so close to our way of thinking – and only down the road from us! So when we were asked to help out on the design, we took it as an opportunity to see what could be done on a shoestring budget to convert a very standard office space with office specification down to the ceiling tiles, into a space that would be more functionally suited to tech types. One of our solutions was the Sycamore Table (#sycamoretable) that we were able to prototype for the launch night. It is inspired by the Petal Table at The Hub (by Katy Marks) and we have learnt from our Hub experience that membership based organisations such as these, need their spaces to work flexibly and smoothly. So – the brief we came up with was that the table would serve the area allocated to hot desking area that could also be transformed into an event/hack space in a minimal number of moves making it easy for 1 member of staff to clear desks away. So the end result is this table you see here prototyped from MDF. The table can be collapsed to 1 leaf and mounted on wheels making it easy to roll to one side. It can seat anywhere from 3-7 persons with a variety of work modes – from ad hoc 5 minute meetings at the end of the table to standing up at the 3rd leaf or working alone but together around a communal table. It is powered by hanging plug in points that jack into the top of the table at a single point with a power points on the underside of the desk avoiding floorboxes and making the table easy to disconnect and store. The shape was defined by social curves that enabled collaborators to sit next to each other and share a screen more comfortably than if they were around an orthogonal rectangular table. The shape was also a counter effect to the office-ness of the space and allow multiple configurations in the space avoiding the repetitiveness of most office desk layouts – when you spend as much time working at a screen as these guys do, monotony is something to be avoided where possible! We will be making the final version with a few adjustments (such as universal adaptors to suit the international crowd of tech start ups as suggested by @edent), but if you’re interested in the real thing then pop down to old street and see how this venture takes off.

AF

WORK NOW Series : The Strategy Theatre

June 24, 2010

This is the first in a series of our propositions for the future of work called Work Now, based on our various learning to date on collaborative & innovative workspaces and progressive institutions. We’ve uploaded this proposition for the Strategy Theatre onto slideshare– but in brief, the Strategy Theatre is a newsroom + think tank + augmentive environment + rapid response unit.

We understand that Agile Responsiveness and Smart Anticipation are critical functions of corporate institutions. Increasingly organisations must engage in unplanned systemic crisis with immediate mastery of the scenario. The Strategy Theatre is a new sort of place & function designed to rapidly scope, visualise and model emerging crisis, and support deployment mastery.

We hope you enjoy.

AF