This is a brave, if somewhat obvious, refurbishment of a pre-War, steel-framed, aeronautical-weapons research building to provide offices, cafe/bar and heritage centre. The decision to renovate as a focal point for the proposed business park rather than demolish has been a coup for SEGRO, but generated significant challenges, such as fitting air conditioning, clearly well executed: simple but not cheap, with a clever, if generous, exposed fan coil arrangement in each structural bay. The open plan office floors were some of the best the judges saw this year in terms of plan depth/height and daylighting provision, although they felt these were disappointing when divided for smaller occupational lettings.
At ground level the restaurant and museum are open to the community and many local companies use the large meeting rooms. Remodeled cores that include two new lifts give all the facilities of a modern building. Floors have been cut out to create a lobby/atrium and expose the art deco staircase.
Retaining the structure and replacing Crittal windows with modern sympathetic equivalents has retained the feel of the building, while replacing the roof lantern and use of the “Farnborough” lettering to the brick cap protected the historic nature. Two new fire escape towers further enhance the external feel. This, along with excellent hard landscaping, means the building is comfortable in its setting. It is let down, however, by new multi-storey parking which could have been built in a previous era and detracts from the fabulous landscaping.
The scheme proves that it is possible to make good use of such buildings even in ‘tough' off-centre locations and that bright, vibrant space can be created in the most challenging buildings. If The Hub was located in one of the more fashionable London areas such as Clerkenwell or Shoreditch, it would be instantly full of designers, advertisers and new media start-ups.
SEGRO is creating a style to suit a new kind of work culture, competing with new-build parks. The Hub forms a solid anchor to the business park and a much needed variety of offices essential for start-up and growing businesses to complement the two adjacent, more formally appointed buildings.