September 21, 2018

Swift UBM fit-out – The perfect blend of form and function

Media giant UBM has a London headquarters on Blackfriars Road that turns heads. The crystalline parallelogram structure rises 90 metres to take its place on London’s skyline.

Seeing the potential of this amazing building, UBM signed a lease agreement for the top nine floors early in the design process.

After a rigorous tender process, Swift was appointed to undertake the fit-out of the interior. The 11-month project has resulted in office space that combines beautiful design with clever functionality complemented by some delightfully quirky features – all with a top-quality finish. It’s a far cry from soulless office space.

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Summit special

The top floor of the building is designed to match the stunning City views. This is, literally, the pinnacle of the building. The triple-height walls rise into the sky to meet the angled glazing while a glass staircase leads to a cantilevered mezzanine ‘cloud deck’.

Creating this spectacular space brought its own challenges because every item in the fit-out could only be delivered to its final destination via the goods lift. Each individual item of the staircase and mezzanine deck had to fit inside the lift before assembly at the top of the building.

Left to itself, a large volume such as this would bring unbearable heat and noise but this is a space where the ambient temperature and noise are calm and comfortable – and that’s down to great design choices and technical know-how.

With such a large glazed area, acoustic options were limited but Swift’s solution was to pack more than 340 sq m of sound-absorbent material onto one internal wall – the result is a room that buzzes with energy but where people don’t need to shout to be heard.

The building is designed to be sustainable but solar glare and heat build-up from the highly efficient glass walls could create an uncomfortable environment without temperature regulation. However, an under-floor cooling system keeps the space at the optimum ambient temperature – whatever the weather outside.

Blind ambition

That’s not the only clever way the glass building regulates its temperature. All areas around the perimeter of the building are fitted with automatic blinds controlled by sky scanners. Sensors outside the building take readings as the sun and clouds move across the sky and trigger the blinds to open or close, providing the right amount of light and limiting the glare.

Boxing clever with glass

As you’d expect from such a high-spec building, the attention to detail extends throughout every floor. Like many modern offices, there are glass meeting rooms – but the design here is really special because the bespoke rooms echo the trapezoid design of the building’s exterior. “No-one had ever attempted these angles in double-glazed glass,” said Swift’s Managing Director David Vaughan. “It was a difficult challenge but we were determined to get it right. Together with the architect and a specialist glazing contractor, we worked on the buildability, producing several prototypes and testing specialist glazing adhesive products before we were satisfied. Now they are finished, they are truly stunning and everyone who sees them can instantly see the link to the external design. It’s great to be involved in creating something truly innovative. We’re very pleased with design and functionality of the rooms – and so is the client.”

Quiet please

It can be hard to find quiet spaces in open-plan offices but 240 Blackfriars Road has these, too. Called ‘shush rooms’, they use more acoustic panelling to provide contemplative space. They are located in the same place on every floor but each one has a different design and its own identity.

All about walls

Even the walls at 240 Blackfriars Road are inspiring. There are ‘event walls’ in the lobby areas – each one individually designed to give each floor its own personality. And on the top floor, there are two living walls sown with small creeping plants. Much more than a stylish addition to the design, the plants help oxygenate the room while improving the acoustic quality of the space.

Combine all this with clever lighting, funky furniture and ingenious innovation, and you’ve got brains and beauty in one perfect package.