Squire and Partners won a competition issued by UNISON to design a headquarters building which would provide an exemplary office to meet their diverse and unique requirements, and act as a landmark on the busy Euston Road.
The site encompasses an entire city block, partly occupied by the disused Grade II listed buildings of the former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Women's Hospital. The symbolic significance of Garrett Anderson - the first Englishwoman to become a doctor and the founder of Britain's first hospital specifically for women - led to the conclusion that retaining and incorporating her original hospital buildings would most accurately represent UNISON's values as well as providing unique office spaces.
Squire and Partners devised the concept of a campus of buildings - rather than an individual structure - to suit UNISON's requirements, which included flexible office space as well as a public art gallery highlighting the work of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and both private and affordable residential accommodation. The scheme unites a disparate group of buildings, including the restoration of a previously ‘at risk' building of national significance, integrating new and old and providing a strong architectural presence on Euston Road.
The accommodation provided for UNISON is completely bespoke to their needs. Facilities for press conferences, a TV/radio studio, full catering service, a café, video conferencing suites, training rooms and a striking double height NEC conference chamber was required in addition to flexible open plan work and social space for their 300+ employees. Their HQ is used on an adhoc basis by a constant stream of visiting UNISON regional representatives and members, so needed to provide social, practical and accessible spaces for everyone. Graphics are designed to reinforce the simple visual orientation provided by the central atrium. Floors are colour-coded throughout the complex, using colours derived from UNISON's logo. Individual colours are then graduated in shade from east to west across the width of a floor.
The UNISON HQ has been designed to the highest conceivable environmental standards, lowering the total carbon emissions for a development of this size by 53% (the GLA target was 20%), delivering carbon reductions in excess of 50% above Part L requirements, and achieving a BREEAM score of 73.53% rating Excellent.
Upon completion in April 2011, UNISON's 300 staff moved out of their old building on a Friday, and into the new HQ the following Monday with all systems in place and in full working order - which includes the largest intranet in Europe. Feedback from the client has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of how the new HQ has fundamentally improved their working culture.