The possibilities for commercial architecture are infinite and over the past few years London has seen ever-more ambitious forms pitched in the commercial sector (see The Shard, The Walkie Talkie and The Cheesegrater). Where there is little variation however is in the design of the reception spaces in these ever-more cavernous lobbies. All too often employees and visitors are greeted with chic but sterile receptions which do little to set the tone for the rest of the building.
Derwent London, the development company behind the highly acclaimed Tea Building, Angel Building and the recently opened Buckley Building, launched an ideas completion challenging architects to think outside the box and pitch a more welcoming and adventurous reception space.
The winner, announced on Wednesday night at Derwent London’s new White Collar Factory in Old Street, was Studio Seilern, who won the 2012 WAN House of the Year Award as Sforza Seilern Architects. Studio Seilern’s Future Reception proposal was applauded as ‘whimsical, attractive, inspiring and different’ by the jury panel which included Simon Silver from Derwent London, Christine Murray from Architects’ Journal, Simon Cooney of Office Concierge, AHMM’s Simon Allford and Chair at the NLA Peter Murray.
Studio Seilern’s concept centres on a butterfly enclosure to animate the space, doing away with the traditional desk setup in favour of a more fanciful alternative. Visitors may be greeted by the receptionist, gardener, butterfly keeper or barista, who can answer queries about the offices above but also provide information on the flora and fauna within the reception.
The design team explains: “Reception spaces are mired with a feeling of emptiness and under-use. It is currently used as an over-sized transit space. If the reception is treated like a park (a destination), it has a chance to become vibrant and used by the building community, fostering interaction between building tenants. The Park allows access to all seating and lounging areas in the lobby landscape, ranging from a gallery auditorium for events, group seating and café.”
Aware that a single reception area cannot meet the corporate personality of each company in a multi-tenant building, Studio Seilern has looked instead to the plaza outside the Pompidou Centre in Paris for inspiration. As such, they suggest a reception where all sides of the façade can be opened in the summer, blending an external plaza with the plant-rich interior. Pivoting doors would be in use during the winter months. The team has also incorporated a gallery ‘in the forest clearing’ for a cinema, performances or corporate presentations.