Blue Sky thinking

Nick Myall
08 Dec 2016

A collaboration between AL_A, PLP Architecture and HASSELL has resulted in a striking new building for Sky in West London

Sky plc has launched Sky Central, a new flagship building at the heart of its 13 hectare media campus headquarters in Osterley, West London. The project has seen AL_A, PLP Architecture and HASSELL combine on interior and exterior design with Mace as contractor and Arup working as project engineer. Over 3,500 employees are housed in the building, which has been designed to promote flexibility, openness, ease of access and communication to encourage the flow of people and ideas across the business. Bringing together the corporate and creative sides of the business under a single roof, Sky Central puts entertainment, live production and the development of new ideas through collaboration at the heart of the Sky experience. In 2011, Sky asked AL_A to create a Strategic Campus Vision and masterplan for the entire headquarters alongside the broadcaster as it set out to transform the experience of working at Sky.

PLP Architecture also worked on the project and re-thought the initial concept extensively. For example initial plans included columns throughout the interior space, so there was none of the airy space and visibility that the final building displays. PLP removed these columns to realise Sky’s vision. PLP also re-worked the exterior to respond to the new interior.  

Wayne McKiernan, Director at PLP Architecture, said: “The environment that we have designed supports Sky’s key values by promoting flexibility, openness, ease of access and communication through fostering the natural flow of both people and ideas throughout the elegant and innovative building.” 

The Vision of the project reflects the workings of the organisation with a campus connected by the assets that drive the business forward: creativity and people. Embodying the principles of the Vision, AL_A worked on the concept and developed design to stage D for Sky Central, the largest single building on the site, winning planning consent for the project in 2013. Sky Central is a vast low-rise and wide-span building, formed around large naturally-lit overlapping voids within deep floorplates that create high levels of visual connectivity. 

These open and flexible spaces are designed in clusters of neighbourhoods to accommodate a new type of creative industry, where the traditional distinctions between creative, technical, production and corporate have been broken down. Ho-Yin Ng, Director at AL_A said: “Sky is proud of its beginnings on an industrial business park on the fringes of central London. AL_A worked with Sky to re-imagine a simple ‘shed’ typology as a means of bringing the broadcaster’s activities and people together under one roof in a series of modern and people-centric workplaces on its campus in Osterley. “The design embraces the simplicity of the industrial shed, the roots of the campus’s context, and defines a new model for the industry’s fast-paced and evolving future.”  Andrew Jackson, Sky Project Manager for Sky Central said: “Sky Central is a unique creation, embodying the Campus vision of bringing people together to do the best work of their careers. The huge light-filled volumes of space are simple and intuitive yet inspiring and energising, timeless and yet thoroughly modern.”

HASSELL designed the actual workspaces within the building. With flexibility in mind, the interior has been strategically fitted out as a demountable kit of parts, offering real mobility for Sky’s staff.

Commenting on the project HASSELL Principal Felicity Roocke said: “We worked closely with individual teams to understand how they work and their requirements for the space. We wanted to give people a sense of ownership and belonging over their workplace, and for them to feel a genuine sense of connection with the organisation they work for.” This has been achieved with the introduction of 18 versatile ‘neighbourhoods’ each housing around 200 people. The neighbourhoods include a range of individual and team settings, from interactive to focused, to suit every type of activity.

The three-storey, 37,700 sq m (GIA) building features a large triple-height central atrium above the bustling 100m long Sky Street that runs the entire width of the ground floor. The building feels open and transparent because Sky want to make it easy to see what is going on across the business and for everyone to feel the DNA of Sky. The roof of Sky Central is designed to maximise natural light. It is characterised by a grid of skylights that allow daylight to penetrate through the building to create top-lit workspaces, reducing façade glazing and the reliance on artificial lighting. Sky Central reflects the broadcaster’s industrial heritage, updated to the standards expected of a 21st century broadcaster, with an anodised aluminium cladding that is a high-quality evocation of those humble origins. The building is a safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable place for everyone, and has been designed to a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standard.

Nick Myall

News editor

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