The existing 1960s building – a former stationery office and later a Crown Court – provided a starting point for Fabrix and its design team to develop an office building with generous volumes and adaptable floor plates of up to 40,000 sq ft.
Using the existing footings and retaining the first two storeys, the design team introduced a lightweight hybrid steel and CLT frame, with the ability to support the urban forest (and its 1300 tonnes of soil and 1.5m deep tree pits) at the heart of the brief.
Designed by award-winning architects Studio RHE, the contrasting and expressive architecture of the new six storey upper volume brings a visual interest to the scheme – signalling its intention to contribute to the wider neighbourhood through use and access.
Roots in The Sky sets out to demonstrate the value of placemaking in a commercial office building, and that bringing inspiring new community spaces alongside commercial development is of benefit to the neighbourhood and tenants alike.
Recognising that office space is in demand in the borough while space and services for community use are lacking, Fabrix took a decision to dedicate many of the prime areas of the new building for local use – also setting up a not-for-profit management structure to run the spaces.
At street level, amenities include an accessible green atrium, auditorium and community space, a café and retail kiosks. A new thoroughfare between adjoining streets will run through the heart of the building, creating further links to the neighbourhood. Placing the services and cooling in the basement liberates the roof-space to re-introduce trees and create space for a new ‘barn’ meeting space, roof gardens, potting shed and seed bank in the wider roofscape, which has been designed by landscape design practice Harris Bugg.
The rooftop, which exceeds the urban forest criteria set out by the United Nations, providing canopy cover of 23%, uses a passive water capture and irrigation system and reintroduces wildlife to the city.