The visit began with a welcome and an introduction from Kanti Chappi. We were then treated to a generous buffet lunch during which Stuart Hancox - SGP Studio Director and Project Leader gave us a talk on the building. This was a detailed explanation of the thinking behind all aspects of the building’s design.
This was followed by a talk on Building Information Modelling (BIM) by James Blood SGP BIM Manager.
He explained the, now historical, transition from hand drawn technical drawings to computer driven versions. He went on to explain how BIM was an extension of this process beyond describing plans and elevations and into building hardware such as plumbing, drainage and electrical elements. this system allowed architects to generate renderings to clients, including Virtual Reality tours, to help them communicate their ideas better. Significantly, BIM software is able to indicate clashes between sub sytems, helping to avoid problems in construction and reducing waste.
We were then split into groups for demonstrations of 3D rendering and Virtual Reality and tours of the building.
We could see that the location, overlooking a lake, was fully exploited by the design. Windows on both floors gave stunning exterior views.
The ground floor contains several meeting rooms and a generous, welcoming café opening on to a beautiful lakeside terrace. The Design Studio, takes up most of the first floor and can accommodate 60 of the total of 85 staff.
This is partly a personal review of working with Steve George.
After completing National Service in the Royal Engineers, I applied in 1956 to Leicester City Architects for my first professional job.
Steve interviewed me, examining my Final Design thesis drawings - his comments were wide-ranging and positive. He offered me the position.
I worked with him on a range of educational buildings for five years, during which time he suggested I do some mountain climbing. A pair of boots was left on my drawing board! It later emerged that he had climbed with Joe Brown, an internationally famous climber. Another of his recreational activities was Morris dancing.
I discovered that he was a major in the Paras and was captured at Arnhem. He was awarded an MC for his heroism which he never mentioned, of course.
His legacy lives on in the current practice. One significant feature is the large well equipped coffee area with encouragement to staff members to use at any time of the day.
He was also keen to engage residents of potential housing schemes to meet him and discuss their wishes.
This Practice has specialised areas of architectural design. It’s Warehouse Group is number one nationally, carrying out designs for a large number of local authorities.
‘Pencil Man’ was another important issue raised. In this context I must quote Norman Foster:
“I worry about students who feel that the power of the computer has rendered the humble pencil, if not obsolete, second rate ........ I am always excited by the potential that lives within a sketch ......... the absolute towards a new building.
Waterfront House has a magical landscape setting with all the office areas having large windows on the main elevations.
We were conducted in groups round both floors, examining the interiors in detail. I was impressed with the approach to energy conservation. This building is EPC’A’ rated.
Overall, this was two hours of total emotional enjoyment.
A fascinating perspective on the actual process of how modern architects set about creating plans and the broader outlines of buildings in their settings. I liked the new building: it seemed a nice example of how creative buildings can have a beneficial impact on the wellbeing of staff.
A fascinating visit with excellent presentations, lunch together with the little black booklet and the white book of photographs of recent buildings by SGP.
It made me question at what stage is the computer used by practices like Zaha Hadid and Fosters to produce consistent and visionary architecture.
The attention to every design detail of the building was very appealing indeed and it is an excellent showcase for the cutting edge skills of the practice. Floor to ceiling windows made the building wonderfully light and the welcome we received was warm and genuine.
Alison and Richard
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