The UK’s First Floating Meeting Room is a Space For Creative Collaboration

Got water? Why not build a floating conference room? 

The first of it’s kind in the UK, this structure is a multi-functional and flexible space for creative collaboration, corporate meetings, and social events. The unique project was designed by architects tp bennett on behalf of APAM and Patron Capital and aims to demonstrate the new age of business parks. We spoke with the team involved to get the inside scoop on this innovative project.

Tell us a bit of history on the office park.

We bought Arlington Business Park in 2015. As an opportunistic investor focused on property and property-backed corporate opportunities across Western Europe, we were attracted by the chance to upgrade a well-located business park, creating a vibrant and modern workplace in a strong aesthetic environment and enhancing the occupancy of the park.

We did considerable due diligence before purchasing Arlington Business Park, looking at the local market, rival buildings, potential occupiers and creating a plan for how we could reposition the park to let the remaining space. With businesses increasingly favoring town-centre buildings because of the lifestyle, amenities and quality of fit-out that these tend to offer, we recognized the need to comprehensively upgrade the park offer and experience to be able to deliver space that businesses will be excited to work from. – Daniel Weisz, Investment Director & Senior Partner, Patron Capital

How did you come up with the idea of a floating pavilion?

We wanted to make the creative activity and interaction that takes place in the office buildings more visible. The Lake is the heart of the Park, so it was a natural proposal to locate this activity on the Lake. From that starting point, the ideas of ‘lightness’ (not attaching to the lake bed), visibility and views all developed through the development of the design.

The end result is a unique, multi-functional and flexible space that offers an inventive space for creative collaboration, corporate meetings and tenant social events. – Neil SterlingDirector, tp bennett

How has it been received?

The project has been well received by the existing and new occupiers with over 12 tenants joining since the start of the investment program. – Neil Sterling

Potential occupiers have tended to have fairly low expectations of what they would get from a business park, so were blown away by the focus on design and how much effort had gone into raising the standards here. – Ben Dickins, Real Estate Asset Manager, APAM Ltd

What are the innovative design features?

A combination of imaginative architecture, specialist engineering and boat-building technologies were employed to create the pavilion. Four columns support an over-sailing anodized aluminum roof, creating a sense of enclosure and shelter while allowing 360-degree views across the lake through floor-to-ceiling glazing, reflecting water and light to create a unique and beautiful meeting place.

The Pavilion is largely pre-fabricated, with the floating base and superstructure frame being manufactured in separate workshops almost 150 miles apart, as they require different expertise for their manufacture.

The base and superstructure components were transported to site by road, before being craned onto the Lake and finally assembled on the water. The coordination of these elements was a significant technical challenge. In addition, the stability of the pavilion relates to torsional movement and the base has to be stiff enough to avoid the upper parts flexing unduly. There is also the need for stability of location and a simple anchor restraint on this man-made and lined lake was not an option. Instead, it had to be horizontally restrained from the water’s edge. This allows the pavilion to rise and fall with the water levels, meaning the lake still serves its ecological purpose. – Neil Sterling

What resources were used to design and fabricate the pavilion?

To coordinate the base and superstructure, we used three-dimensional modeling software (Revit), along with visualization and environmental modeling software. – Neil Sterling

The focus on amenities seems to be on health, wellness, and wellbeing. What kind of research was done to implement and support these added amenities?

The way we work has changed a lot since Arlington Business Park was first developed in 1992. Through our work to understand occupier requirements and competing office accommodation, we recognized that, to attract tenants now, we needed to add modern amenities, refresh some of the spaces with a strong focus on design, and create a sense of community. We did this by installing a new café, shop, gym and floating pavilion, landscaping the external areas, refurbishing some of the buildings and launching an events program. – Ben Dickins

Do you offer tours?

While we don’t offer public tours as such, we do host regular events on site, such as our recent outdoor cinema event, which welcomed over 1,300 people. We can also arrange tours of the site for potential occupiers via our agents Savills, Avison Young and Strutt & Parker. – Ben Dickins

Who were the main vendors / partners on the project?

The main contractor on the project was Eco Floating Homes.

Is the space used other than for conference meetings? If so what?

Yes, the glass walls open out onto a surrounding terrace allowing for an attractive events space for tenants and visitors to the park.

Are there any concrete post-occupancy figures that you can share with us?

Since acquiring the site in 2015, we’ve attracted 14 new occupiers, taking a total of 80,000 sq ft.

We have 28,000 sq ft available and are currently undertaking a comprehensive refurbishment of 50,000 sq ft across two buildings to provide further Grade A space, with completion expected before the end of the year. – Ben Dickins

Anything else you’d like to include?

At Arlington Business Park, we are working with Patron Capital and APAM to change the perception of a business park as an outdated workplace. The park has been transformed in an inventive and creative way, using carefully considered design to deliver a vibrant out-of-town destination for large occupiers, SMEs and tech start-ups. The end result is a business park that meets the needs of contemporary occupiers, offering high-quality architecture, stand-out amenities as well as working environments that encourage interaction and collaboration. – Neil Sterling

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