Collaborative Design

Enfield Business Centre

Opened by the Deputy Mayor of London in September 2014, this remodelled 1970’s office building is home to the Enfield Business Centre, an enterprise support hub which provides in-house and online training, advice and guidance to local entrepreneurs and the wider business community.

Collaborative design was key to the successful remodelling of the Enfield Business Centre, from multi-disciplinary design and client teams, to local stakeholder and user groups with whom the brief for the project was re-written.

Our team was selected by Enfield Council for its compelling mix of innovation and skill, with We Made That developing public realm proposals alongside graphics and brand design by Europa and building design by RCKa. The common thread to the team was its commitment to stakeholder engagement and ability to manage complex client and user groups, and ability to distil often contradictory requirements into a comprehensive and realisable brief.

A series of interviews with tenants, council departments and neighbouring businesses and institutions, as well as research into similar centres, revealed the business centre needed not just the physical refurbishment stipulated in the original brief, but a new and more defined business strategy for positioning itself amongst other, privately owned business facilities in the area.

The fundamental question became whether the new business centre should simply provide more rentable office space, or as was subsequently agreed, become a local business “hub” providing wider support services to the local area. This decision led to a new focus on creating a welcoming and flexible entrance and the provision of shared facilities that effectively increased the space available to everyone.

The result is transformative on multiple levels – visitors are welcomed with an open and high-quality entrance sequence, users are provided flexible meeting, cafe, hot-desk and seminar spaces, and the wider community enjoys an optimistic piece of contemporary architecture that positively engages with the high street.

Our collaborative approach was also manifested in matters of cost, by virtue of a priced shopping list of potential building alterations that was considered by the project steering group against respective stakeholder priorities. This helped identify and agree works with the greatest positive impact, whilst ensuring best value. These included for example both functional building user requirements, and wider high street regeneration priorities of interest to the Council and GLA.

“The quality of the design of this refurbishment has meant the business centre has been transformed into a vibrant modern business hub, where a range of new enterprise services have been introduced to help businesses grow.”
Despina Johnson, Enterprise Enfield

Design challenges were considerable, from pressure for the entrance space to provide multiple uses as required by the myriad stakeholder groups, to complex technical issues of rerouting/removing existing services networks as multiple layers of lowered ceilings were removed – and not of all a very limited budget.

The resultant entrance space is unrecognisable as it is now open, welcoming and flexible. It doubles up as reception area and lobby, as multi-use event space and cafe. It creates two lines of security, three private meeting rooms and through generous glazing it contributes positively to the activity of the high street and finally reveals the activities taking place inside.

Existing Ground Floor Plan
Proposed Ground Floor Plan

Ultimately a few strategic design moves successfully resolve what was a highly complex brief. These included relocating car parking to the rear, reusing existing doors and screens to reduce the cost of buying new, inserting a new multi-use function space into the ground floor, and creating a striking new contemporary interpretation of the existing concrete arched canopy to provide visibility and presence on the street.

Quality and human-scale is communicated through precise construction details and a rich material palette. Delicate gold anodised aluminium fringes form an arched fascia in front of glazing, which continues deeper into the function space as a lightweight timber slatted feature ceiling. Bold pigmented concrete floor tiles provide a vibrant “carpet” running throughout the lobby; the diagonal striped motif extends out across the newly pedestrianised forecourt to dissolve barriers between inside and out, making the business centre more approachable and welcoming.

Client: London Borough of Enfield
Construction Value: £250,000
Completion: 2014
Location: Enfield, London
Photography: Jakob Spriestersbach
Awards: AJ Small Projects Sustainability Award 2015
Public Realm: We Made That