RCKa’s new Technology Centre for world-leading currency and security company De La Rue has instigated fundamental reform of how scientists and engineers from across the business collaborate and innovate through the provision of flexible workspace within an exemplary creative environment.
De La Rue’s facility at Overton Mill dates back to the nineteenth century and has expanded organically during the intervening years as the company’s products shifted from playing cards to currency and passports. The site today accommodates much of the UK operation’s paper manufacturing as well as the research and innovation facilities. Until the new Technology Centre opened in 2013, each component of the printing research processes – including paper, ink and foil technologies – were scattered across the site in sub-standard facilities.
RCKa was brought on board to consolidate key business groups into a single physical location and implementing new ways of working. As well as providing a world-class research facility, the Technology Centre needed to act as a showpiece for guests and visitors arriving by car or by train, with the elevated train line passing close to the main elevation of the building. Its prominent position close to the entrance to the highly-secure site provided an opportunity to create a striking piece of architecture which exploited its prominent location, signalling the company’s commitment to research and innovation.
Before commencing design work we took time to help develop the brief for the building, talking to key members from each of the research teams as well as managers of the facility to fully understand their ambitions for the new Technology Centre.
As well as potential research synergies, RCKa spent a considerable amount of time examining the specialist equipment used in the development process, including presses, printing equipment and so on, to understand where we might consolidate space and technical services through co-locating complementary items of equipment and finding potential synergies between research teams which might encourage unexpected and exciting opportunities.
The key strategic move was the relocation of all heavy-duty research equipment to the lower-ground and upper-ground floors, with an open-plan office and write-up space on the uppermost level, benefiting from full-height windows facing out across the countryside.
The office space, providing 50 workstations for a staff of around 75 engineers and scientists, was designed to exceed BCO Guide to Specification 2009. Although not in a conservation area the building was located on the edge of an Area of Great Landscape Value, and so had to respond to this sensitive constraint. The design was developed in close consultation with the local authority, and we ensured a first-time approval within a very short timescale as a result. An immovable deadline for the relocation of staff and equipment—during the main plant’s summer shutdown period, and the opening ceremony, attended by the Duke of Kent—meant that the entire delivery team had to work closely to ensure that unexpected events were not allowed to adversely impact the programme. Unusually RCKa was also involved in helping to plan the construction strategy in close collaboration with the main contractor, as strict security restrictions for the entire site added an additional layer of complexity; materials delivery, hoarding line, construction sequencing and site arrangement had to be integrated as part of the design process.
Most importantly, however, the transformation in working methods at De La Rue has had a profound effect on the effectiveness of De La Rue’s research operation. The transition from dispersed and cellular to open-plan, collaborative working has enabled the organisation to maximise opportunities for innovation and creativity and improve the quality of research undertaken which is vital to the future of the business.
De La Rue
Jakob Spriestersbach, Ben Phillips