gpad breathes life into Brutalist office building

BCO-award-winning architectural practice, gpad london, has completed a 5705ft² new-build reception extension at Brunel House, Fitzalan Road, Cardiff. The lightweight glass and steel extension juxtaposes the existing Brutalist architecture of the 15-storey mass concrete office building. A new entrance with reception, external landscaping and signage gives the building an enhanced facelift and new brand identity.

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he lightweight two-storey glass and steel new-build extension creates additional generous lobby space with a new timber veneer and terrazzo top reception desk as well as matching panel surrounds. The curtain wall glazing combines natural light with a well-lit double-height atrium space that offers improved building access through the use of innovative high-quality design.

Careful design of the new entrance accommodates the change in ground levels, and the installation of a platform lift from street level provides an accessible entrance to facilitate all users. A new accessible speed gate manages building access control. It can also be used as a regular gate at peak times to allow good user flow in and out of the building. The reception desk is no longer obscured from visiting clients and is in a prominent position directly opposite the entrance for enhanced user experience and access management.

The ground- and first-floor lift lobbies have been fully refurbished with the addition of an inviting ancillary cafe for building users to meet clients and colleagues in a relaxed environment. Additional ground-floor seating with extra capacity on the mezzanine floor offers various break-out spaces for occupants.

Simon Fancourt ARB RIBA, Architect at gpad london, comments: “Our brief was to provide tenants with a large accessible grand reception that would impress clients visiting the building. We chose a dramatic pendant feature lighting installation suspended above the double-height atrium to create a magical experience as you pass through the large revolving entrance doors. The 5.3m-wide entrance stair, floor-to-ceiling terrazzo wall panels, polished plaster columns and large-format concrete floor tiles express our design intent to create a feeling of grandeur for employees and visitors alike.”

Material finishes specified empathise with the context of the existing Brutalist architecture. Taking inspiration from the heavy mass concrete construction, the internal finishes use robust materials such as concrete, terrazzo, glass and steel to provide continuity and longevity for the building user.

The use of lighter material colour finishes on the walls and floor provides a striking contrast to the feature elements such as bronzed flat bar steel handrails and balustrades. This colour scheme provides continuity throughout the building – inside and out – with bronzed external bollards, cladding panels and curtain wall glazing transoms and mullions to provide visual connections that have a contemporary appearance.

In-depth building analysis and environmental modelling enabled the specification of curtain wall glass to the reception. The light, bright and airy space provides the required thermal comfort through 8mm Pilkington Suncool external pane and 8mm Pilkington Optiwhite internal pane to give a true low-iron glazing that is clear when viewed from the outside and is also thermally-efficient.

Simon adds: “This particular project to create a ‘grand, but accessible entrance’ required consideration of the building functionality for all users combined with carefully choreographed aesthetics between the use of materials, colours and textures. The success has been delivered through high-quality, sustainable design and the use of innovative detailing.”

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