Shortlisted for the RICS commercial category in southeast England, Davidson House resides on the busy Forbury Square in Reading. The building is commercially let and holds one of the UK’s most popular Carluccio’s restaurants.
dn-a architecture was contracted to uplift and refresh the previously unwelcoming reception area and communal areas, into brighter, inviting and more collaborative spaces.
Approached by Schroders in 2017, dn-a were tasked with elevating these communal areas and entrances to propel Davidson forward to become one of the most sought-after office environments in the highly competitive Thames Valley office market.
John Duthaler, Associate of dn-a architecture, spoke to Premier Construction about how the company transformed the entry to Davidson:
“The building, built in 2000, as a whole is well designed but the reception area was non-descript; you couldn’t really tell where to enter, hence the focus of the project was to rebrand and re-identify the entrance to the building and reformat the reception area at ground floor.
“There is an external passageway through the building, down to Abbey Square, that was dull and dark in comparison to the rest of the predominantly glazed building. With the lights not working and the black limestone flooring all leading to an exit blocked by a large lift enclosure, the connection was very uncomfortable.
“From our early evaluations we were keen to refresh the building’s entry and create a cleaner and brighter space for both the reception and entry passageway. The concept was to apply brighter materials, integrated with new artificial lighting, to lift and bring warmth to the space, transforming the building.”
The introduction of a warmer stone paving, feature lighting strategy and timber glulam beams, lining the soffit along the passageway, provide a visible connection between the passageway, entrances and reception area. The consistent use of timber throughout creates a welcoming, inviting environment that promotes productivity, functionality, creativity and occupant wellbeing.
The timber and metal entrance portals, with clear signage, have significantly upgraded both Forbury Square, Abbey Square and the surrounding area. Access into Davidson is via two entrances from either side of the building, and the two double height portal canopies installed within the entrances uplifting the space considerably, whilst respectfully aligning with the modern aesthetic of the existing building.
The use of materials, such as glulam, is particularly innovative. Glulam can be reused or recycled; therefore, its appeal is great for a project that requires ingenuity and sustainability. The raw material is renewable and the energy use in manufacture is significantly lower than other materials, such as concrete.
This holistic approach to the design process has not only made for a very happy client but also the tenants are delighted to see their premises refreshed and uplifted. Occupiers Regus have just renewed their lease to a 12-year lease on the 59,471 sqft it occupies and Carluccio’s are very content with the transformation. John continued:
“The clients are over the moon, as it has re-established Davidson as a real contender in terms of office provision in Reading.
“First impressions are important, and I hope our intervention creates a welcoming one. The biggest challenge, like many other projects, was retaining entry to the office and the passageway, which is open to the public 364 days a year, while the works continued. With occupiers on both sides and on the majority of the floors, coordination of the works was critical to the project’s success.”
“We are familiar with and enjoy working in Reading, and given the lighter touch of this particular project, it is important for us to show how we can adapt our designs to any brief.”
Occupiers of Davidson include serviced office group Regus, Network Rail, Santander and Carluccio’s at a passing rent of £3.9m. The property fronts onto Forbury Square, one of Reading’s key public squares.
The project has successfully integrated into the surrounding area, particularly the public passageway, which has received much praise from the local community. Retail and restaurant units on the ground floor have certainly benefitted financially from the refresh as it has boosted foot traffic to the area, encouraging further economic growth within the local area.
Overall, the refurbishment has improved the quality of the entry experience through and into Davidson and has lifted the distinctiveness of Forbury Square within Reading as well. The vibrant colour and warmth introduced to complement the existing glass building adds intrigue and attracts the public into the passageway and beyond.