British Airways - Waterside
- a catalyst for change and increased efficiency
1989, the Norwegian architect Niels Torp won a prestigious competition among architects against tough international colleagues. The competition related to a new head office for British Airways near to Heathrow Airport in London. The cost of the new office was estimated to be £200 million.
The new head office, now known as Waterside, is intended to act as a catalyst for change in the company’s way of doing business. The aim is also that Waterside should contribute to increasing productivity within British Airways. This is achieved by effective utilisation of office space, teamwork, modern information technology and a minimal use of paper.
British Airways estimates the profit from increased efficiency to be £15 million per year.
Location: Heathrow, England
Construction years: 1997
Architect: Niels Torp Arkitekter A/S, Niels Torp, Øyvind Neslein, Harald Heie, Christian Sundby, Harald Lone, Heide Tjøm, Kirsti Evensen, Trine Rosenberg, Johan Kahrs, Joyce Battersby
The office as a meeting place
British Airways’ new office comprises 103,000 square metres, divided into six U-shaped, four-storey buildings. In total 2,800 people work in the office, which was completed in December 1997.
Niels Torp sees the large office as a meeting place for many people. Concepts such as "community" and "village" thus came to replace the word "building" when working on the design of this large-scale office.
The six buildings are linked by "the street" – the main artery of the office complex. The street is an open area with activities for work, relaxation and pleasure. Bridges span the street at various levels, giving opportunities for contact.
There are no personal rooms at Waterside; not even for the directors and managers. The idea is that hierarchies should be broken down and an informal, flexible working climate should be created.
Aesthetics and ethics
Each level is 16.5 metres wide. This means that plenty of light is allowed into the building.
In the centre of each level there is an "avenue". Coffee areas, photocopying and meeting places are side by side in the open layout, the aim being to stimulate communication. There is sound insulation between the office areas. Uplights are used in the central thoroughfare.
The office is located on an old waste site. British Airways promised to develop a large park in the area. The grounds have been landscaped and offer various recreational opportunities. The six buildings, each of which has its own identity, blends in well with the surrounding park.