A chance visit to Chiswick gave me the opportunity to visit Chiswick Park (constructed 2002) and compare it with Voysey's Sanderson factory, now a workspace and built exactly 100 years earlier in 1902. Chiswick Park is a slick modern development built on brown land in a corner between three railway lines. Thus it is excellently connected to transportation routes. However the design, clever though it is, is predicated on the idea that everyone will come to work by car. The scheme is surrounded by parking and the basements are all garages, which have the effect of cutting off the buildings from their hinterland. There is always the annoying chicken and egg situation that developers won't build without parking, employers are scared to buy offices without parking and so employees never get to be encouraged to come to work by public transport here. The pseudo green iconography of brise soleil and a pond, doesn't convince me. It's the daily travel to work that really eats up carbon in these offices. Also because the "estate" (for that's what it is ) is unifunctional it becomes a wasteland at weekends and in the evening.
The architecture and the landscaping are of a high enough quality but I can't help feeling that its cosmetic. The only lip service that the design pays to its inner London location is to squash up the landscape so that it becomes a mere corridor between the blocks. It takes a hoard of security guards and CCTV to keep this all going. The website offers all sorts of fun. There is a health club and a coffee bar as well as fireworks and goose herding. What employer can't see that all this is just a Disney-land version of real life which is available in its real incarnation ten minutes WALK up the road in Chiswick Mall!
Its the isolationary premise that I particularly object to. I was stopped as I entered the park and CCTV's followed me everywhere.
By comparison the Voysey building designed for the Sanderson factory and adjacent to the Barley Mow workspaces in Chiswick Mall is a real urban office space. As far as I can see there is no car parking here at all - and even deliveries have to run the gauntlet of a tiny service road. There is no expensive manicured lawn - but this is right next door to Chiswick Park, no pond and I expect that the insulation is lower. But people seem to manage to walk to work here and the communal activities like access to health clubs, cafe's ( no no goose herding here!) are public so anyone can join in and the profits from these activities are shared more widely with the community.
Ironically the architecture is rather similar. Both buildings are about the same scale of floor heights with a distinctive lower level and a distinctive roof-line. Both were designed to provide open floor-plates and both have a very well defined service core. Both also took advantage of modern scientific advances. Architects have always loved the technology!
I can't help feeling that the Voysey building has already demonstrated its greater sustainability. But how do we persuade the hard nosed developer that this is the better option?