Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
The “Brain of Brian” Floating Office Barge in Penryn, England by Marraum Architecture
April 16th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Marraum Architecture
Robotmother wanted an office space for their operations including maintenance space for Miles who looks after all the maintenance of Jubilee Wharf, accommodation for bands playing at Peapods Cafe, compost toilet with poo tanks in the hull, wood chip boiler, office space with separate meeting room and mezzanine level for Peapods admin. All highly insulated.
Andrew (of Robotmother) bought the WWII Ferro Concrete Barge from the shipyard, which was being used as ancillary working platform in the docks.
Because it is a floating structure it didn’t need planning or building regs, meaning much more freedom in the design but using common sense to make good informed choices.
The project had already started (cleaning and clearing etc) – Andrew asked marraum to have a look at the drawings, by a local designer. We had ideas for a new concept, including changing the roof design to a different pitch and shape. Andrew then had confidence to properly engage us.
We had to quickly get a team together – highly skilled boat builders. We had to test the weight, construction issues and shape – when all of these came back positive we knew it was a goer and work could properly start. It was a flexible process with small tweaks to the design along the way – the windows weren’t designed at the beginning nor the outside finish so this presented challenges to work out things as the work went on.
Mark and Loz shipwrights were already doing work on the basis of the 1st design. Andrew wasn’t frightened to go ahead with something more complex. The budget was not discussed – things were very flexible and allowed to happen naturally – the chicken and egg situation!
Once the steel construction was confirmed the shape was defined – this was a really exciting part. One day Michael was sat on top of the scaffolding, looking down at the hull below – it was an OMG moment where he thought I hope everything will be ok! I looked massive and a lot bigger!
When the first fibreglass panels for the roof went on and it all fitted together was a great moment as well as when the whole structure was pulled down the river into position.
Sustainability was an important factor – it had to be a good comfortable highly insulated environment and eco additions such as the biomass boiler and compost loo were chosen. However because of it’s position actually in the sea materials were chosen not for their eco credentials but so they would last with all the sea throws at them. Aluminium windows and resin structures.
The project has been a real success and is a good environment to work in. The movement of the river id hardly felt, which was a concern at the early stages. It has been a Penryn talking point some seeing it as a masterpiece others as a monstrosity but that is fine and it is good to open up the debate.
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