Stratford City’s new business district – breakfast talk

Monday 23 April 2012

The Stratford City development will be based on a ‘truly 21st century agenda’, with flexible, sustainable workplaces benefiting from open spaces and excellent transport links. But it will also be home to offices which are enjoyable, healthy places in which to work, in a bid to lift efficiencies and retain the best staff.

The views emerged during a special breakfast talk on the project held at the NLA, at which Lend Lease project director Matt Beasley said that, given the unusual circumstances of having the key infrastructure in place early, there would have to be something fundamentally wrong if they could not make a go of the so-called International Quarter.

Lend Lease takes ownership of the site in around a year’s time, part of the UK’s largest regeneration project now served by 200 trains per hour. Some 4m sq ft of workplace accommodation will be built, ‘but we see it as less a real estate solution than a business proposition’. Beasley showed as a comparison the Darling development in Sydney, which has ‘thrived’ by providing an environment with a mix of workplace settings and has consequently reduced ‘churn’ by 90%. And Lend Lease’s own headquarters provides the kind of health-promoting environment the developer advocates, with 4000 plants in the building and a café which serves low GI food – with half an eye on staff efficiency. ‘Part of our job is about educating in modern ways of working’, Beasley said.

Arup masterplanner Malcolm Smith said that the entire Stratford site had a meeting between Arup’s Mark Bostock and Government to thank for its existence. Bostock persuaded officials about the best route for the new High Speed rail link; the IQ scheme’s success will also be underpinned by principles of open spaces and connectivity, along with the ability to be flexible. ‘The characteristic of the modern city is to be able to respond to need, at speed’, said Smith.

Former RiIBA president Jack Pringle commented from the conference floor that the scheme looked like it was embracing a ‘truly 21st century agenda’, with Lend Lease pinning its mast to ‘driving out carbon’. ‘This needs to be a great place to work, with facilities to support individuals to do the best they can’, he said. ‘And work extends to outside the office.’

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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