Santander Unity Place shortlisted for World Architecture Festival award

LOM’s design for Santander’s new Milton Keynes workplace campus and UK HQ, Unity Place, has been shortlisted for a prestigious global architecture award.

LOM’s new UK headquarters for Santander, Unity Place, has been shortlisted for the ‘Office – Future Project’ award 2021 by the World Architecture Festival (WAF).

Unity Place is a landmark £150m, 44,000 sqm workplace campus in the business district of central Milton Keynes.  When it opens in 2023, it will become the new UK headquarters of Santander – serving as a hub that will bring together over ten thousand employees to meet and collaborate.  It is a design for the future that is also certified BREEAM ‘Excellent’ for environmental performance.

The eight-storey building represents a paradigm shift in how a corporate headquarters is designed – creating a structure which inspires community by integrating public space and third party retail space into the fabric of the design.

Above and beyond its plentiful employee amenities – including a rooftop bar and running track, garden terrace, restaurant, and a health and fitness centre – the building integrates publicly accessible retail outlets, an urban market, community hall and conference and events centre.  This invites the wider community to use and enjoy the space as much as Santander’s employees. More than an office, it is an urban economic ecosystem powered by Santander – providing the opportunity for other businesses to grow and thrive in symbiosis.

The World Architecture Festival is an annual festival and awards ceremony, to be held this December 1st – 3rd.  The awards are one of the world’s most prestigious architecture and design events, and the only awards where shortlisted architects present their projects live to a judging panel. Due to the pandemic, the event is being held online this year with delegates virtually attending from all around the world.

Across the thirteen ‘Future Project’ categories, 187 projects have been shortlisted from 40 countries – with seventeen global finalists in the running for ‘Office – Future Project’, including Unity Place.

The building’s design references Milton Keynes’ visionary urban planning heritage.  Its four geometric linear blocks separated by three green atria and landscaped terraces mirror the city’s grid structure where green boulevards divide landmarks of modernist architecture.

The atria also allow natural light deep into the building as well as maximising views out through the 15,600 sqm of floor-to-floor exterior glazing.  The façades to the south are wrapped in an environmental screen (brise soleil) to provide solar shading and minimise the need for artificial cooling while also adding texture and visual interest to the design.

The LOM team will now prepare to bring all these attributes to the fore in their presentation to the judging panel at December’s festival – setting out how the design nurtures collaboration and supports the wellbeing of Santander’s employees: a groundbreaking example of the community-driven office of the future.

Unity place is being delivered in collaboration with Osborne+Co and John Sisk and Sons.

This article is by Richard Hutchinson

Richard is a director at LOM who leads a wide range of architectural and interior design commissions in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Australia.

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