Office atrium refurb rant


I’ve been tweeting recently about the refurbishment of the atrium of our office building – the building houses four large open-plan offices: a commercial publisher (us), two public bodies and a business banking centre.

I’m not a qualified designer or architect, but I have a bit of knowledge built up over the years, researching and editing information about interior and architecture products and this atrium refurbishment really isn’t working for me.

This morning I came in to find my fears were confirmed: the stone-effect tiles in the atrium are being replaced with flexible sheet flooring. I won’t mention the product, because there is nothing wrong with resilient flooring per se, but for this application it just seems inappropriate. Fine for a school or sports centre, but without getting ideas above my station, the organisations in this building would expect something with a little more prestige.

The ceramic tiles in in the toilets have already been replaced with anti-slip vinyl flooring. While this is a slightly more suitable application, I still didn’t think a replacement was needed. It’s not an improvement aesthetically, as the flooring is now out of step with the white wall tiles in the individual toilet rooms. Furthermore, the men’s has blue and the ladies a light red: for goodness sake, this isn’t a primary school!

To be honest a good scrub would probably have sufficed. The installation isn’t exactly immaculate either and may lead to maintenance problems: there is no coving, and the gaps between the edge of the sheet and the wall will fill up with dirt before long. The thin screed that now covers the atrium and balcony appears to have been poured on top of the tiles, and our office door doesn’t open properly. So how is the new sheet going to fit?

Aesthetic and design considerations aside, it was simply a waste to replace the tiles, although the carpet tiles that covered the stairs and balcony level had reached the end of its life. I suspect anti-slip flooring may have been chosen as an anti-litigious measure, and to give the building a ‘new feel’ for prospective new tenants.

In my view a better use of the money would have been to install some lighting controls for the atrium- it has big fluorescent fittings that burn all day during summer when the space is filled with natural light. There are taps that constantly drip in the disabled cubicle, and the solid wood sliding door is almost too heavy for an able-bodied user to operate. A consultation with the users might have uncovered these issues, or that there is little provision for cycle parking and the smokers might appreciate a shelter.

Isn’t how a building is used just as important, if not more so, than than how it looks?


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3 Responses to “Office atrium refurb rant”

  1. Sam Greenwood-Thompson Says:

    Some interesting points raised here Owen.

    Seems odd that the owner of the building would be throwing money at non-essential refurbishment in such austere times. Even more baffling is the mismatch of aesthetic to user profile you describe. The Rubber Flooring Company works out of an anonymous-looking concrete block and corrugated cladding industrial unit but the landlord at least took an interest in what we did and told us he painted the office walls white rather than magnolia because it was “more modern like rubber flooring”!

    A simple user questionnaire would have made the entire process more collaborative, valued and most likely cheaper if your observations are correct!

  2. Owen Philipson Says:

    Thanks for the comment Sam- was exactly my thinking- the existing flooring seems perfectly good, so why change it?

  3. Flooring refurbishments « Interior Design Says:

    […] my recent rant, I was baffled as to why seemingly perfectly good ceramic tiles were being covered over. There […]

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