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Sky Central – a visit report from Mark Catchlove

Sky Central – a visit report

Syon Lane. The most unassuming of train stations. A station which can’t take a full length train. This is the place where I disembarked along with what appeared to be every other person on the train. So big is the crowd disgorging from train, that everyone has to queue to leave the station and get up to road level. Then everyone starts to head north in unison. Just follow the crowd of the casually attired masses. Some walking purposefully. Some unable to give up using the addictive beast that is their smartphone as they amble along. Others having already ready started the days face to face business discussions with colleagues they met on the way out of the station.

These masses walk past the iconic Gillette building on the old A4 and into Grant Way. The home of Sky, and the place where Neil Usher plies his trade as the Workplace Director. As you walk around the corner the scale of the campus starts to hit you. A campus that houses over 7000 people, and everything else that goes along with delivering the services offered by this leading broadcaster.

I am on my way to meet my colleagues from the Herman Miller Knowledge and Insight Group to be given a tour of the latest addition on the campus to be occupied, Sky Central. We are fortunate enough to be getting a tour guided by the aforementioned Mr Usher, alongside the directors of The Hassel Group, the company responsible for designing the interiors of this new building.As we get to the end of Grant Way, I can’t help noticing the scrap yard right at the bottom of the road, and I think to myself that the owner must be be sitting on a gold mine as he watches the Sky Campus expand and expand.

I am early as is my wont, and I join my colleague Bertie for coffee and breakfast in the Gather and Gather managed coffee bar in the reception area having seamlessly electronically signed in using the QR code that had been sent to me in advance. Good well priced (subsidised) food and drink, served by friendly staff. That’s a great start right there.Then I spot Neil walking through the revolving doors and through reception. The pride on his face is in evidence as he makes his way to the elegant security turnstiles. He quickly came back after dropping his bag off in his electronic locker and the tour began.

The striking new Sky News studio is the first thing that hits you as you walk through to the secure side – seemingly suspended in mid air. This is where the news will be broadcast from – overlooking the working heart of Sky Central. It’s a space where 2 people sit and I am guessing they are the 2 most expensive workstations in the entire building, if not the campus.

Then the full tour begins. A tour which I am not actually going to share in detail. Why? Because I don’t want to give too much away because I really think this is a space that deserves visiting by anyone who has an interest in the world of work.

I will however give you a few thoughts about the space.

  • There is an amazing use of plants – probably the most I have seen inside a building since the LendLease project in London. More importantly they are real plants.
  • The finishes chosen are an eclectic mixture of soft and hard materials…. and there’s wood….lots of wood… lots of beautiful real wood.
  • There is an amazing array of settings in which people can work, some where I would love to work, and others I didn’t find as appealing – but that’s the point. It’s designed to give people choice and we don’t all have the same tastes.
  • The selection of meeting spaces is vast. I would love to come back in 6 months time to find which spaces are really popular and whether some are just too big or too small or too open.
  • It’s a space with the inevitable and oft sought after buzz, but not overwhelmingly noisy.
  • It feels good. “We feel before we think” is a provocation from Herman Miller’s Living Office concept. Sometimes you don’t have to measure stuff or run surveys (although both have their place) you can just get a sense of what feels good. Sky Central feels good.

The team that joined me on the tour felt good (featured in photo above)

Herman Miller Knowledge and Insight Group

I am sure that you will have the opportunity to visit Sky Central and I would love to hear your views and whether it makes you feel good.

Thank you Neil for your time and I look forward to visiting again very soon with more of my colleagues and maybe the odd prospect or 2.

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