Located in Hammersmith, The Ark is one of London’s most striking landmarks. The tiered, oval structure bellies out like a ship, and contains 15,000 sqm of open-plan office space around a central, wood-panelled atrium. Constructed between 1989 and 1992, the building’s unique architecture was designed by architect Ralph Erskine, for Swedish developers Ake Larson and Pronator. Extensively refurbished in late 2007/ 2008 by Landid (backed by GE Real Estate and O&H Properties) The Ark underwent a £20 million conversion carried out by DN-A architects.
We spoke to Senior Building Manager Sean Moran about the challenges of managing such an iconic space.
When did Helix begin to manage the Ark?
SM: Helix took over the management of the Ark in Autumn 2013.
Who are the Tenants?
SM: General Electric occupies most of the space, and the remainder is under lease to Discover Financial Services (Diners Club).
The architecture of The Ark is quite unique. Are there any interesting facts about the structure that stand out to you?
SM: Engineering bricks were used for the first time to obtain a distinctive finish which has only ever been replicated at Byker Wall (an award winning housing scheme in Newcastle). This was done by splitting the bricks in two and using the internals to achieve a unique external effect.
Outside, the steel frame is banded with copper cladding, intended to turn from red to green over time; the brick supports will of course remain red.
Helix commissioned a sculpture especially for The Ark, is that right?
SM: Yes, the Atrium comprises two barrel like openings at each end of the building, one of which contains a giant replica spinning top which was commissioned by Helix in 2015. Designed and built by Acrylicize, the sculpture pays homage to the Neolithic tribes who lived on the riverside 5,000 years ago, as the spinning top was one of the oldest recognisable toys excavated from these sites.
The Ark’s design could potentially pose heating, and cooling challenges. How does The Ark heat and cool a building with such a large atrium?
SM: The air-cooling system on site circulates fresh air, stale air being discharged through the atrium roof. The Ark was the first building in London to be fitted with a cooling system via radiators in the ceiling rather than by the standard chilled air method. This drastically reduced the reliance on conventional ducting which would otherwise have been required. Heating is conserved with triple-glazing.
Since Helix took over the management almost 4 years ago we have reduced the energy consumption / running costs year on year. Since 2012, the total saving on electricity gas and water at The Ark is £215,000. For a building of its age and structure it is remarkably energy efficient and has an original EPC rating of C.
Any interesting management initiatives Helix have implemented?
SM: The Ark is so well run that traditional tenant meetings are not required and were replaced 18 months ago by informal communications. It is Helix’s intention to issue quarterly building briefings. I am also a board member of Hammersmith London BID, and I have been able to push for greater community involvement.
I heard the silhouette of The Ark is quite famous?
SM: Yes! The Ark features in numerous scenes in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code which starred Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow, Jean Reno and Paul Bettany. More recently the Atrium was used in an episode of the BBC’s spy drama Spooks, Prime Suspect and Silent Witness.
The Ark Eco Monitor Report created for Helix, 2012.