Innovation Centre designed by Maber Architects sparks regeneration

A three-storey atrium with breakout spaces, meeting places and exhibition areas forms the natural heart of a new innovation workspace centre in Leicester, known as ‘Dock’.

Providing 2,000 square metres of workspace, its design reflects the high-tech location on Leicester Science Park adjacent to the National Space Centre.

Designed by Maber Architects, the £5.1 million project has already sparked further development on the Innovation Park, a significant element in the city’s regeneration plans.

Architect Paul East, a director at Maber, says:

“We have created an environment where the next generation of technology businesses can work together in open and collaborative ways. We have just handed the building over to Leicester City Council, and we’re delighted that the project is proving to be a catalyst for further regeneration in Leicester.”

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said:

“Dock will help to play a key role in repositioning Leicester’s economy by accelerating growth in the emerging knowledge sectors. It will provide top-class facilities for new local businesses along with targeted business support to help businesses grow in a sustainable way.”

Dock’s design reflects technology, innovation and science – the cutting edge nature of the start-up businesses that it will house. Its airy atrium space is a natural meeting area for the businesses occupying the labs, workshops and offices around it, encouraging interaction among tenants for idea sharing and partnership working. The central atrium also draws air through the building, and funnels services to the business spaces, contributing to its achievement of a BREEAM Excellent rating.

The designers used a simple palette of blue engineering bricks – a nod to the area’s industrial past – titanium zinc shingle cladding and un-treated larch cladding. The building’s bold geometry responds to the intersection of Exploration Drive and the new pedestrian cycle-way that connects with the Riverside Way along the nearby River Soar.

This project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Leicester City Council. The council hopes to develop opportunities for artwork installations within the building, as the central atrium space provides a natural canvas for stunning piece. There are also plans to introduce local public art into shared conference facilities.

Particular challenges of the project included constraints on the shape of the building, which is surrounded by a neighbouring housing development, a road and the river. The architects had to design a separate presence for all four elevations for the same reason.

Features of the extended site include the cycle and pedestrian link with a new bridge over the River Soar, connecting the Innovation Park with Wolsey Island, another strategic area for Leicester’s regeneration. Dock sits within a landscape that has been designed to promote biodiversity as well as providing an amenity for the building’s users. Large areas of the site have been turned into wildflower meadow to provide habitat for invertebrates, supporting a more diverse ecology.

The design was developed using BIM software ArchiCAD, simplifying the design visual process as well as allowing clash detection between structural and architectural information, thereby ironing out any costly issues before it started on site.

The project builds on the success of other city council workspaces, including the new Makers’ Yard, also designed by Maber, LCB Depot and Phoenix Square.

  • Client: Leicester City Council
  • Main Contractor: Willmott Dixon Construction
  • Structural Engineers: Price & Myers
  • M&E Consulting Engineers: Edmond Shipway
  • Transport Planning/Ecologist: White Young Green / BSG