But apparently you cannot display your captured engineer. There is a fantastic building in Ipswich called the Willis building, one of Sir Norman Foster’s early projects and in 1981 crowned as the youngest listed building in the country much to the nuisance of the occupiers who could not fill in the ‘staff’ roof top swimming pool when they needed new office space, they had to cover it!
I have put a picture below for your information and google will fill you in with as much as you could possibly ever need to know. But the reason why this building is blog worthy today? Not simply because I saw it and was reminded of it, I’m not that predictable. Because of roadworks and my refusal to take any notice of road signs I happened to have to cause to walk almost all the way around the building, I have no sensible excuse for completing the 360 except to say ‘Engineer’.
The building is an architectural delight, but not without its challenges including heating a vast open plan building where none of the floors actually meet the walls, the exterior walls being entirely clad in smoked glass. Heating consists of a mass of hot air ducts including perimeter lines on every floor to ‘separate’ the levels. Now some of you will already be imagining that it takes one hell of a lot of plant to run a building like this, heating, power, swimming pools and roof gardens not to mention washing the windows! You are correct and virtually the entire ground floor is given over to plant and maintenance with the only exception being the reception.
It is here that the title starts to, hopefully, make sense as you walk around this magnificent building you can see pristine CHP units, boilers and switchgear all housed on immaculate plinths and without an oily rag in sight. At this stage I had to wonder and this explains the 360 view, where do my engineering brethren hide? Engineers are not a public breed, if the plant was on the second floor they would love the clear view coupled with a lack of recognition and I am sure some exhibitionist pranks would ensue but on the ground floor? Trying to strip a boiler in pretty much clear view? How would they cope?
Now engineers are nothing if not ingenious and a view through the loading bay made me smile like a schoolboy discovering a full box of biscuits. There in the depths of the building were some tower scaffolds and draped over them large and heavy dust sheets, perhaps drying or in preparation for some decorating? Oh no these ‘walls’ enclosed the messy, dirty, tea and oil stained domain of the buildings techs, this hideaway so carefully constructed and doubtless fought over for years was where men could be men. Like I say you don’t need to know what engineers do, hell you probably wouldn’t want to know in a lot of cases but above all its unnatural to observe it happening. Like childbirth engineering is often a messy, ungainly and difficult process that can threaten the very life of the creators but for most it suffices that the product is produced the details are for others!
There are some pictures below of this marvellous building, when you look at them think of the beauty and then remind yourself this was built (and is still inhabited) by an insurance company, they say there is no profit in insurance even the meerkats are cutting back! Ask yourself does your rural office have a roof garden? A swimming pool? Grassed indoor restaurants?