Completed in 1990, Riverside is a pioneering example of a building that combines living and working in one place. Located on the south bank of the Thames, between Battersea Bridge and Albert Bridge, the site had previously been part of an industrial precinct that had fallen into a state of disrepair. The strategy for its renewal involved creating a new network of pedestrian routes and the rehabilitation of the adjacent dock in conjunction with the Wandsworth Council. The effect has been to make this stretch of the riverside accessible to the public and to create connections to neighbouring streets. The building has eight storeys with the Foster + Partners main studio occupying the lower two levels, plus a mezzanine. The apartments are located on the upper floors, all of which share spectacular views of the river and the city. A private courtyard provides separate access and security for those who live in the building, while at the rear of the site a two-storey pavilion accommodates additional studio space and the Hub – an informal space for Foster + Partners staff to hold discussions, meetings and talks, browse through a selection of books, or just have a cup of coffee.
The main studio is entered via a flight of stairs that leads to a top-lit, galleried space, with a long bar overlooking the entrance stairs. The bar is the social heart of the building, a place for informal discussions, especially at lunchtime or during a break. The main first-floor studio is a 60-metre long, double-height volume with a fully glazed façade overlooking the river. Everyone in the studio, whatever their job description, has a place at one of the long workbenches; the arrangement is very fluid with no division between design and production, aiding communication across different teams and very much in the spirit of a democratic workplace. This theme endures throughout all our studios throughout the world. Running along the inner length of the facade are a series of informal break-out meeting tables, interspersed with the models and full-scale mock-ups. The models and video screens on display illustrate the various stages of project development and the entire breadth of work the practice engages in. Along the opposite edge of the studio, the mezzanine has flexible meeting rooms and presentation spaces that are used for project crits and client meetings. These rooms open on to the rest of the studio, and meetings, both formal and informal, occur in the midst of the creative process itself. Underneath the mezzanine is an extensive library and model shop, behind a glazed partition to protect the studio from processes that are noisy or need fume extraction.
Simple materials are used throughout; painted concrete, and stretched fabric. Concealed access panels allow greater flexibility in office configurations. The acoustics of the space have been modified to suit an office environment using Foster + Partners designed ceiling panels developed with Soft-Cell. Open seven days a week, the building reflects the vibrant energy of the practice, as an open, accessible workplace.