Published Monday, February 4th, 2013, by Jo Disney - News and Features Editor, U.K.
Kicking off a new series, Officing Today catches up with the team at Airport House in London to find out what’s on the horizon for this unique business centre.
The flexible office space industry is home to some real architectural gems. In London alone, you’ll find business centres occupying some of the city’s most iconic properties – including 30 St Mary Axe (better known as The Gherkin) and Heron Tower. And you’ll find serviced office space in some of the UK’s most treasured historical landmarks too – from the former Royal Mint building in London, to a collection of old stables in Scotland’s rural Stirling.
There are hundreds, even thousands of properties we could highlight – ranging from modern masterpieces to ancient treasures that have been carefully and lovingly refurbished. Here at Officing Today we love nothing more than making a fuss about business centres. So we decided to launch a new series of articles focusing on these gems of the flexible office industry.
We’re kicking off our very first ‘Centres with Character’ series with Airport House, a business centre in Croydon, South London (U.K.) that has a very special aviation history, and is now taking to the skies with some major improvements to show that it’s one of the best in the business…
You only have to stroll up to the building entrance, which is guarded by a 1950s De Havilland Heron airplane, to know that this business centre has a very special aviation history.
The story began in 1920 when two temporary airport terminals – built to provide protective support against the Zeppelin raids of World War I – were merged to create Croydon Aerodrome. It would soon become the world’s first purpose-built commercial airport and in 1928, the impressive art-deco Airport House (as we know it) was opened, complete with a hotel and hangars.
The airport would later play a pivotal role as a fighter station during the Battle of Britain in World War II. It was the first airport in the world to introduce air traffic control, and became the main airport for London before it was surpassed by London Heathrow and London Gatwick. During this time, many famous aviators passed through Croydon Airport – including Winston Churchill who took flying lessons at the airport, and record-breaking soloist Amy Johnson.
The last plane left Croydon Airport in September 1959.
Decades later, and the Grade II listed terminal building is a thriving business centre, undergoing an extensive renovation programme under new ownership.
Prior to 2010, the centre was struggling. “It was a run down business centre, with poor Internet for clients and a very old telephone system that kept falling over,” says Jack Hodgins, an I.T. Consultant who plays an integral part in telecoms and marketing at Airport House Business Centre.
“We have been spending a large amount of money bringing the building up to today’s standards,” he said, “repainting inside and out, installing new kitchens, upgrading our meeting rooms, and improving our security with features like CCTV and Paxton entry control – allowing secure access 24/7, 365 days a year.”
As a Listed building, it can be a challenge to make renovations – and you will often need a Plan B if your original requirements won’t fit the building’s ancient infrastructure. This proved true when the Airport House team began making technical upgrades.
“We’re expanding our comms room to make way for a new data centre, which will eventually provide dedicated internet access of 10Gb and upwards,” says Jack. As part of this, the entire system had to be updated with new fibre optic cables to provide faster connection speeds.
“The cables are above the ceiling, and we soon realised that the building was not made for cabling – it was like Spaghetti Junction up there!” he said, referring to the West Midlands’ twisting network of motorways.
“Once it’s all finished, our clients will have high-speed connections and a full range of IT services with some of the best technology in the UK,” he added.
In addition to the data centre launch, the team are catering to demand for greater flexibility by providing remote desktop services, which enables clients to work anywhere and still access their office environment online. They also launched hot-desking ‘terminals’ last year to accommodate mobile workers that need to check-in to an office from time to time.
The building might be getting the 21st century treatment, but the team still pays homage to its historical roots.
The 1928 Control Tower houses a Visitor Centre and museum, regularly opened to the public for tours, which doubles up as a beacon for radio communications. The property is decorated with memorabilia and photographs from its days as a commercial and military airport. And as part of their intention to better serve the local community, the team plan to use their new technology to stream broadband connections to local schools, providing a much faster and cheaper Internet service for local educational institutions.
Airport House is a unique centre that believes in doing things properly – from respecting its historical past and serving the local community, to providing a quality service for its clients. That’s an attitude that will always fly – and it’s why this particular centre is going from strength to strength. Good luck to Airport House on an exciting year ahead!
Got a Centre with Character? Contact the Officing Today team below to share your building’s unique story with us.