Silence and System: IBM Cosham, Temporary Contemporary


This silent galss box houses 750 employees in 10,800 m2; but the huge container dissolves into the Hampshire landscape, its bronze-tinted facade reflecting the surrounding trees without interference from the minimalist detailing of the neoprene joints between the large panes of glazing. Initially commissioned as a temporary building for IBM in this greenfield site, the architect convinced the computer company of the advantages of a permanent structure, and both inflatables and propietary systems were discarded in favour of this single storey quality shed, with a shallow raft foundation and built under very tight budgetary and scheduling restrictions. The radical construction of Reliance, the single roof of Newport, and the reflective facade of Fred Olsen are all combined in this self-effacing hermetic box. In its systematic thinking and building rationality, IBM Cosham has been compared with Paxton’s Crystal Palace; but in its reductive aesthetics, this abstract endless umbrella construction is closer to Mies’ bereiche nicht: an ‘almost nothing’ that the German master never truly attained, attached as he was to the classicist monumentalization of technique; and that here, with the help of Tony Hunt, Norman Foster approached as in probably no other project of his long career...[+]

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