On Wednesday afternoon, two weeks after Rochdale borough council’s offices at One Riverside were named the best workplace in the country, a group of toddlers came into the ground floor library for a singalong. The extraordinary building they were in, equal parts spaceship and womb, was more significant than they knew. Rising above an unprepossessing demolition site to the west, it brings together about 2,000 staff who had previously been spread across the borough. The prize it has won is a major endorsement of a controversial approach to development that’s now being taken by councils across the country. The kids didn’t care about all that, though. They just wanted to have a go at the percussion.
“The idea was a relationship between the workplace and the public ground floor,” Steve McIntyre, the partner at FaulknerBrowns architects who led the design team, had said earlier. “We wanted visitors to see the council working on their behalf, and vice versa.” And so, as the children got into it – hitting tambourines, shaking maracas, and singing the self-fulfilling refrain “very, very, very loud/ very loud/ very loud” – the sound floated up through the vast central atrium and past three floors of civil servants uninsulated by walls or windows. One man could be made out pushing his chair back from his desk and putting his hands over his ears.
By and large, the staff at One Riverside are delighted by an award that provides a good news story for a town that has endured more than its share of grim headlines recently. Just about everyone agrees that the place is miles better than the Black Box, its accurately nicknamed 1970s predecessor that’s now just a heap of rubble across the road. […]