GlaxoSmithKline's £315m global headquarters in west London has echoes of BA Waterside – but it was built in half the time.
West London's newest and flashiest office tower block is the product of global consolidation in the drugs industry. GlaxoSmithKline, created out of two mega mergers over the past five years, has wasted no time in developing a gleaming £315m global headquarters for 3000 staff in Brentford. Glaxo's state-of-the-art former headquarters, completed two years ago in nearby Greenford, has been relegated to back-up office space.

Concept architect Hillier of New York, which designed the SmithKline Beecham's laboratories in Harlow, has given the complex a slick North American business character, using blue-tinted curtain walling and sweeping curves.

The most conspicuous feature is a 16-storey tower that narrows into a sharp prow bearing down on the M4 flyover. Despite that landmark tower, the complex has a lot in common with Niels Torp's award-winning low-rise complex, BA Waterside, six miles to the west. Like Waterside, GSK House comprises a cluster of mainly four-storey blocks set in landscaped grounds and linked by a meandering internal street complete with cafes, seating areas, cobbles, an artificial stream and works of art.

Unlike Waterside, the site is squeezed between the motorway flyover and the Great Western Road. In the landscaping design by Land Use Consultants, the Great West Road has been screened by a belt of trees. There is also a concealed underground car park with space for 1055 cars, allowing uninterrupted views from the internal street outwards.

Among the technical innovations of GSK House was a prefabricated system of structured cabling designed by IT consultancy Coleman Bennett International. Known as pre-terminated cabling, it is laid out to size on a continuous mat in the factory, then unrolled and connected up on site. With this method, 90 miles of cables were installed each week, reducing in situ damage and failures.

Where GSK House eclipses BA Waterside is in the speed of its construction. At GSK House, 930,000 m2 of building was completed in a contract period of 39 months. At Waterside, half that space took 56 months to build. Construction manager Mace was responsible or both projects. With the encouragement of the client and project manager GTMS, it instilled a positive team culture with high-quality site accommodation for the entire team of consultants and trade contractors. It also offered on-site training and an incentive of six cars to be won by site operatives.

"A spirit was generated that I've never experienced before," comments David Warburton, the satisfied client's representative.