Racing car manufacturer's 60,000 m2 centre boasts cutting-edge technology and bends to rival Silverstone.
Racing car manufacturer TAG McLaren this week unveils its gleaming technology centre in Woking, Surrey, as designed by Foster and Partners.

McLaren says its 60,000 m2 headquarters, which houses 700 staff and combines design, research, production and administration facilities, is one of the most exciting commercial buildings in Europe.

It takes the form of a vast, low, crescent with a long snaking glass facade overlooking an artificial lake. Internally, the two-storey building is divided into 12 parallel fingers of accommodation lit by continuous rooflights.

"There are lots of parallels to Formula 1," said Ron Dennis, chairman and chief executive of McLaren. "There was the same search for performance; the same demand for cutting-edge technology." He added that an excellent working environment was vital to attract the best staff, without which Grand Prix races cannot be won.

McLaren recruited eight key materials suppliers and trade contractors as partners, to find technical solutions and products for the building. The firms were encouraged to showcase their products and services on the scheme.

One partner, Schüco, refined its curtain walling system for the lightweight curving main facade. The result is an elegantly streamlined cladding system held in place by horizontal aluminium windblades stretching 12 m between structural columns. The design was modelled on McLaren's classic F1 sports car, which won the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1995.

Amec was responsible for installing and co-ordinating the 12 separate service systems. McLaren found its extensive networks of pipework and cabling were highly complex but attractive, so it insisted these be exposed to view.

The McLaren Technology Centre was built by Kier, with Arlington Securities as project manager, Arup as structural engineer, Schmidt Reuter as services engineer, Terence O'Rourke as landscape architect and Davis Langdon & Everest as QS.