A rare combination of intellectual and industrial functions in one building for oil exploration and drilling technology.


Value: £7.7 million
Size: 8,046 m²
Client: Schlumberger


Schlumberger's soaring masts, and glowing, billowing fabric roof point into the Fenland sky, along with King's College Chapel. Its appearance on the skyline may be romantic, but this is essentially a practical building, with a subtle relationship between form and function

Under the fabric roof are the drilling-rig test station and the main social space known as the 'winter garden'. Both benefit from the roof form, the workshop because it needs height for drilling and the winter garden because its light and shape gives it the character of an outdoor space, while protecting it from the weather. The fabric covering is Teflon coated glass fibre. It is uninsulated and transmits about 13% daylight. A cat's cradle of cables transmits the weight of the fabric to the ground via four structures like suspension bridges.

Beside these main spaces are layers of smaller ones in two independently structured wings; monitoring and planning rooms look into the workshop, and small private offices line the outside face, where they enjoy views over the landscape. Weaving the spaces together is a network of circulation and informal meeting spaces, encouraging that vital casual contact between colleagues within a scientific community.