By the early 1980s, there were numerous examples of high tech aesthetics; exposed and daring minimal structures, sheer glass walls and ribbed panel walls. Despite their image, most were lovingly hand-crafted rather than industrially produced. The Patera System showed how design skills could combine with precise engineering tolerances and volume production to fulfil one of modern architecture’s long sought but rarely achieved dreams.

Ten days, three men and a forklift truck was all that was needed to erect a standard unit on a ready-prepared concrete slab. Using the same family of details and joints, components had sufficient flexibility to produce buildings suitable for different types of organisation. The external primary structure reduced internal envelope area and therefore cost; under wind load the hinged rod in the centre of the top boom stiffens (it can only take tension) turning the three-pin into a two-pin structure, thus avoiding a common problem in external structures where the top boom is liable to buckle.

Refined design gave the portal frame an elegant minimalism, setting the tone for the system’s appearance, while refinement of the panels meant they achieved good insulation, incorporated service trunking and could be used for both wall and roof. Designed when economic and technological change made requirements unpredictable, Patera equally suited traditional industry and emerging service-based companies; two examples were a BT facility in London’s Docklands and our own office which re-uses one prototype alongside a customised special.


  • Location London, United Kingdom
  • Size 216 m²
  • Client Patera Product Ltd
  • Year 1982

Project team

Selected Awards

  • Architectural Design Project Award
  • Structural Steel Award