Located along the historic waterfront of River Wear, Sunderland in the UK, Tombola House has been created with employee satisfaction, comfort and flexibility in mind. Since its inception in 1999, UK and Europe’s largest gaming company, Tombola, has occupied the Rose Line Building, a warehouse originally constructed in the 1700s and situated among shipbuilding works and several industrial buildings. As the company has expanded to over 500 employees across Europe and the UK, Tombola sought to create a work campus that would excite prospective employees and help to retain top talent in the field while creating a truly innovative workplace.
When approaching the project, the architecture firm Ryder Architecture worked closely with members of the company on what the vision of the facility should be. “We worked with the CEO and other key members of staff across the company to understand their operational needs and establish opportunities for change,” explained Ronnie Graham, senior architect for Ryder Architecture. The ambition was to create a modern workplace, drawing inspiration from the surrounding industrial heritage of the area in the exterior but thoroughly contemporary in its interior design. The space needed to meet the demands of a modern office: flexible spaces to think independently and areas for collaboration or group thinking – plus a really stellar café.
“We have designed an open, collaborative internal environment using a restrained palette of timeless materials – masonry, steel, wood and glass,” explains Graham, “while encouraging harmony between the new workplace culture of informality and Tombola’s traditional protocols. Every architectural gesture functions independently and in partnership with the spaces around it: No area was overlooked in the creation of agile workspace, encouraging chance encounters and the exchange of ideas.”
The interior design was led by the user experience. On the ground floor, a large atrium, café and restaurant, gym, presentation rooms and collaboration spaces function as a social hub for gathering, sharing ideas, seminars, informal meetings, hackathons and social events. A central staircase connects the ample space – a density of 10 sqm per person, well above UK office standards – to workspaces above.
For the fittings and furniture, Ryder Architecture worked closely with Ward Robinson to ensure the interiors reflected the architectural spirit of the project. Selected for their understated grace and elegance, Arper furnishings were used throughout the space. The dynamic furnishings help to foster a social and creative environment while the views of the river help ground the modern structure in a natural setting. “Flexibility is key,” noted Robinson. “The spaces can function as a breakout, meeting or event areas, providing a strong link to the waterfront.”
In the end, the collaborative ambitions of the project were also reflected in its construction. Phil Cronin, Tombola CEO, credits the architects’ vision with the success of the project: “Ryder has designed a landmark building of timeless quality that develops and nurtures our teams in flexible, stimulating and engaging surroundings,” he said. While, for his part, lead architect Graham credits the contribution of all collaborators with the success of the project: “Tombola House is a research rich scheme which embodies innovative design as a result of successful client participation and meticulous design team collaboration. The end result – simplicity in form and detail, through its considered palette and honed architectural expressions – is a testament to the hard work of all involved."