The Oracle Reading Shopping Centre
Located on the shores of the River Kennet, in Reading, Berkshire, the Oracle Shopping Centre is a retail and leisure centre which is home to over 80 retailers, and which plays a vital role in the commercial life of the town. When the owners of the centre, Hammerson Plc, decided to embark on a major refurbishment programme, they turned to Hatmet to deliver the work which they felt was needed.
The fact that Hammerson chose Hatmet to deliver a large scale multi-million pound project involving several different phases of delivery is testament to not only our reputation within the industry but also the successful work we have carried out for Hammerson in the past. The fact that we always engage in a rigorous pre-construction process, allied to our access to a wide range of supply line suppliers, meant that we were able to meet the demands of the project, and to do so in a manner which wouldn’t impact upon the retail operation of the centre.
The first phase of the refurbishment cost £1.1m and involved work on 20 units on the upper level of the centre. Where shops required an increase in shop frontage raised bulkheads were fitted, using curved Glass Reinforced Gypsum (GRG) coving. The use of curved coving allowed the refurbishment to give the shop fronts in question a softer and more organic feel and Barrisol ceiling panels added to the contemporary revamp.
New lighting was fitted throughout, with angled linear recessed lighting strips utilised to create a pleasing ‘line of light’ effect along the vertical face of bulkheads and around escalator openings. Units 9 to 11 of the project, an upmarket Victoria Secrets shop, were stripped out and a new mezzanine floor and structural steels were fitted.
New pilasters – rectangular columns – clad in limestone were put in place and, outside the entrance to House of Fraser, Barrisol ceiling panels were paired with LED strip lights to create a transformative and modern environment.
Despite the scale of this phase of the project, the fact that all work was undertaken outside normal trading hours meant that there was no impact upon the normal working of the shopping centre.
The second phase of the project was even more ambitious than the first, with a budget of £1.5m, and involved a full scale transformation of the Holly Brook Mall section of the centre. The lighting throughout the mall was transformed and enhanced, utilising LED linear lighting and the installation of new light boxes.
Structural work throughout the mall was extensive, and included lifting bulkheads to allow ceilings to be raised and thus shop fronts expanded. The shop fronts themselves were also stripped back and fitted with new structural steels. Upmarket clothing retailer Gant was fitted with aluminium framing which enabled the creation of an impressive false double height frontage.
The decorative features of the refurbishment were utilised in order to transform the ambience of the mall and included a two tone tile effect around the entrance and lift lobby and a similar two tone effect on the rectangular columns – known as pilasters – which are placed at the front of shops. Curved Glass Reinforced Gypsum (GRG) was used to create flowing lines and an organic feel throughout and perhaps the most spectacular aspect of the transformation was the installation of a new bespoke ceiling. The ceiling featured a spectacular display of fins, with each of the 42 fins measuring over 4.7m and twisting through 360 degrees. The unique and specialised nature of the fins is underlined by the fact that we had to have them manufactured in Iceland and then finished in Ireland before being imported into the UK.
The work on phase 3 of the project was of a smaller scale, but demonstrated Hatmets’ ability to deal with the finer details of a project as successfully as the large scale construction requirements. The Bookend Mall area of the shopping centre was fitted with curved Glass Reinforced Gypsum (GRG) coving throughout, to create an organic and free flowing ambience. We also fitted new ceilings throughout the mall, including perforated plasterboard acoustic ceilings and specialised luminaire ceilings.