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The Solent's 8 most innovative offices and commercial buildings

By Steve Charnock
24 June 2022
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Technology has never been such a big part of our lives. Cutting edge innovations in the digital sphere continue to change the way we behave, showing little sign of slowing down.

It's true of our personal and work lives. Even if you don't work in a tech or tech-adjacent sector... Hardware, software, devices, apps, contactless keycards, our workplaces are often packed with new technology. So much so that new commercial builds and workspaces have to compete for how innovative they are.

The Solent is one of the country's biggest growth areas for new business, with a raft of inventive and modern new commercial buildings being built as you read this.

How about the region's existing portfolio of office space? Well, it may not be able to compete with London in terms of bleeding edge innovation, but there are plenty of forward-thinking offices and commercial buildings in the Solent...

Here are our eight favourites:

1. Lakeside North Harbour, Portsmouth

This vast site is less of an office and more of a business campus. With 50 firms and 5,000 employees based out of Lakeside North Harbour, it's a major hub for business on the South Coast.

50,000 sq. ft. of premium office space sits amongst 130 acres of landscaped and manicured greenery, giving a natural feel to the environment. Setting it apart from its competitors are its facilities, with an on-site nursery school and hotel (with pool and gym) the highlights.

2. Fareham Innovation Centre, Fareham

Opened in 2015 at a relatively impressive cost of just £5.3M, the Fareham Innovation Centre (part of the Solent Enterprise Zone at Solent airport) offers office space and workshop facilities for all sorts of new businesses, especially in the aerospace, aviation, engineering and marine industries.

Its offices and workshops are impressive, but it's the tech-heavy state-of-the-art conferencing facilities that truly stand out. That and the large communal outdoor terrace which offers impressive vistas of Fareham airfield.

3. Venator House, Bournemouth

The tasteful décor stands out when you're inside Venator House. Yet while its classy interior and newly-refurbed bathrooms and kitchens catch the eye, its the quietly professional and high-end office space that are the nuts and bolts of the place.

A handy town centre locale - on Meyrick Place - puts users in the heart of Bournemouth. Okay, so the building may not be a stunner from the outside, but inside? The solar-powered LED lighting and reliable tech-heavy systems throughout make this a forward-thinking office space choice for any Bournemouth business.

4. Cell Block Studios, Portsmouth

Commercial buildings don't get a lot more original and quirky than this. Office and co-working space can be uninspiring at times. Not so here at Cell Block Studios which is, as their name suggests, on the site of a former prison. Given the unusual building is in Portsmouth, it is - of course - a former naval prison.

To say the Victorian site is arresting would be to employ a dreadful pun. Yet it would also be true. This isn't just a gimmick, though. Pompey's Cell Block Studios may be a Grade 1-listed oddity, but they're also high-spec offices that are a pleasure to work in.

5. Bourne Park, Bournemouth

Forming part of Bournemouth's digital and creative hub, the stunning Bourne Park is one of two repurposed offices run by Bourne Space and found just a few hundred metres from Westcliff and Eastcliff beaches.

The office space is all modern and spacious, but it's the event and meeting room space that wows at Bourne Park.

6. Bourne House, Bournemouth

Bourne Park's sister site is Bourne House. Like its twin, this place has been designed with class and imagination but doesn't rely solely on aesthetics to offer a value proposition to prospective clients. The offbeat décor is eye-catching, but the set-up is professional, with touches such as regular client networking events and on-site fitness classes standing the place out.

7. Royal Navy’s Programme NELSON office, Portsmouth

The Royal Navy's cutting-edge new artificial intelligence program NELSON is too high-tech to be stationed in some dull backwater office on an industrial estate somewhere. So, fittingly, it has its very own innovative HQ, complete with all sorts of forward-thinking technology, design and ideas.

Designed by Morgan Lovell, this workplace may be found at the Navy's oldest base, but there's nothing traditional or old-fashioned about it. There's a real feeling of flexible use to the place, with huddles, agile working and team projects at the forefront of the design. Nautical touches complement the clever features to create a truly unique and inspiring office.

8. Old Bond Store, Southampton

We may have saved the best for last. A Grade II-listed two-storey red brick former warehouse, there's a real rustic charm to the Old Bond Store. Yet, at the same time, an air of a London private members' club. It may look somewhat historic and industrial out front, but inside? It's another matter entirely.

Altogether there's less than 7,000 sq. ft. of office space in this 'club-working space'. That's barely an issue though as office space isn't rented, it's used in accordance with a scalable membership plan. Making it undeniably the classiest flexible workspace option in Southampton and perhaps even the entire south.

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