The story behind Barclays’ new Glasgow campus
Ron Coghill, Capital Projects Lead, will deliver Barclays’ most innovative campus yet, despite setbacks caused by COVID-19. Here she explains why the design of the new Glasgow hub is so dear to her heart.
Touring the new Barclays campus in Glasgow, it’s clear to see that something special is going on. Complex lighting systems, smart acoustics, meeting pods and a colourful flower mural are a welcome surprise, and it’s all been delivered under the deft management of project director, Ron Coghill.
Coghill is delighted to bring such inclusive and cutting-edge architecture to her home town. “I’ve worked all over the world, but working on a project here in Glasgow is fantastic,” she says. And the project has been deeply personal on more than one level. Born and raised in Glasgow, Coghill not only trained at the city’s renowned Mackintosh School of Architecture, but also has first-hand experience of the need for inclusivity.
Mother to two young children, Grace and Daniel, Coghill previously used a wheelchair following an accident, and her son is autistic – so she knows better than most how considered design can enhance wellbeing and improve quality of life. “Inclusive design isn't something I do as an afterthought,” she says. “It’s fundamental to my work.”
To deliver a project on this scale, in your home town, is such an honour.
Capital Projects Lead
The new Glasgow campus will be home to approximately 5,000 Barclays colleagues, and has transformed the local area – another aspect of the build that makes Coghill very happy.
“We could easily have gone somewhere else which would have been an easier build,” she says. “But we chose the difficult project to actively regenerate this part of the city.”
An opportunity to reimagine the space
The difficulties increased when the pandemic hit, but Coghill has managed to find positives there, too.
“If you’re designing and constructing buildings, the one thing you want for a long construction period is to have certainty, and no disruption, and this has been the most disrupted project I’ve ever worked on,” she says.
However, the shutdown gave Coghill and her team the time and space to re-think and future-proof the building design, changing the way she imagined the space, and steering how work would be carried out safely.
“When we started, the brief was about getting our colleagues into a world-class environment,” she says. “But with COVID-19, it became about getting them into a world-class environment that’s also safe in a pandemic.” The result, she says, is “the most flexible building I’ve ever built. We can take any area and turn it into something else, literally within a couple of weeks or even overnight.”
Designed to be different
But it’s the inclusivity of the building’s design that gets Coghill most excited. Making it work for everyone lay at the very heart of her plans.
In partnership with the charity Scottish Autism, she ensured that the building was designed with neurodiversity in mind. Little things are the key, she explains. “It's about being careful about the choice of finishes, the acoustics and the light quality – they’re all very important.
“I had my son in mind when designing the building,” she continues. “Would this be a place he would want to come and work? Thinking about his progression to an adult, and how we could support him, helped us to consider everybody else, too.”
Inclusive design isn't something I do as an afterthought. It’s fundamental to my work.
Capital Projects Lead
The project also builds on Barclays’ net zero ambitions and zero waste strategy. A sustainability centre will deliver innovative solutions to drive emission reductions across operations in power, waste and water, providing the campus with 100% renewable energy.
For Coghill, being able to prioritise sustainability in a city centre site is even more impressive. “That’s a fantastic achievement, considering it's half a million square feet in the middle of Glasgow,” she says.
But although the design here is ground-breaking, Coghill believes that Barclays can push the boundaries even further when it redesigns other campuses, in Northampton and Radbroke. “As we move forward into the other projects within Barclays, there will be a continuous process of listening to our colleagues, and making sure we take on board their comments.”
Revive, inspire and regenerate
As a Glaswegian, Coghill knows the city well. She was aware of the challenges associated with the historic Tradeston area, which in the early 1800s was developed as a manufacturing district by a union of craftspeople including tailors, bakers and weavers. Once a cluster of redundant buildings and a derelict car park, the Barclays campus has kickstarted a stream of regeneration possibilities that delights Coghill almost as much as the building itself.
From using local tradespeople to sourcing locally printed fabric for the soft furnishings, the project has worked hard to support the local economy. The development team has worked closely with community groups on either side of the building, and three acres within the development will also be a new city park right on the river Clyde.
“Seeing Barclays being able to give something back to Glasgow was the most rewarding part of this project,” says Coghill.
“Long term, I think the project will help to change Glasgow’s city centre. It will probably be the project’s legacy which makes me very proud.”
Seeing construction from a new perspective
So, has being a woman influenced how Coghill has approached such a major construction project? She believes it has been a distinct advantage.
“As a woman in construction, you have a different priority set. I think it allows you to flip things on their heads and look at things in a different light. And when your team is often mostly male, that can be a big benefit,” she says. “I think they find it quite challenging sometimes, to be honest. Because I just won't let things go.”
She has also added more female team members since the project began. “We've got fantastically strong women in really key roles now.”
Long term, I think the project will help to change Glasgow’s city centre. It will probably be the project’s legacy which makes me very proud.
Capital Projects Lead
“This isn’t a one-person show,” Coghill is quick to add. “This has been a massive team effort across many business areas at the bank. I’m also fortunate to work with two inspirational leaders, Vivienne Grafton, who had the original vision for our global campuses, and Neil Grassie – who has given me the support and scope to develop my career.
“The focus in the bank, in terms of its values, are so strong. We've managed to keep pushing on everything, so nothing has ever been taken for granted.
“To deliver a project on this scale, in your home town, is such an honour.”