The UK’s tech industry is a cornerstone of the economy, with investment in the sector totalling £6.3 billion during 2018 alone.

Its ongoing success will play a key role in supporting the country’s future in uncertain times.

It is therefore in all of our interests for our tech businesses to thrive – to achieve this they must be enabled to innovate better and faster than their rivals around the world. In the quest to stay one step ahead, the environment in which they work becomes increasingly important.

Consequently, an architect simply responding to a client brief to create an identikit open plan office with the compulsory ping pong table will no longer suffice. As buildings become more advanced and the purpose they serve more niche, there is a growing need for architects to think of design as a research process rather than just responding to a client’s initial demands.

In order to create a building that allows businesses to reach their potential while pushing technological boundaries, it is imperative that architects take a deep dive into a company’s culture and ethos in order to design a building that creates the perfect environment for staff to innovate.

Having roots in the North East ourselves, Ryder was very proud to win the competition to design tombola’s new home. This was not just an opportunity to create a building that could help push one of Sunderland’s most successful companies to the next level but to also bring back to life the city’s quayside.

tombola is one of the most successful tech companies in Europe, and its commitment to Sunderland will be a huge factor in the health of the city’s economy in the years ahead.

As architects it was our job to tap into what had driven that success over the past two decades and create a workspace that reflected the culture, in a building that would help the company reach its long term goal of doubling its turnover and workforce over the next five years.

In order to originate and develop the best gaming software, tombola needed world class facilities – both for its current staff and to attract and retain the best talent in an exceedingly competitive market.

In a world that is overflowing with new ways to communicate, the importance of face to face interaction has never been more important in fostering innovation. For tombola to continually create dynamic and disruptive gaming technology it needs different members of its team to regularly interact face to face – both within and between departments.

Tombola House is set out over three floors with a total area of 2,485sqm and a workspace density of 10sqm per person. This figure is significantly higher than many similar UK office developments, reflecting tombola’s commitment to creating an environment in which its staff can flourish.

This is further evidenced by Tombola House being one of the few UK buildings to incorporate Saint-Gobain’s pioneering SageGlass. Like many tech companies, the vast number of staff at tombola operate multiple screens, meaning glare has the potential to be a particular irritant and not conducive to productivity.

SageGlass is an electrochromatic glass that greatly mitigates glare and solar heat gain, while preserving views to the surrounding environment.

Other features of Tombola House include a grand atrium space accommodating a central oak staircase with tiered benching, which encourages staff to congregate for informal meetings, seminars and social events – such as screening films or hackathons on the feature video wall opposite.

An external landscaped area maximises proximity to the River Wear – the space can function as a riverfront breakout, meeting or event area, providing the ability to have meetings in a truly striking environment.

It’s adaptable too, as the structure of the building supports a flexible space planning approach for the open plan office floorplates, allowing tombola to adjust layouts to reflect departmental changes as the company continues to grow.

The elements of Tombola House I have described are not perfect for every company looking to innovate and fulfil its potential – they are bespoke to tombola.

By working with a wide variety of team members – from junior designers to the CEO – we were able to drill down into the core of what it meant to work for tombola, and to understand how each person’s creativity could be enhanced by their surroundings, both through the creation of spaces that encourage collaboration and through the implementation of pioneering technology.

This approach will become more prevalent as UK tech companies continue to diversify and develop increasingly niche products that help shape the world around us.

It the job of architects to create the environments that will allow them to prosper.