This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
When BA’s current Waterside Headquarters opened in 1998 it was a development of such architectural significance it was deemed worthy of inclusion in the ultimate arbiter of cool, the zeitgeist of the 1990s, Wallpaper* magazine.
Constructed at a cost of £200m, it was hailed at launch as a revolution in BA’s working practices. Replacing 14 different buildings that was estimated to save £15 million a year in costs alone, it introduced open plan working for the first time, even for the CEO.
Set in 240 acres of land that had been reclaimed and landscaped into a public park and nature reserve, Waterside is based on a village concept of streets and neighbourhoods. It features six four storey buildings all connected by a glass-roofed internal street that is criss-crossed by aerial walkways. The Scandinavian influence is present with the building clad in pale cream limestone and grey steel.
The building does have its detractors. It did open just as low cost airlines took hold in Europe, and with their spartan headquarters, BA’s is seen as an indulgence.
The buildings also comprises BA’s museum The Speedbird Centre, and the offices of its parent company IAG. And since BA’s ownership under IAG many functions have been transferred from Waterside to IAG’s Global Business Services centre in Krakow. Her Majesty The Queen did also recently pay a visit to mark BA’s centenary year.
However, Waterside is reportedly earmarked for demolition should the third Heathrow runway ever go ahead. If that wasn’t bad enough, the in-house branch of Waitrose is also due to close imminently.