OFFICES overlooking the Henley Royal Regatta course have been described as one of the best working environments in the world.
The conversion of the Riverside Barns in Remenham Farm into eight offices was completed on Tuesday.
Five-times Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgraveofficially opened the building on behalf of the Copas Partntership, which owns the land.
Sir Steve, who is on the regatta management committee, said the offices were perfectly located to enjoy the many events held on the regatta course, which he rowed many times himself.
He said: “For rowing clubs around the country, this really is the place to meet and the area outside the building is usually full for about 200m on regatta days. You would meet up every year with your friends and family and the barns literally were the bar.
“In rowing circles when you mention the Barn Bar, people know exactly what you’re talking about without even mentioning which event it is and it’s a big part of the regatta culture in some ways.
“It has a stunning view that I was lucky enough to see on this stretch for eight or nine years of my rowing career. Even on a blustery autumn day, it’s still picturesque.
“It will be a fantastic place to work and if you’re feeling a little bit down, you can have a look out the window and that will always pick you up.”
The Copas family bought the farm, which used to be part of the Hambleden Estate, in 1977. It was home to the Barn Bar for more than 70 years until last year and the original structure has been retained alongside other features.
A 25m long bar returned at this year’s regatta upstream from the barns and included the regular Friday and Saturday evening parties.
Copas director Fenella Copas said the condition of the barn was the most important consideration.
She said: “While the bars undoubtedly are a popular alternative use for the barn, its use for a few weeks each year wasn’t sustainable and the buildings really were crumbling.
“We’ve been very focused on retaining the character of these buildings and at the same time capitalising on their unique location and delivering state-of-the-art facilities.
“This family has always felt very privileged to be owners and guardians of these very special buildings. We’re now very proud of the development and happy to have secured their new phase of life.”
Floor-to-ceiling windows have been installed to take advantage of the river view and there are shower and kitchen facilities.
A cast iron weighbridge has been relocated to the central courtyard as a feature piece and the offices are equipped with high-speed fibre optic internet connection. James Smith, from JSA Architects, said he tried to retain the character of the old buildings as well as much of the material.
“The views are outstanding and the agents feel this is probably one of the top 10 office sites in the world,” he said. “It’s on the regatta course and we’ve taken advantage of all the views.
“In the conference rooms opposite the barn bar we’ve put in large glass, so even when you’re in the conference room, kitchen and other areas, you can see the river.”
Ron Wilson, of Maidenhead building contractors Farr & Roberts, said: “The place was falling apart but we’ve managed to preserve the history of it and bring it right up to date. It works extremely well and I’m very proud to have been involved.”
Mark Harris, of consultants Lambert Smith Hampton, presented a CGI image of the building in a marketing campaign to find tenants.
He said: “One of the things we’ve said is that this development has one of the best office locations in the world.Not only is it a purpose-built character office building, it has got all the core activity a proper business needs to operate in such challenging marketing conditions.”
The first tenant was Practicus, which specialises in business and technology change, and relocated from Newtown Road in Henley. Employees now enjoy a long office with riverside views and a staff leisure area that includes a pool table.
Chief executive officer Jason Luckhurst said he was impressed with the Copas family’s passion and vision for the building. He said: “It works exceptionally well as an office. There’s loads of natural light, you have views of the Thames and there is an amazing feel about it.
“When people come to the office they comment on how energised it is.”