Heelis; the National Trust Central Office



The National Trust

Project Manager

Buro Four Project Services

Quantity Surveyor

Davis Langdon

Architect/interior designer

Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects

Mechanical & Electrical Engineer

Max Fordhams

Structural Engineer

Adams Kara Taylor


Moss Construction

Investor/Property Company

AIM Developments


Kier Ventures


Applied Acoustic Design

The National Trust may be a guardian of our past but it has taken a leap into the future for a new home. Rather than choosing a typical country house, it surprised everyone by seeking better value for money in the former railway town of Swindon. A most enterprising decision. A spirit of enterprise and innovation reoccurs in many of the project's strategic and design decisions. It is difficult for an organisation like The National Trust to procure and own its own building, but this charity, with architectural quality at the very centre of its ethos, needed to occupy an HQ building of undoubted architectural quality. It paid homage to local industrial history by creating Heelis, a warehouse-style HQ in partnership with Kier Ventures.

Having selected the site, the National Trust procured the design team and set out their detailed design for the project. At this stage they went to the market with an agreed rent fixed to the RPI together with a 25 year lease and sought a partnership who would build, own and lease back their HQ to them. This is a classic twist in the PFI process with lessons for all.

The result is no simple sop to the past. The open deep-plan form is ideal for the flexible working demanded for modern offices. The scheme has shown that the use of deep-plan space can work supremely well if the workplace is enhanced with daylight throughout, a sense of airiness and space, and is blessed with a most ingenious and successful strategy for naturally ventilating and cooling the building. Visited by the National Panel on what was one of the hottest days of the year, it was clear the strategy was a proven success.


No attempt is made to hide the industrial framework; in fact, it is celebrated by exposed metalwork complimented by a north light roof and generous atria. This reflects off a riot of colour from extensive use of timber and tapestries from trees and sheep on the Trust's own estates.

This, along with natural ventilation, together with the solid south slope of the roofs covered with photovoltaic panels helped achieve an 'excellent' BREEAM rating. The scheme shows how older forms can be efficient and green without sacrificing value. Heelis was built to a tight budget, yet has emerged as attractive as any of the National Trust's charges, much to architect Feilden Clegg Bradley's credit. The public support those working in the building by responding so positively to a building full of innovation, yet displaying endless visual and practical qualities, by the public desire to visit the building, with solid advance bookings by the public for months ahead.

The National Trust have shown that not only do they appreciate top quality design from the past, but are prepared to sponsor the very best of innovative modern design; perhaps a timeless classic, that in the future will be ranked along with the N.T.'s other gems.