Andy Harkin, director at Harkin Associates. (Photography by Daz Mack.)
Image Source: Daz Mack
Andy Harkin, director at Harkin Associates. (Photography by Daz Mack.)

Member Article

Architectural services for all seasons

The world of football is fast-moving – and it’s not only players who need to be quick on their feet.

Luton Town recently hit the headlines, after their promotion to the Premier League meant some hurried adjustments to their stadium – a situation the team at Harkin Associates are all too familiar with.

Established in 1988, the family-owned, Middlesbrough-based architecture and design firm has developed a distinctive design approach which results in functional, sustainable and award-winning buildings – including football stadiums.

Director Andy Harkin says: “Luton were promoted and now will have to make alterations to their stadium, Kenilworth Road, to ensure it complies to Premier League Standards, such as those regarding the position of cameras, space for reporters, and interview positions, along with requirements for data and equipment.

“Kenilworth Road is the smallest stadium to ever host Premier League fixtures and, as this is the first time they have played in the Premier League, they are having to install a lot of these facilities for the first time.”

It’s something Andy and his team have direct experience of – on more than one occasion.

Andy says: “Whether they don’t have the funding or they simply don’t want to tempt fate I’m not sure, but we’ve found that clubs in the Championship can be reluctant to plan ahead, and so if they do get promoted, work has to be undertaken very quickly, often with very little planning.

“In Luton’s case, they came up via the play-offs which shortened the window of time available even more.”

Working at speed resonates with Andy and the Harkin Associates team, having worked with Middlesbrough when they were memorably promoted on the last day of the 2015-16 season.

The firm were already working with Bulkhaul, owned by MFC chairman Steve Gibson, so were ideally placed to be able to work on the project.

Andy said: “Through our work with Bulkhaul, we were introduced to Mark Ellis, who was the chief operating officer of MFC at the time, and initially only tasked with looking at altering some of their hospitality areas.

“However, as the team were in promotion chase in the next few months, the Premier League Media Compliance team contacted them to see what works needed to be carried out; the club had been out of the Premier League since 2009, and in that time the requirements had changed dramatically.

“Mr Ellis asked us to produce designs that would make the Riverside Stadium comply and present these in the spring.

“When, as everybody now knows, Middlesbrough got promoted on the last day of the season, we had to quickly update drawings from schematic proposals to working, construction drawings, making sure we did this in the same sequence the works would be carried out on site.”

The speed and scale of the project meant the Harkin Associates team had to find new ways of working. The refit involved a number of elements, including moving the main TV gantry from the west stand to the east, to open up more advertising space.

As the project moved on, new items were added to the brief, including further hospitality rooms, refit of the boardroom and new dugouts.

Andy says: “We had a constant presence on site working with contractors, often providing sketches on site as we didn’t have time to return to office to draw up in a traditional way, especially when any last-minute challenges arose.

“One such issue was that The Premier League were reluctant to allow the move of the gantry, as the cameras would be facing the west and the setting sun. We provided extensive designs and sun studies, and even designed a sun shield under the roof of the stand to show that the sun would not be an issue and also that the cameras wouldn’t pick up the shield, and eventually got Premier League approval.

“Ultimately, the works on site were 13 weeks from the last game in the Championship to the first game in the Premier League; when Boro were promoted, the drawings were just schematics, not construction drawings and no contractors were appointed – that really exemplifies how fast our team had to work.”

Middlesbrough’s Premiership journey came to an abrupt end just a year later, when they returned once again to the Championship.

But Harkin Associates remains at the top of its game, with work undertaken for Leeds United, Sheffield United and Aston Villa in similar situations, as well as on projects as diverse as their award-winning work on the Psyche Boutique Hotel, in Middlesbrough, the JAD Tower, in Dubai, and providing school architectural design and drawings packages for companies with a ‘framework’ agreement with Local Authorities.

For more information about their work, visit https://www.harkinassociates.net/

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Pay-as-Hugo .

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