Image Credit : Andrew Smith, SG Photography Ltd https://www.sgphotography.co.uk/



Project Overview

Riverside House is part of a wider regeneration scheme across multiple existing buildings within the immediate area, along the River Irwell. The client’s aim was to make a statement about delivering more innovative schemes across the region, whilst this particular space would provide their colleagues with a flexible working environment to thrive within as they relocate from their previous premises in Salford.
Riverside House, built in the 1860s, is a Grade II-listed building, adjacent to the old railway goods yard at New Bailey in Salford and located directly alongside the River Irwell. The building was locally listed but had stood in ruins for a number of years, before being acquired by the English Cities Fund for re-development. The main building structure was heavily damaged and the decision was taken by the fund to retain and repair the existing brick façade and construct a new, four-storey CAT A office with a brand-new structure. Muse then took the decision to relocate to Riverside House and signed a lease agreement with the fund.
Our client Muse set to occupy the second and third floors of the building. The intent for the new office was to allow the Muse team to move to an agile way of working, where desks were not allocated to individuals. The riverside location was also key to the design, with views of the river and its effect on the surrounding city at the heart of the concept.

Project Commissioner

Muse Developments

Project Creator

SpaceInvader Design



Project Manager - Avid
M&E - Hannans
Lead contractor - Overbury
Carpets - Ege
Timber Floor - Havwoods
Wall Finishes - KABE
Acoustics - Anne Kyyro Quinn
Feature Lighting - M3 Industries
Blinds - Silent Gliss

Project Brief

As a big name within the fit-out industry, Muse’s new HQ needed to match the quality of the developments they deliver. It was important to create substance, innovation, and adaptability throughout their new home.
A thorough initial research stage was undertaken by SpaceInvader to establish the brief, including prioritising substance over style whilst at the same time providing a great-looking shop window, and incorporating a new approach to ways of working that would promote collaboration and foster mutual appreciation, awareness and recognition within their team.
“The most important bit about working with SpaceInvader was the process in the first couple of months – the interviews, the questionnaires and the site visits, during which they really got to know us, our brand and both how we used to work and the changes in working methods we wanted to bring in.” Phil Marsden, Project Manager, Muse.
We really needed to understand the thinking of the senior team and so interviewed the firm’s project managers. The process was very open, thorough, and two-way. Muse were as interested in the thinking behind our questions as we were in their answers. We had covered everything in such depth that by the time we got to space-planning there couldn’t have been another solution. The final designs were rational, intuitive, and responsive.
Sustainability and waste reduction were also major aims of the project, whilst the concept also needed to reflect the building’s proximity to water and nature - with views, biophilia and outdoor decking all key.

Project Innovation/Need

The idyllic location on the River Irwell provided inspiration alongside the characteristics of Manchester, including its weather. The cycle of river water to weather provided an abstract concept and created a sense of locality and individuality. Not only does the river affect people, but also the built environment, with natural materials making up the riverbed influencing the surrounding city. The fit-out refers to that, keeping an underlining industrial aesthetic throughout.
The project was about celebrating Salford as well as showing what the company can do for its own tenants, whilst the water outside, its movement, colours and the wildlife it attracts, particularly kingfishers, informed the colour scheme. The various strata of the riverbed inspired a sense of horizontal layering, using tones of red from the local sandstone bed combined with industrial textures to ensure a unique and sophisticated finish.
Spaces have been designed with adaptability in mind, being open plan it can grow as required. Within the space, a desk sharing ratio was introduced with circa 80 alternative seats available, encouraging a flexible and agile working environment. With minimal internal walls across the 2nd floor and a largely furniture-based floor plate, the staff can adapt their environment over time. Where partitioning has been designed, pattressing has been applied in some areas for potential future change.
“We’ve ended up with a fairly unique office. Everyone loves the look of it. I know everyone says that, but everyone who comes to the office genuinely does love it.” Phil Marsden, Project Manager, Muse.

Design Challenge

One of the key challenges was the outdated working practices within Muse which had been in place for over 25 years. The intent for the new office was to allow the Muse team to move to an agile way of working, where desks were not allocated to individuals. Desks would be clear at the end of each day, with belongings stored in a locker. The overarching rationale was to provide colleagues with different places to work better suited to their tasks, whilst encouraging improved collaboration. By identifying the differing needs of all colleagues, the team was given options of where to work, knowing also this may change again in the future as the business and the demographic of future employees evolve. After just five weeks of occupation this was shown to be a huge success, with colleagues moving around the office using the different spaces and collaborating with different people.
Working with a CAT A architectural design which looked to refurbish and extend a historical existing building, our approach needed to become cohesive with the basebuild and its contextual environment. We designed parts of the CAT A scheme as well as the CAT B, working with the building’s refurbishment architects to reduce waste as well as creating the perfect space plan. For example, chilled beams and lighting units were moved to suit the meeting room layout and floor grilles moved to suit desk layouts to minimise cost, disruption, and waste.


The fit out has been designed and built to last. It is sustainable in its very nature. The space vastly improves the working environment for Muse and with the variety of working spaces, facilities, planting and outdoor space the office provides a sustainable long-lasting environment over the life of their occupation.
The building has received the Energy Performance Certificate for the CAT A works confirming the A 25 rating and the fit out was carefully designed to the WELL standards. The BREEAM New Construction 2014 certificate for the CAT A works confirms an Excellent rating. The final BREEAM New Construction 2014 certificate is awaited.
We invited in local artists to contribute to the scheme from the large-scale feature ceiling within the client lounge area, to the handmade ceramic mugs; supporting independent makers and collaborating with them to create a unique space.
A holistic approach to health and wellbeing has been applied where possible within the design. Living planting has been applied throughout the space reflecting the recognised and important aspect of biophilic design within the workplace. This is not only with the air purifying qualities and reduction of potential pollutants in mind but also from the visibility of planting promoting employee wellbeing. Additionally, eight-stand up desks are provided along with a stand-up desk in the project space, allowing colleagues to stand whilst working and move around throughout the day.

This award celebrates innovative and creative building interiors, with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes, aesthetic presentation and functionality. Consideration also given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.
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