Managing an Icon

May 16, 2023
News & Insights
As the saying goes, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. It would appear this quote is most evidently attributed to the advice given to a young Peter Parker (AKA Spiderman) in 1962, a character synonymous with tall buildings. As custodians of the tallest building in Reading, we share that feeling of responsibility.

The Blade is not just any office building. It’s prominent position and distinctive design means it forms a key part of Reading’s skyline and because of this, it also has a role to play in the life of the community. We’re regularly contacted by organisations and individuals who want to use the building as a setting for filming, meetings, conferences, presentations and even parties. Whether it’s the roof, the penthouse floor or even the stairwell, The Blade and its commanding views draw people in. Knowing and understanding the importance of the building and why people want to use it is part of the responsibility we shoulder and so wherever possible and practical, we always try and accommodate requests so the building is shared with the community it surveys.

But we also have a responsibility to our occupiers and because they choose The Blade for its iconic status, they typically have high (excuse the pun) expectations. As you may be aware, not all of our occupiers are humans, as in recent years we’ve become the nesting place of choice for a pair of Peregrine Falcons, which brings with it its own responsibilities. As we write this in Spring 2023, the Falcons have returned and we’re expecting them to nest again this year. And that means creating and preserving the perfect environment for them. As a protected species, it effectively implies our roof is out of bounds as we cannot disturb their nest site. But that does not bode well with our other responsibility to keep the machinery and fabric of the building working for our human occupiers – not to mention keeping it clean. The vast majority of our plant is based on the roof, right where our feathered friends are hoping to set up home!

Inside, the high expectations of our commercial occupiers mean that The Blade needs to offer a quality office environment. It’s not enough to have spectacular views. The entire culture and community we create has to fit with the inherent status of the building – it needs to be cutting edge in every aspect. Even maintaining the actual building is a responsibility, especially when it is surrounded by other important aspects of the built environment. When something becomes part of the visual identity of a particular place it’s a compelling feature and one which must be looked after to ensure it remains an attractive focal point. As well as its own distinctive shape, the location of The Blade has added importance. The building overlooks the Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens and the three sit alongside one another creating ahistorical juxtaposition of Reading’s history. Whilst there are numerous photos of The Blade itself, it also features as the backdrop to many thousands more because it adds structure, shape or even a contrast to the focal point, such as the ruins.

Like all great built icons, The Blade has been known to divide opinion. For some it is the essence of Reading; majestic, beautiful and a true centre point for the town, but it has its detractors too. For us, just being the subject of such a debate reinforces The Blade’s iconic status and prominence. Therefore it really is our duty to do our very best for it and ensure it remains a key part of the Reading skyline and community for many years to come.  

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