Last Sunday we ran tours of Solar House after each of our three main services. It was encouraging to see a large number of people looking round the building and all the feedback I received was positive. People seemed to be inspired by what they saw.
When I first looked at Solar House I assumed it was a fairly standard office block. I was wrong. In many ways Solar House is a remarkable building. Not only is it in a fantastic high profile location on the High Road just north of the North Finchley town centre, but the building itself is very unusual for an office block. Two things immediately strike you when you enter the main Solar House floors.
Firstly the sheer expanse of the space: the open plan floors are simply enormous. During Sunday's tours, the moment we entered these uninterrupted floor spans, the children started running around. The extent of the vast open carpeted area before them was an irresistible lure to run and run and run. I observed even adults, as they strode into the space, throwing their arms wide in an attempt to take in the breadth of what they were encountering. Size does funny things to one's perspective. I had marked out on the floor where our planned chapel would sit, yet despite the fact the floor area is nearly identical to our current side chapel, set juxtapositioned to the huge open space of Solar House's ground floor, this section looked tiny.
Secondly the bright light airy atmosphere. Every floor of the building has windows on all sides; just the south wing of Solar House has an astonishing nearly 400 windows. Most offices I have visited, outside of the top central London executive suites, are dingy utilitarian spaces, often with dreary internal spaces carved out of unattractive make-do type buildings. Before I first visited Solar House I assumed it would be similar. But Solar House couldn't be more different. Even the ground floor is set half a storey up from the High Road giving a great outlook through the copious expanse of glass. As one goes up through the building's four floors extraordinary views are increasingly revealed, until on the top floor all London seems laid out before you, including the Olympic Park, Ally Pally, Docklands, the City, the Shard, the Telecom Tower, Wembley Stadium and Harrow on the Hill. Rarely, if ever, have I felt inspired by being in an office block, yet Solar House is the example which breaks the rule.
When as a church we started to look into finding an entirely new worship centre, we set as one of our key objectives to try and obtain an 'inspiring building'. I am not suggesting that Solar House on its own, without the planned new auditorium, would be all that we aspire to. No, we undoubtedly still need to alter and extend it. However, neither is this building a run-of-the-mill office block. Already, long before we've moved in, there's something rather special about this place.