McLaren ’50 in 50′: The McLaren Technology Centre

Perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in motorsport, the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC), located in Woking, houses the McLaren Group. This includes the McLaren F1 racing team.

Officially opened by the Queen in 2004, the project to build the MTC started in 1998 when Norman Foster’s company, Foster and Partners, were appointed to design and build it. Construction started in 1999 and was finished by 2004. The building was designed with the hopes that the concept would reflect the company’s design and engineering expertise by showcasing technology and innovation. And it is quite something.

Winner of a number of awards, including from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the MTC is big enough to house nine Boeing 747 jumbo jets. Instead, it provides space for the McLaren Group (Racing, Automotive, Electronics to name a few) to come together under one room. There are design studios, laboratories, and research testing, amongst many other facilities. There is also a fitness centre and swimming pool within the building.

In late 2011, McLaren-Mercedes became the first ever carbon-neutral Formula 1 Team. By implementing efficiency-driven measures at the MTC, the team were able to save more than 1500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Their measures included redesigning the car park lighting system and optimising air conditioning. They have also been able to reduce the requirement for cooling towers from seven to two, through the use of their ‘formal’ lake. From an aerial view, the MTC is semi-circular in shape. A full circle is completed by the lake which, while incredibly picturesque, serves an important purpose.

Water from the lake is pumped through to the buildings’ heat exchangers. Cold water is stored in five cooling buffer vessels, and circulated once every 48 hours. There is a 160 metre long waterfall which takes hot water generated by the radiators of the wind tunnel cooling system and cools it. Rainwater from the roof goes directly into the lake along with car-park drainage. 

The large glass wall in front of the lake was developed using McLaren’s technological expertise. It allows natural light into the building. Here lies McLaren’s boulevard which boasts their historic cars, including championship winning models. The boulevard includes Bruce McLaren’s Austin Ulster, the first car he raced, as well as road cars produced by the team. It was here that the MP4-28 was unveiled earlier this year by Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, along with a parade of the historic cars to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Elsewhere the building is organised around 18-metre wide ‘fingers’ with what the team refer to as ‘streets’ between them.

Rare glimpses inside the MTC, through videos produced by the team or photographs from visitors, show that it is a clean, organised, and clinical place. From the outside looking in, the MTC seems to sum up what McLaren are all about.

I like this quote from Ron Dennis, which sums it up:

“Great facilities attract great people. People can only thrive if you provide them with an environment in which they can aspire to be the best”

To celebrate the general release of Rush tomorrow, 50 in 50 will focus on one of the drivers playing a key role in the film, and McLaren’s second champion – James Hunt.




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