master control room

Rutherford Appleton Laboratories case study


Thinking Space was awarded the contract to provide new control room furniture and media walls for the main control room at the scientific facility on Harwell Oxford Campus. The previous control room, being some 32 years old and consisting of a traditional 2-tier, fully enclosed control console with little thought for ergonomic design, was outdated. Thinking Space installed an aesthetic furniture design of three large L-shaped desks with built-in media walls at the rear of the main control desk to display their flat screen monitors.


ISIS is a world-leading center for research in the physical and life sciences at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories, supporting a community of more than 2,000 scientists. Operating for over 32 years, it has recently doubled in size through government funded investment to increase the country’s scientific capability.

Using the technique of neutron scattering, the center studies and provides insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale. The main control room operates 24/7 and maintains optimal proton accelerator operation utilizing SCADA and associated recording instrumentation.


While ISIS was able to refurbish the existing control room themselves, they recognized the need for specialist advice when planning an ergonomic yet aesthetic solution for their control desks. A web search of control room furniture manufacturers brought them to the door of Thinking Space Systems Ltd. ISIS visited the Thinking Space premises in Hampshire for a tour of their facilities and were impressed with their design service and manufacturing capabilities on offer.

“There were several control desk companies considered, but Thinking Space design, the manufacturing process, and the materials suited our needs best with their lightweight yet robust construction,” explains Neal Grafton, ISIS Duty Officer. “Thinking Space personnel were very courteous, knowledgeable, and friendly from their first visit. They listened and noted the specific needs for our refurbishment project and used their years of control desk experience and expertise to suggest design changes and improvements in order to provide an aesthetic and ergonomic solution”.

Regional Sales Specialist Neil Walker (Thinking Space) highlighted that “the communication flow between both parties ensured that our proposals were exactly as the client expected. Meetings were held at the ISIS premises at Harwell which meant that the design could be reviewed with any changes made quickly and effectively. With our award-winning design service, the client was able to fully visualize its desks with a 3D rendering and was also confident with the knowledge that these same drawings would be quickly transformed into manufacturing drawings, speedily and without the risk of errors.”


As with all clients, Thinking Space welcomed ISIS to its factory for an inspection of the new desks prior to installation on-site. This gave the client the chance to inspect the furniture as it was laid out in exact dimensions to the control room on site to give the client a real feel of the space and the envisaged working environment.

Three L-shaped custom-designed desks were created with a large main desk with a built-in media wall at the rear of the desk to display the client’s flat screen monitors with optimum viewing angles from each operator position. A separate L-shaped desk was created for the Duty Officer, and, in addition, an ancillary workstation completed the furniture requirements.

All desks have large worktop surfaces, something distinctly lacking in the old control room design. Novus MoreSpace monitor mounts at the two single person operator desks ensure that flat screen monitors are ergonomically positioned away from the desk surfaces.

Now that the installation is complete, the ISIS teams who occupy the control room 24/7 enjoy the new working conditions as do the project physicists and engineers who have all praised the change.

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"Thinking Space personnel were very courteous, knowledgeable and friendly from their first visit. They listened and noted the specific needs for our refurbishment and used their years of control desk experience and expertise to suggest design changes and improvements thus providing an aesthetic and ergonomic solution.... The old control room was in place for 32 years so the replacement had to be right for everyone and Thinking Space delivered an excellent product creating a refreshing up to date environment"
Neal Grafton
Rutherford Appleton Laboratories