Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
‘home from home’ office space in London, England by align
August 22nd, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: align
align, interior architects and designers and specialists in original workplace thinking, have created a dynamic, 19,000 sq ft, three-storey suite of offices for fast-growing brand and packaging design specialists BrandOpus; a finalist scheme in the Small/Medium Commercial Project of the Year category of the 2015 MIX Magazine Mixology Awards.
The project, located within the former Freemantle TV Studios at number one Stephen Street, was a pre-let space as part of the 1-2 Stephen Street development in London’s west end by Derwent London. align were introduced to the client at a very early stage at the invitation of agents Pilcher Hershman and project manager Ines Stanley of Interactive Space, both of whom had previously worked with align on an office project for Dentsu in Fitzrovia.
‘BrandOpus hadn’t been in their previous offices for very long’, explained align Director and Co-founder Nigel Tresise, ‘but were experiencing a period of rapid growth and needed a much more ambitious space for their projected expansion. And they were absolutely right – the company had 37 staff at the briefing stage and nearly 90 by the time they moved in. Their new space now has capacity for around 140 people.’
Significant time at the beginning of the two-and-a-half-year project was spent working out how to optimise the space available for BrandOpus’s needs. The configuration of the ground floor studio spaces could be seen as quite fragmented and align needed to work closely with the BrandOpus team looking at the optimal flow and journey for both staff and for visitors.
‘The potential was for a studio space over three levels’ Nigel Tresise commented, ‘which meant taking the double-height ground floor space, together with three purpose-built mezzanine sections and also a smaller footprint area on the lower-ground floor, which made use of a former car-parking area. Staff could work together primarily in the ground floor studio and mezzanine spaces in zoned, delineated but still fundamentally open-plan areas, whilst visitors would be guided directly from the entrance to a lower-ground floor reception area and a network of individual social and client-facing meeting spaces.’
align’s work around flow and journeys led to a series of collaborative workshops with the Derwent team (including Orms Architects and Arup) to finesse the original CAT A scheme to match the requirements of BrandOpus. Changes included a re-located main entrance, which was created in order to lead visitors more naturally to the reception area and also to follow the natural sweep of the road. Another major structural change was the idea of punching a huge circulation void into the floor just inside the new entrance in order to create a very clear flow down to the lower ground floor (and up to the mezzanine levels).
The void would be visible from the 6m-high glazed exterior and would feature a new lift, along with a spectacular new curving stair, conceived by align and inspired by the Fibonacci sequence. This was then implemented by Orms Architects, using the same blackened steel as used throughout the base build, together with oak treads, a glass balustrade and stainless steel handrail. This allowed for slow and comfortable access to the lower-ground area and also allowed for a real sense of grandeur and arrival, as well as ensuring that plenty of natural light could percolate through into this windowless storey.
‘This was a really interesting space to work with’ commented Nigel Tresise. ’The ground floor studios were quite fragmented and the lower ground floor had no natural light, but we did have nearly 6m storey height to play with. Luckily, Derwent London were brilliantly accommodating and open to suggestion in terms of creating the best possible CAT A space for the BrandOpus tenant scheme, which, as well as the new entrance and connecting staircase, included the removal of a major concrete beam on the ground floor and the adjustment of one of the mezzanine areas to allow better views down onto the ground floor.’
Once the interior architectural space plan had been resolved, the align team moved onto the development of the design concept from the brief given by BrandOpus, which was to create a true ‘home from home’, with a collaborative atmosphere: a space which didn’t feel like a traditional office and where creativity and the easy flow of people, information and communication were promoted.
‘It was a great brief to work with’, commented align Director and Co-founder Gurvinder Khurana. ‘At align, we’re great believers in getting the best out of all the creative partnerships we enter into and so it was agreed that a couple of creatives from BrandOpus would join us for regular workshop sessions throughout the project, so that real ownership was shared between all us and was properly rooted in the company’s brand values and culture.’
The domestic vernacular really kicks in on the lower ground floor – for clients as well as staff. As visitors descend, they are greeted at reception by BrandOpus staff from a bespoke, mirrored silver desk, with a series of shallow timber drawers along the top to echo a domestic piece of furniture.