Exhibiting for the first time at Designersblock this year, Henry Ellis-Paul will be showing his new furniture, Stripped (pictured) and his first range of greeting cards, Short and Sweet. Stripped is a modular chair and table that has various arrangements of seats and armrests, which can be easily moved, altered or added-to in order to fit into any environment. Currently based in London, Henry has previously designed packaging, toys and lighting, and believes that an understanding of different areas of the industry helps to create a healthy approach to new projects.
Alumina is a table made of environmentally friendly, forested hardwoods and 19mm toughened glass, which creates a meditative ambience. The image is sandblasted onto the reverse of the glass and highlighted by the coloured LED lights in the base, which can be phased through a spectrum of colours or set to suit the environment. The image can be sandblasted with any design including a company logo. It is especially suited for bars, clubs or reception areas and can be made to bespoke requirements.
JWT is one of the oldest and largest advertising agencies in the world. When it turned to Clive Wilkinson architects, however, to convert its New York headquarters, the notion was to reinvent the agency to appeal to the up-and-coming generation of advertisers.
Converting factory spaces into workspaces took off on the 1960s and 70s in New York, when well-known artists began to occupy the redundant industrial district of SoHo, and it’s a habit that has stuck.London-based practice Spacelab has completed the final phase of the refurb of two floors of a converted cigarette factory in London for Emap Communications. The vast space has been used to bring together the B2B media group’s 25 business units under one roof. After analysing the existing property portfolio – five buildings accommodating almost 14,000sq m – Spacelab put Greater London House on Hampstead Road forward for the relocation. The 9,300sq m office fit out was completed last February, with businesses moving in during three phases.“The directors felt that there were relationships between the individual businesses that were not being exploited,” explains project architect Andy Budgen. “The reception is designed to be a place of calm, but the central staircase that runs through it is to connect the floors and create a central flow, up to the desk areas.”This route passes through the cafe, also the “central hub” of the building. “Although people can take the lift they tend to use the stairs more, passing through this area to grab a coffee, and then walk to their desk,” says Budgen. “The fear with a building this size is that people come to work in pockets of the building. Connecting people was a core part of the project.”What it lacks in salubrious surroundings – Emap Construct and Emap Architecture previously occupied trendy corners of Clerkenwell, Rosebery Avenue and Exmouth Market – Greater London House certainly makes up for in character.The Art Deco building, tucked behind Mornington Crescent tube station, was formerly the Carreras Cigarette Factory, originally built in 1928. Before being converted to office space, it was recently restored to its former grandeur, including the colourful ornamental front of the building, and, notably, the two large black cats flanking the entrance.Previously inhabited by travel agent Thomas Cook, who left a legacy of “yellowy partitions”, the two floors taken by Emap were soon cleared as Spacelab cut back the ceilings to regain the original height for the reception area. Lowered bulkheads, containing lighting and air-conditioning, were made into a feature of the fit out, playing a key part in the linear design.A range of different sized meeting rooms around the ground floor facilitate an ad hoc way of working, where rooms can be used “as and when” for formal or informal get togethers; another use of space designed to draw people away from their desks.But it was the sheer vastness of the first-floor space that proved the biggest challenge.“We didn’t want to brand the different areas by publication or product, because this is too susceptible to change,” Budgen explains. “But we did want to create zones, each with their own identity.”On a tight budget per square metre, Budgen decided not to try to cover or decorate the vast expanse of wall space, but to concentrate efforts on the areas at the edge of each open-plan space (there are 12 distinct areas in all).“We wanted to use wall graphics, more as a form of way-finding than product branding,” says Budgen. “People can meet at the ‘red cherry zone’ of the floor or the ‘green stripe zone’. This encourages people to move around and use the space as their own.”Graphics and colours were decided on after much “flicking though magazines, cutting out shapes, ideas and patterns that appealed to us,” says Budgen, “holding them up against different walls and deciding what would work. There were no set themes as such.”The idea works, turning white wall space from something quite clinical into clean space between decorated areas of the building. The graphics range from arts-and-crafts patterning to Japanese imagery and bold black-and-white Art Deco design. Office desks are laid out in large open-plan areas, with photocopying points positioned in the natural breaks in the floor space. Work benches along the edge are set aside for layout and graphic design. Red tiled kitchens or tea points occur at regular points on the walk around.“We created five lines of sight that connect the whole floor,” says Budgen. “It takes away the rabbit warren feel and creates a large but connected work area. After passing and talking to people en route it takes one of the directors half an hour to get to his desk; luckily he sees this as a good thing.”The fit out strikes a clever balance between a media and corporate feel. “It is a FTSE 100 listed company, but also a strong media brand. The challenge was to create something cool, but not too cool,” says Budgen.As the rest of the building is let out to other companies, including two advertising agencies and cosmetics giant Revlon, Budgen had to avoid Emap branding in the entrance area. However, as you reach reception, there is no mistaking the nature of the business. Back-lit walls that change colour as you walk past, tasteful stripes and brightly coloured modern furniture make it undeniably a media fit out.The buzz around the place is also a giveaway, and means the building has worked; a purely corporate outfit would have a quieter cafe area, and people would be wearing much less leopard print...
Marciana is a library shelving system designed by Paolo Favaretto. The concept was developed in response to modern library needs, regarding information support evolution (CD, DVD, internet), change (library layouts and specific areas) and flexibility. Guialmi specialises in metal office furniture with some products available in laminated and wood veneer finishes. Guialmi products range from desks and seating to storage and shelving.
If you could peer into the soul of the average Google boffin what would you see? Eskimos sheltering from arctic blasts in remote igloos; idyllic beaches with inviting hammocks hung between two palm trees, green pastures dotted with giant walk-in eggs or fusty old libraries full of comforting leather armchairs?These are just some of the sensuous pictures imagined by the 300-plus Googlers at the company’s new dream factory in Zurich – images that have led to the creation of physical environments that the Googlers, or “Zooglers” as they are known, said would get their creative juices running. Interior architect Camenzind Evolution persuaded Google’s top brass in California that indulging the staff in this way would lead to more bright ideas, amazing new products and ultimately bigger profits.“If people feel more self empowered about how to work and where to work in the building, then there is clear evidence that they become more motivated,” says director Stefan Camenzind, who used a psychologist to work with the Zooglers to identify their values, motivations and stimuli.The result is a bold and surreal series of communal areas and meeting rooms of all sizes, where the Zooglers can go to relax and think – and then hopefully have that “eureka moment”.Eureka moments are what the Zooglers are all about. The new-build office, on the site of an old brewery near the city centre, is where new products are invented and where success stories such as Google Maps were born. And with the size of the World Wide Web doubling every six months, the firm is under ever greater pressure to find ways of improving its search engine and its general offer. The solutions will germinate in these outlandish interiors. “Most of the people here do new product development, so communication is extremely important between people,” says Matthias Graf, head of communications at Google Switzerland. “We focus here on innovation and pushing the boundaries of technical development, and that involves short cycles of intense creativity. There is no way they can do this in an ordinary environment.”Camenzind Evolution won the job at competitive interview by selling Google a design process in which the 350 Zooglers would fully participate to “create their own local identity”. There would be no brief, no corporate design manual and no reference to Google’s Silicon Valley HQ.“Usually you start with the client giving you tonnes of paper, but this job was different because there was no brief and no research on other Google offices,” says Camenzind.The process started with a questionnaire of all employees, with some very searching questions about what makes them the person they are. The psychologist then conducted interviews and workshops to hone those values down and make them representative.The studies found that the majority of Google’s staff particularly relate to visual things. And at least the Zooglers do not take themselves too seriously – the resultant spaces are playful and fun, including a slide from the upper floors that directs starving Zooglers directly to the staff restaurant. Each of the seven floors is themed by a colour and concept, such as the blue floor in which you can immerse yourself in the rarefied subterranean world of the life aquatic, or the green floor in which you can commune with nature. If you want to be a beach bum you can go to the yellow floor, or if you want to generate the intensity of metropolitan life you can go to the city floor, complete with its yellow cab meeting rooms.The diverse spaces are suited to different moods. For example, the aquarium emits a diaphanous blue light that makes it a good place to meditate, and Zooglers can recline in baths full of foam cubes in front of the fish for just that purpose. It is a good place to de-stress before or after an intense meeting, says Graf. “Many staff stay late into the evening because of the need to video conference with Googlers in California, and the aquarium is a good place to relax between the two phases of your day.”If there is a theme that harmonises the spaces, it is that wherever you are in the building, even the staff restaurant or the games room, a bright idea should never be far away. As a result, there are whiteboards everywhere inviting an idea to be scribbled down before it gets lost in the ether.The many meeting areas facilitate the huge amount of video conferencing that needs to take place in a global organisation like Google, but they also give a complex building some clear points of reference. And it is hoped that by having so many spaces to choose from according to your mood will see different groups of Zooglers mix together and not be ghettoised in a certain part of the building. “During the workshops we realised that people did not view Google so much as one huge company but a series of different groups,” says Camenzind. “They feel more connected to their group than Google.“The company is growing very fast in Zurich [Google expects to double the amount of staff there] and there is a concern that people will never see each other,” he adds. “So we hope they will walk through other areas to get to the communal area of their choice and not just go to the nearest place to have coffee.”The dreamscapes are bulging out of the 12,000sq m building, and in order to enjoy them the Zooglers have had to make some sacrifices when it comes to their actual office spaces – which, at 16sq m per person, have been squeezed much tighter than in Google’s old Zurich office. Not that they mind – when they are sitting at their desks applying all that newly flowered creativity, they want to be somewhere that is neutral and not distracting. On average, a Zoogler moves workspace twice a year within the building anyway, so they do not get too attached to their workstations.The project budget has not been released, but Camenzind insists it was relatively low compared to other major buildings for a multinational company. “Google is not a big spender, but it does put money where it matters. Most of the office furniture supplied by Vitra is simple with no fancy stuff.”In much of the building, the concrete walls are left exposed and many of the meeting rooms are furnished by Ikea. The glass walls that partition the enclosed offices for up to six people are merely functional, but good acoustically.
All the furniture in the old-style library is secondhand and furnishing the whole room cost just £2,300. The upturned boat stuffed with cushions was bought secondhand and was cheaper than buying a sofa in Ikea, says Camenzind.The open-plan office areas can be easily moved at any time. The desks have an integral up-lighting system so when the desks move so does the light, and the lighting requirement can be limited to just 14 watts per square metre. Turning Zoogle dreams in to reality may not be free but it hasn’t cost the earth either.
The first time I visited KesselsKramer’s office in Hoxton, the only people actually working were the cocktail waiters. There they were, tirelessly making martini after martini behind the makeshift bar at the Dutch communications agency’s launch party of its new London venture one Friday night. It was thronging with liggers from the architecture and advertising worlds, intent on making the most of the free booze, trying to grab a carton of mini-burger and chips, and generally starting the weekend as they meant to go on. In the thick of the action were several members of the FAT team, which was responsible for the interior of what has been dubbed the “KK Outlet”. Project architect Tomas Klassnik says: “The design is about how they want to use the space. They had quite special, multi-purpose needs. It had to work as a gallery and a shop, as well as being a workplace.”Having seen for myself how it works for events, I can readily imagine the work of artists, designers and photographers hanging on the walls in one half of the space. Erik Kessels, creative director at KesselsKramer, explains the retail function at the front: “We publish a lot of books and make a lot of products, so we thought we would make a shop, together with an office.” Customers can even pop in on a Saturday. As the blurb for KK Outlet emphasises: “The ‘we’re open’ sign is on the door, the shop shelves are stocked and the coffee is brewing. Drop by.” By encouraging the public to come in, KesselsKramer wants to encourage a sense of openness in the office.This is counterbalanced by the other half of the project. Behind a full-length plywood wall, various rooms are arranged consecutively. It is here where the creative workforce can gain inspiration – be that on the chaise longue behind the timber curtains in the decadently vermilion kitchen, or sitting on the steps in the timber-lined warehouse. “Nowadays, more of us work from everywhere, so although it is an office, it doesn’t look like an office,” says Kessels.From within the wall, an elevation of a factory mounted on industrial castors can swing out to subdivide the space further. “The staff can lock themselves into this piece,” says Klassnik. “The idea of closing off this space means items such as computers can be locked away.”Kessels adds: “The idea FAT came up with was to cut through the space, and this dissection really helped us to use it in a hybrid way.”At the moment, only four staff are based permanently at the KK Outlet, although this can be expanded as the business grows. “The mobile furniture elements are pieces associated with the different areas,” says Klassnik. “There is a section of kitchen unit, which is like a hot-desking worktop, and the same goes for each of the zones.” In terms of materials, it is far more rough and ready than the typical slick ad agency joint. There is no clash of wacky materials on the reception desk – indeed, there doesn’t appear to be one – while the glass frontage is less full-height flagship and more suggestive of going into a sweet shop or a second-hand bookseller, albeit one that can afford the rent in Hoxton Square. The rubber in the kitchen and the tiles in the shop area have a definite aesthetic appeal, but the timber used for the wall looks quite basic, to say the least. By way of explanation, it is meant to represent the concept of the activities and ethos of KesselsKramer in Holland being crated up and shipped over to east London. It is no coincidence then to learn that FAT was responsible for the design of KesselsKramer’s Amsterdam HQ a decade ago. There, an unused church interior was transformed into different levels to provide workstations, platforms, chill-out areas, a library and TV room using an eclectic mix of picnic tables, hedges, fences and items from flea markets for added idiosyncrasy. “We sometimes work for them, they work for us – we’re on one level,” says Kessels. “There was one design, we talked about it, some changes were made and we went into production.” Such geniality makes me tempted to pay a return visit soon – get your cocktail-shakers ready, guys.
Specified by interior designer Liz Bromley Smith, the offices at Nottingham County Councils new headquarters have had an assortment of Desso’s design-led carpet tiles installed. The new build offices have been created to provide the council staff with a central place of work, bringing different departments closer together – integrated to refl ect the different areas throughout the offi ces and the activities taking place. Libra Lines, Structura, Stratos, Menda and Protect carpet tiles/floorcoverings were all selected for the new three-storey office building, designed by Nottingham County Council architect Peter Johnson Marshall.