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23 Mar 2018

Scandi Noir: AKQA's new workspace designed by Amos and Amos

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Dark timber that echoes traditional Swedish architecture sets the tone for global digital agency AKQA’s open-plan HQ, designed in a former Gothenburg warehouse by Amos and Amos

AKQA, an international agency that specialises in digital services, experiences and products, has opened the doors to its first Scandinavian location. 

The building, a former shipbuilding warehouse in Gothenburg, Sweden, was designed by London design practice Amos and Amos and spans over 1,100sq m – a spacious and beautifully collaborative workspace with open-plan construction at its core.

Centre of technology and innovation

Gothenburg has established itself as a centre for research, technology and innovation, and is home to many of Sweden’s leading brands, such as Volvo, Ericsson and Semcom. It’s a city that’s constantly reinventing itself while continuing to celebrate its past; the dockside setting holds a vast amount of old brick warehouse structures and an eclectic mix of historic buildings and contemporary design, including the Lipstick, an 83m tall postmodern skyscraper by Ralph Erskine, and the Feskekôrka, a gothic-style seafood market known as the Fish Church, to name a few. 

onoffice akqa 2Photography by Alexander Gårdenberg

AKQA has offices worldwide and the interior architects at Amos and Amos wanted the latest office to make sure that the outcome felt rooted within its Scandinavian setting. References from traditional Swedish architecture – in particular, the cladding found on Gothenburg’s buildings – led the project and striking elements are juxtaposed with smooth, minimalist materials. A 30m wide black timber clad bulkhead, for example, defines and runs along the back wall and is accompanied by textured, rich and deeply coloured furnishings – and this is only a fraction of what’s to offer inside.

“Our design was inspired in the first instance by the dockside location of the building and its history,” says Jaki Amos, one half of the husband-and-wife duo from Amos and Amos. “Retaining the factory-like feel of the space was extremely important, while ensuring that it worked as a fully functional and practical office.”

Scandinavian architecture, design and materiality

“Secondly, we were very much guided by Scandinavian architecture, design and materiality, but also by the lifestyle. It quickly became apparent that Swedish company culture is very social, with ping-pong games played during breaks and meals eaten together in a communal space. Creating an opportunity for these activities to take place in a well-designed environment was paramount.”

AKQA’s work lies within creating brand experience for Volvo Cars, a “creepy ad” to promote Season 3 of satirical sci-fi series Black Mirror for Netflix, and even a virtual tree app, titled Tree of Lights, that lets you harness augmented reality to generate a unique Christmas tree in any space. Amos and Amos previously collaborated with the agency for a few temporary spaces in London, before designing its headquarters in Clerkenwell. 

Photography by Alexander Gårdenberg

The brief for the Gothenburg project circled around designing a place to co-host clients for several days a week, meaning that “a unique identity and unparalleled level of attention to detail” was vital for the new location, says Amos. 

A variety of working styles

The space’s proportions were carefully considered. This led to a structurally open environment that gives a firm nod to its warehouse predecessor, as well as embracing the social aspect of Swedish working culture. “Its proportions are vast and imposing from the moment you enter. Dividing it into smaller areas would have undoubtedly lessened the impact of this monumental space,” explains Amos. 

However, having already created the company’s London office, Amos and Amos was aware of the need for flexible working and for an option that could accommodate a variety of working styles. 

onoffice aqka 4Photography by Alexander Gårdenberg

The team re-evaluated the floorplate in a “geometric” and “rational” way, in order to retain diversity within the workplace layout. While keeping in line with the necessary large proportions in the main space, they created a variety of independent zones, including meeting rooms behind a Crittall glass screen, client zones, work zones, conference rooms, breakout spaces and areas to socialise.

Minimalist, clean and contemporary

The interior features furniture pieces and lighting sourced from a variety of Scandinavian brands, which Amos characterises as “a very minimalist, clean and contemporary approach with a limited material palette”. The main central hub, for instance, is equipped with communal benches finished in a white oiled oak and black powder-coated base – enhancing the Scandi influence with minimalist hues. 

Additionally, there are many contemporary pieces scattered throughout, with black marble coffee tables by Handvark, black metal and concrete floor lamps by Nor11, Hans Wegner’s Wishbone chairs in a natural soaped ash shade and Ercol’s nesting tables in black stained oak. Amos explains how AKQA prides itself on using vastly differing office interiors across the globe – the Gothenburg office being its 23rd – so they needed to match the level of detail applied to previous projects while keeping in line with the company’s identity. 

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