As if you hadn’t already guessed, this workplace is an advertising agency. And if you hadn’t, there’d certainly be no mistaking the nature of their business the moment you enter their revamped offices, just off Oxford Street. “The original brief was about their brand and the way they worked,” begins Vyshali Sardesai, associate with workplace designers BDGworkfutures. “Before it didn’t really reflect the way they were viewed by their clients.” Christian Clark, Joshua G2’s executive creative director, agrees: “The external perception was important, we couldn’t have anything too corporate. The other core perception is how people who work here felt.”
The theme of “the wall” that inspired much of the design is manifest is a variety of guises. A vertical structure running across the space helped to create a sense of continuity and points of interaction, which the existing floorplate didn’t naturally lend itself to, Sardesai explains as we walk around the project. The surfaces that make up the wall vary enormously, from the plastic curtains more usually associated with a visit to the butchers through to anti-graffiti paint, the coloured partitioning of the meeting rooms and some pivoting panels, ensuring that the wall doesn’t become a barrier.
The wall is inspired by the client’s way of brainstorming on practically every available surface, and the initial consultations with staff to further BDG’s concepts entailed covering a very large sheet of brown paper with ideas and suggestions. Now, as we tour the office with the project nearing completion, it’s clear the wall also enables the client to gain further inspiration – a kind of perpetual motion of creativity if you like. “It has completely improved that process where people are communicating,” says Sardesai, “whether that’s on a working or social level, and that is one of the main aims.”
“They are very creative people and not just within the workplace,” Davey continues. “A lot of them do amazing things outside of work.” And so, as well as regularly displaying pieces from artists outside the firm, there is also some gallery space dedicated for staff to show off their talents – the time I visited this happened to be some highly detailed, if a little bit scary, portraiture.
The reception is a more conservative affair – cool and stylised without being intimidating, mixing the sterile white of the resin floor with more muted shades of charcoal and reclaimed timber on the reception desk. The vertical strip lighting on one wall is designed to resemble the structure underneath advertising hoardings used on bus stops, part of the sense of “the street” that BDG wanted to achieve. Sardesai explains, “We wanted to reflect that sense of the journey into work – where the creatives are always absorbing things and often get inspired – but within the office. We also wanted to open up the space and make it more social.”
The reception leads into the cafe area, which is dominated by a large wooden table, the timber of which once served as the flooring in a Tate & Lyle sugar factory. From early in the morning when the staff are having their breakfast right up to the end of the day, this area is put through its paces as staff gather for informal chats, presentations and even recreating what facilities manager Sarah Davey calls “Nescafe moments” – where staff try to understand just what embodies the instant coffee brand, which is just one of the household names the agency works with. Others include Swatch – I spy a six-foot high watch on one wall – plus the likes of AOL, Help the Aged and the London Eye. BDG was on site for three months, “and probably another three months’ worth of discussions before that,” says Sardesai. “We built around them, and the project was very challenging in that way, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.”
While some workplaces really only pay lip service to the idea of breaking out, at Joshua G2 it’s an integral part of the way they work. “We didn’t want a straight ‘work’ space here,” Sardesai explains as we pass a small library space that, along with the large lampshades at some of the workstations, achieves a domestic feel. Yes, they have beanbags too, but let’s not judge them too harshly for that – they are rather lovely ones from Fatboy. There are also “You Tube” pods where employees can check the firm’s intranet site The Sponge, plus quieter desks, cafe chairs and tables aplenty, meaning there’s always somewhere to escape one’s desk. Some of the softer seating areas use furniture the company already had in place, and this was part of the plan BDG and Joshua G2 worked together on, to mix existing pieces and specify new items such as the Ahrend desks in the studio, which made both environmental and economic sense. The greenness doesn’t stop there. Cycling to work is encouraged via showers that actually resemble something you might have at home, as opposed to something more commonly associated with a grim municipal leisure centre. The washbasin surface, like that of the top of the reception desk, is made from a material derived from recycled polystyrene cups. The lifts meanwhile have been decommissioned – “it’s only a few flights of stairs: tighter bums for everyone!” went BDG’s mantra – and printing points have been centralised. “They already had initiatives like recycling,” adds Sardesai. “We just pushed them a bit further in terms of sustainability.”
In addition to the open-plan areas, there are also meeting rooms and some cellular environments. As we pass one room with a presentation in progress, Davey explains that “clients really like coming in and using the space now”. Even in this more formal space, playful elements have been added, such as the illuminating table. “And why the moose on the wall?” the client asked at one point during the design process. “Just trust me on this one,” Sardesai had said. She’s right – the moose is great.