“The reception smells of leather and coffee, and there is that real hotel feel about the place,” says Simon Millington, head of interiors at HKR Manchester. This part of the project best epitomises what the architects describe as a high design approach to the materials used. The bespoke reception desk is clad in black leather and covered by a curved ceiling canopy in the same material, hence that distinctive smell. This sits alongside custom-made white lacquered cabinets that conceal a plasma screen, while translucent glass doors slide back to reveal a kitchen plus printing and copying facilities.
The flooring here is a mix of honed and riven slate, with integral light fittings. Elsewhere, the lighting is deployed to highlight the features in the reception, to add a sense of theatre as an introduction to the workplace. On this floor, there are also meeting rooms, visible behind curved glass doors, and a lounge area, separated from the rest of the space by coloured, laminated glass screens. To underpin this, a full concierge service, managing the building and providing secretarial support, is available to companies based in the building, again replicating a concept from the hospitality sector.
MyBüro’s own branding is deliberately kept to a subtle minimum to create the impression of a stylish workplace more usually reserved for much larger corporate clients. As Millington points out, in terms of both design and organisation: “These occupiers want the same quality as any other office fit out and it has to be just as flexible.” Alternations to the base build of this three-storey, newly built town centre building have been specifically made with these small businesses in mind, typically media firms or small chambers of barristers. Each floor plate has been divided up to offer premises from about 30sq m to 150sq m, to allow for growth and expansion. The suites have been offered for freehold sale. “It is an asset that grows with you as you grow your business,” says Millington.
Nikal’s managing director, Nick Payne, says: “For many years, small businesses have been faced with a similar challenge to first-time homebuyers. A lack of available and affordable quality accommodation has left many with the prospect of long-term leases, when buying their own accommodation would represent a better investment.
MyBüro has the added advantage for business people in that it is also a pension-qualifying property investment.”
Connectivity between the occupants was also a vital component to this workplace, whether that’s making a cup of coffee in the shared kitchens, which, continuing the theme of high-quality finishes, comprise bespoke corian and black lacquered doors with floors of white composite marble tiles, or socialising at the communal bench seating. You might even bump into a neighbour in one of the bathrooms, with their flocked wallpaper, customised vinyl graphics and white-backed painted glass.
“The culture of MyBüro is to mix with other businesses, so they can give each other business and gain value from networking,” says Millington.
The green qualities of this building are not limited to the chlorophyll accent colours either. The floor plates have good natural light and no desk is further than seven metres from a window, all of which can open. Each suite also features its own temperature e-controls.
Outside the offices, the grounds are landscaped, with the existing trees maintained, and externally lit stone pathways not only improve the nearby public realm, but also create a good impression before any visitors have even stepped through the full-height doorway.
“We chose Altrincham as the site for piloting the concept before rolling it out nationally because of the wealth of thriving small businesses in the area,” says Payne. No doubt the market town’s accessibility from Manchester by road, as well as national rail links, helped Nikal reach a decision. Plans are already in the pipeline to replicate the MyBüro concept in a handful of other prime city-centre locations in the north west and on the south coast of England.
The plushness of the finish is not just for those visiting the offices, but also to help lift the spirits of those working there on a daily basis. As Millington says: “The original working title for this project was work sweet work – the idea that when you go to work, you love your desk and your desks loves you. That sense of making your working day a lot better.”