The Albion, designed by Conran, brings a touch of 50s England to the East End. Comprising of a shop selling traditional English fare and a “caff”, it serves coffee in red enamelled coffee pots and tea in brown tea pots complete with cosy.
In a more and more image conscious society, the workspace has become a space to promote the company’s essence to its employees and clients. The advent of shows such as Grand Designs means that good design is now something that the general public is aware of and demands. People have started to expect a general level of quality in the spaces that surround them, and this extends to the workplace. Given a choice, everyone would prefer to work in an inspiring environment and this is a fact that employers have had to recognise, designing their offices in order to attract and retain employees.
This is not a new idea – the Hoover Building, completed in 1932 by architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners and the Van Nelle factory (1930) by Johannes Brinkman are examples of great design used to attract workers in a time of shortage of labour, as well as promote their image as an industrial power to passing trade. Used not only as a functional workspace, they also become massive monuments to the brand, projecting an image of wealth and prosperity. A recently completed cactus factory in Bleiswijk, Ovata, by Studio Leon Thier, harks back to this age of industrialism, incorporating the Ovata leaf print into the structure of the building, giving it a decorative feature whilst subtly branding it.
Red Bull’s London offices include a slide, literally incorporating the company association with adrenalin into the building design. Jump Studio’s design used the site’s rooftop glass extension to its full potential by using this as the reception area, accessible by lift, and then cutting through the building to create a series of vertiginous views. Their brief was to encourage interaction between employees, something that the dynamic interior clearly promotes.
Another Jump Studio project, Wieden+Kennedy’s Shoreditch office also uses the space to encapsulate the company’s values, but in a more passive way. The building was opened up to create a gallery-like showcase of the advertising agency’s work and culture. Eye-catching graphics on the car parking spaces give the normally mundane yellow lines a refreshing lift.
Village Underground’s offices take their environmental consciousness to a new level, creating offices from disused tube carriages that were then hoisted on to the top of a building on Great Eastern Street.
They are not only 100% recycled, but also powered by green energy, still retaining the original push button door opening system of the 1983 Jubilee line carriages. Designed by Auro Foxcroft, who was inspired by a trip on an old mountain train in Switzerland, the seating has been stripped out and partitioned desk areas now face the windows. He now hires the offices out to various creative organisations. The graffittied carriages perched above London’s media centre have become so desirable that there is already a waiting list.
Alex Haw’s design for a temporary workspace looks at ways the body uses a given working environment, and expands its use by catering for multiple body positions, ranging from vertical to horizontal. This reassessment of the way the workspace is used is perhaps the start of a future reconfiguration of the idea of the office. Haw talks about the social value of the workspace, the moments of inspiration that arise out of physical proximity that might be lost in a more virtual way of working. Still, the possibilities of virtual communication cannot be ignored, and workspaces may become more of a space of expression of the brand ethics, an ideal, conceptual meeting place, such as Another.com’s offices, designed by Nowicka Stern, which feature a “meeting room” lawn that is watered from underneath with ultraviolet light providing daylight conditions.
However the workspace may develop, it is always designers who will push it into becoming a more relevant and useful tool as ways of working change.
Article by B3 Designers