A row of skylights offering extensive views of London’s skyline influenced ODOS Architects’ design for Slack’s first UK offices, the creator of the workplace messaging system by the same name. Slack’s London office is located on the top two floors of the former BBC Radio 1 broadcasting building on Great Portland Street, and is the company’s second European base.
The San Francisco-based company opened its first European office in Dublin in 2015, but relocated to a bigger space earlier this year in the capital. ODOS Architects, which has offices in London, Dublin and New York, also designed this space for the company.
For Slack’s new offices, which span 540 square metres, the architects chose a largely monochrome colour palette that reflects the company’s desired aesthetic: “mature and timeless”.
An pale oiled oak floor laid in a herringbone pattern is offset by black-stained timber and dark leather upholstery. Planting set between rows of rooflights spills from the upper to lower floors, adding an accent of colour to the workspace.
The rooflights are surrounded by protruding black frames that offer seating nooks offering office workers views of the London skyline, and form what the architects call “eyes to the city”. “We lined the portals so as to reflect and extend the view of the London rooftop horizon and capture the movement of passing clouds, planes and the city’s birdlife,” explained the architects.
“This intervention as with many others in the space serves to create inspiring work spaces and opportunities for social interaction.”
In contrast to the brightly and naturally lit offices, an ominous black corridor is illuminated by harsh strip lighting arranged to create a gridded pattern.
“This is a space of contrasts,” said architects. “An all-black and highly reflective gallery space with perimeter light bands serves to create a space with a somewhat otherworldly quality and one which contrasts and compliments the brighter spaces at either end.”
Slack branding is kept minimal, with one company logo lettered in a semi-transparent grey by a skylight, and another in solid white on the reception. Launched in 2013 by Flikr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, Slack was set up to offer a digital workspace where employees can communicate with each other. The company has seen a rapid expansion, with new offices opening in Manhattan and Dublin this year, in addition to London.
The office of tech company Geckoboard oozes Shoreditch cool. Its huge windows mean the top floor space is light and airy, with a design-led fit out that makes it a space that you just want to hang out in. It’s an ideal space for a growing company like Geckoboard, which provides an online dashboard displaying a business’s key metrics in real time.
Kontor helped Geckoboard to find the space earlier this year, which is sub-let from food brand Hello Fresh. We talk to CEO and Co-founder Paul Joyce about his search for the perfect office.
What’s the background to Geckoboard?
I had the idea for the business in March 2010 while I was working in financial tech. I initially started the business in my spare room, but soon I was spending so much time on it that I left my job and started to run the business full time.
In October 2011 I took three desks in a shared space. We were there for six months until I closed a funding round and we found our first own space.
In 2015 we doubled staff numbers, added more in 2016 and will add more in 2017. Now we’re close to 40 people; we had three job offers accepted this week so we’re growing fast. Most of the team work in London, but we have remote staff members all over the world to provide support, for example in Mumbai, Seattle, Hawaii.
Why did you start looking for a new office last year?
We were outgrowing our office, although we had also taken the office next door. We had already reduced desk sizes to make better use of the existing space – they were big to begin with though!
It was also a very cheap office; it was a badly maintained block, leaking ceiling, mice, security problems. It was perfect for what we needed when we took it, but the company had matured and we wanted an office that reflected that. We don’t have clients come to visit so that wasn’t a priority, but we wanted a space that was comfortable for employees.
My business philosophy is not to spend money that we can’t afford, but we have grown revenues to the point that we could afford a better office.
What were your main criteria for a new office?
We needed room to grow even more. We didn’t want to feel cramped again quickly.
The other pinch point was that we needed more meeting space. Before, we only had one meeting room. Here, we have three great meeting rooms and also access to the theatre and spaces in the rest of the building.
We didn’t want to change the location of the office. People come to work from all over the place and they’d signed up to travel to this area. It’s also a great area to be in.
Sub-letting from another company is a cross between a managed space and your own lease; what were you looking for?
We were open minded about the type of lease, but wanted to commit to at least three years. It gives us the ability to plan our future without the worry of having to move again, but it’s not too long as we know we’re going to grow. We can fit more people in here easily so it’ll be ideal for a while yet.
Hello Fresh organise a lot of the maintenance and so on, so it’s almost a managed space, but we brought our own furniture to make it our own.
Why did you speak to Kontor?
It’s daunting finding a new place, particularly if it’s not your core competency. It made sense for us to partner with someone who knows the lie of the land.
With Kontor we had an initial consultation about what we were looking for, such as area, type of space, and Jack came up with a list of proposals. We were looking in an area that stretched from Liverpool Street to Clerkenwell and Kings Cross, so we looked at more than a dozen places in two days. They were great at showing different options.
Why did you choose this space?
As soon as we came out of the lift, I said “sold”. This is it. It’s so light, it’s comfortable, there’s room to grow and excellent meeting rooms that we sound-proofed ourselves.
Finding the right space is important for recruitment. If you want people to spend time in the office it has to be a comfortable environment. We’ve never been a battery farm aiming to get the most out of people, but we want people to enjoy being here.
Now you’re settled in your new space, what’s ahead for Geckoboard?
We grow when there’s revenue to grow, which is fast at the moment, so we’re only going to get bigger and more established.
A hammock suspended in midair and tables with integrated storage systems are some of the space-saving details that Colombo and Serboli Architecture have added inside this series of low-budget community co-working spaces in Barcelona.
Colombo and Serboli Architecture, also known as CaSA, was asked to transform five unused commercial properties in Baró de Viver, an area of the Spanish city with a high rate of unemployment. The aim was to create workspaces for local entrepreneurs. The budget was very tight, so the architects developed a series of versatile furniture designs able to suit various activities.
“We had to translate the laudable target of the initiative into space, transforming five never-used, neglected, bricked and empty premises on the ground floor of social-housing blocks into attractive, vibrant workspaces where small companies would want to set up their offices,” said the team.
“The project had to make the most of the spaces, give visibility of the co-working to the neighbourhood, communicate openness, and keep content safe in an area with security problems.”
Two of the five spaces are positioned next to one another, so were joined together. This created enough extra space to provide a kitchen, but not enough for a lounge space – so CaSA instead decided to make one that was raised up in the air. They built a simple steel frame and wrapped netting over it, creating an elevated hammock. It is accessed via a simple staircase, made by folding up a single sheet of perforated metal.
“One can contemplate the trees outside whilst hanging there,” said the team.
Each of the workspaces has its own distinctive colour, which is applied around the base of the walls, and also features on round acoustic panels that hang from the ceilings. This helps to give each all five spaces their own identity, but also ties them together. Work surfaces are provided by trapezoid-shaped (as well as rectangular) tables, designed to suit different configurations. These feature gridded metal backdrops, so people can attach papers and plants to them, but they don’t block views.
Modular LED lighting systems attach to the legs of these desks, and can adjusted to face in different directions. These are joined by chairs and small tables provided by furniture brand Kettal, including the Jasper Morrison-designed Village chairs.
Other details were kept as they were, including the concrete columns and exposed ceilings – although mesh shutters were added for security.
Called Sinèrgics, the spaces are now used for a variety of different occupations, from bicycle repair to textile design.
Tugboats drift by, planes swoop above, shiny new towers tower above old bridges; the view from iZettle’s riverside office is an impressive example of what a London workspace can offer. The Swedish tech company, that’s commerce tools have transformed accepting payments and managing point-of-sale for small businesses, moved into its new office in June.
Kontor pushed iZettle’s boundaries to find the growing team their perfect space to grow. We quiz Andy Forsyth, global sales operations manager, about the process.
IZettle is a global company; how many staff do you have?
IZettle employs close to 500 people worldwide. Our headquarters are in Stockholm and we have offices in Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Mexico and London. The UK arm of the business was founded in 2012.
Where did you start in London?
In 2012 in a serviced office about the size of this rug for eight people! Then in 2013 we moved into our first own space, an office for 16 people in Victoria. We wanted our own lease so we could fully control the space. The company is very driven by brand and culture, so we needed to have a space with our own identity right down to how every part looks, the products we use and so on.
Why did you decide to move?
We needed more space. We’re now 37 people, but briefly we were still in a space for 16 people. I haven’t had a chair since November! We can go up to 60 in this space, and we’ll probably get there.
What were you looking for?
We came from an office with a fantastic view and light, so we wanted to maintain that, which I think we’ve achieved! We have people coming from all over the place, so we needed to be as accessible.
In fact, this isn’t the most logical location for us. A lot of people come from south west London which isn’t straightforward, but when we saw the space, the potential overruled the logic. I didn’t think this location would work at all – when Gavin set up the initial meeting I didn’t bother to go. But then Nina (who is on maternity leave) called and said ‘you’ve missed out’, so I had a look. Within a week we were negotiating heads of terms.
What was the space like when you arrived?
The main benefit of taking our own lease is that we were given a blank canvas. Of course, it’s inevitably not completely blank as buildings have their limitations such as where the meeting rooms needed to be to work with the space, but we can control the space completely.
For fit out, we tendered to four different design companies. We wanted to work with a designer who could see that their initial design might not be right first time. We wanted a very open conversation and to collaborate on all decisions.
Why did you decide to work with an agency such as Kontor?
There is a group of four or five of us who helped to manage this move to the new office space. As you can see from our job titles – sales lead, partner manager and so on – the search was on top of already busy jobs. So it meant we were in need of some support and help from someone who knew what they were doing with this process and could help to limit the impact on our normal jobs and areas of responsibilities.
Kontor are great. We were looking for someone who could understand the brief and our limitations, but could find interesting spaces that challenged the brief. Gavin quickly found three spaces that all fitted the bill – but they all pushed our boundaries as well. We would never have looked at this office without the encouragement of Kontor, and that conversation has ended up with us sitting here now.
What’s the best thing about this office?
Sitting here, looking out over the river. I have breakfast here every morning and it’s constantly changing, buildings going up, boats passing by. Sitting and staring out for just five or ten minutes is a very relaxing break.
What advice would you give to another business searching for space?
Avoid being too narrow minded. I chose not to come to the first viewing here because I thought it was a waste of my time. What you have in mind might not be what you want. Also, when we looked at this space it had a raised metal floor and was totally white, so use your imagination.
What’s next for iZettle?
We’ve just come out of a period of swift growth in the number of people in the UK team – this time last year we were less than 10 people in London. So now is a time of stabilisation and integration. The Edinburgh office only opened about two weeks before this one. Now we’re here, this space is brilliant and we want to maximise it over several years to come.
Architecture and engineering studio Interrobang has fitted out its east London office with freestanding plywood furniture units, painted in the same pastel hues as insulating foam typically concealed within a building’s walls.
When Interrobang moved into the space on the first floor of a five-storey 1970s office block in 2016, it was completely empty and had no kitchen or meeting room.
The studio designed a series of freestanding furniture units that are used to compartmentalise the office, creating these essential spaces, as well as a reception, IT room and various breakout areas.
“Our aim was to create a working environment that would encourage communication and collaboration,” Interrobang co-founder Maria Smith told Dezeen.
“The office is organised around two large tables – one pink, one green – where we come together for everything from design workshops to curry Thursdays,” said Sith.
“We then defined the other spaces by colour, with a pink meeting room, green kitchen, blue library, and yellow printer bar.”
Interrobang chose to use spruce plywood, not only for its affordability, but because it could be used to create precisely detailed furniture using computer-controlled cutting and assembly techniques.
The freestanding walls can be removed in the future without damaging the building fabric in any way.
Each of the hues chosen for the painted surfaces is borrowed from a specific type of insulating product. For example, Kooltherm Pink is used for the reception, IT room and meeting room.
The Appboy workspace has an excellent feel to it; it’s cool, lofty and airy, but functional. As soon as you step out of the lift you’re greeted by the brand’s logo in black and white on the wall and a hive of activity beneath it.
Appboy is a booming mobile marketing company founded in New York, which sells software to manage interactions with customers via mobiles. The tools are used by a wide range of high-profile firms including Tinder, Domino’s and SoundCloud.
In February, Kontor helped Appboy to secure its first London office in a Business Cube managed space in Shoreditch. We quiz Dan Head, the firm’s SVP Sales, about the search for space.
When did Appboy come to London?
Appboy was launched in New York in 2011 and we opened an office in London in January 2016, which is when I came on board. We hired a handful of people and got a space in a co-working space.
What was the main benefit to starting in a co-working space?
Co-working spaces are great for a rapidly growing small team, it’s great for recruitment; if you were four people in your own office it would feel a bit soulless to a potential employee.
But once you reach a certain size – for us it was a dozen people – you need to own your brand. Every company in a co-working space exists under the brand of that space, but we wanted to hold conversations with clients in our own space under our own brand.
How did you start your search for a workspace?
I had lots of different property agencies calling me offering space, chucking spaces at us, but they didn’t understand the culture or vibe I was looking for in a workspace. Then we spoke to Kontor and the options they put on the table were all the kinds of spaces we wanted. Sam showed me the different flexible solutions for a two-year timeframe that would take the sting out of finding a space.
Kontor were great. People buy from people and Sam paid attention to what the company we are trying to grow would be like, the chemistry we were after in the space.
Did you have a fixed location in mind?
No, we had quite a wide area to look in, from Fitzrovia across to Shoreditch and down to the Southbank. Sam showed us 15 spaces and we shortlisted three.
Why did you choose this workspace?
I liked that it was newly fitted out, it was immaculate when we moved in. It’s not just a rectangular box; it has a nice vibe because it’s not a regular space. The balcony is excellent, as well as the space for phone booths and a meeting room. I really like the building itself; there are only five or six other companies in here so it’s not too busy.
The location is ideal on Worship Street. It’s not grimy Shoreditch, but it’s not a suited and booted city office. It’s a bit of both so it’s perfect for making a statement about how Appboy has grown up.
What’s the main benefit to taking a managed space?
We still have to have an office manager to sort the space, buy food, organise meeting rooms and so on, but if it wasn’t managed we would also have to handle costs of cleaning, maintenance and so on. That’s a level of noise that a company of our size doesn’t need.
Do you have plans to grow into the space?
We’re 22 at the moment and this office will hold up to 35. By the end of the year we’ll be 25 or 26 people; next year we’ll climb into the 30s. This space can scale with that. At the moment everyone has the luxury of a lot of space so we’ll be a bit cosier, but we have lots of sales people who will be on the road a lot of the time. People can rotate desks.
What’s the future of Appboy looking like?
The market we are in is so dynamic that we’re consistently releasing new features and growing the team and our client roster as the demand for the Appboy product continues to grow. We are always looking ahead, and it’s looking quite bright.
Two years after inviting Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick to design its new London campus, Google has submitted a planning application for a building featuring a huge rooftop garden, a running track and a swimming pool.
Google submitted an application to Camden Council this week for a 93,000-square-metre structure – one of three buildings that will form a campus for up to 7,000 of the company’s employees at King’s Cross.
Ingels’ firm BIG and Heatherwick Studio are collaborating on the project. The studios, which are also working on Google’s new California campus, were drafted in to replace the previous scheme by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.
Their proposed design is for a large structure, known as the Zone A Building, that will rise in height from seven to 11 storeys.
Its key feature will be its expansive roof garden, which will span the length of the building. As well as landscaped terraces, it will feature a “trim track” where staff can keep in shape.
Other amenities will include an events centre, a swimming pool, a sports court, a gym and a number of cafes. The building will also accommodate shops at ground level.
Zalando hired Interior Architects Fyra for new offices that have been dubbed “the coolest tech hub in Helsinki.” The offices offer plenty of places to work as a group, or if the employees would rather have some quiet to concentrate, there’s space for that as well. Besides workstations, they incorporated lots of fun elements that would make it easy to roll out of bed in the morning knowing you were spending the day here.
Overall, Zalando wanted a raw industrial look with a color palette pulled from the brand’s colors. They jumped on the office when the space opened up in central Helsinki knowing it had lots of possibilities for the brand to grow, work, hold events, and just hang out.
They divided the office into two spaces – one with a double-height ceiling that was open and perfect for hanging out, and the other area more quiet for working. The open space allows games of pool and foosball, chatting with colleagues, and spots for lunch, with a stadium style setup next to a staircase.
Shared offices company WeWork will almost double its space in London this year, as it launches a £1.2m award scheme to back UK start-ups.
Speaking ahead of today’s launch of the European part of the awards, founder Adam Neumann defended the pace of expansion of the New York-based business, insisting there was still high demand from both large and small companies.
WeWork is launching an award scheme for companies at three stages: those in “incubation” stage with a specific project needing research and development funding; those wanting to launch an existing business; and companies who want to scale up their activities.
They will be asked to pitch to a panel of judges at an event in London in September, before moving on to global finals in New York later this year.
The firm is awarding £16m globally, of which £1.2m will be allocated to UK businesses, and winners will receive prizes of between £36,000 and £360,000. The first event in Washington DC at the end of last month attracted more than 1,000 applicants.
Sinergia Co-working originally started as a real estate development project, with 32 offices and 4 rental meeting rooms. Just another operation inside a recycled space that in its history housed a carpentry, mechanical workshop, movie studio and warehouse.
The project seeks to maintain the aesthetics of the pre-existing building by using completely removable lightweight structures, made through metal beams and Structural Insulated Panels walls and by using a neutral colour palette (white and light grey), where the only colour is given by the coworkers, vegetation and furniture.
The main entrance of the building is through a garage door, that is highlighted by the logo of the company. The ground floor consists of a central yard that articulates offices with co-working spaces and meeting rooms. Smaller offices are distributed on the upper floor, together with a 3d printing workshop, flexible co-working spaces, living rooms and a photography studio.
In May 2016 Kontor helped booming healthy snacks vendor PROPERCORN to take its first lease and the space they chose really is amazing. The office stretches along Regent’s Canal near Angel, with huge windows looking over the water. It’s all about light, space and comfort.
We talk to Co-founder Ryan Kohn about the business’s search for a workspace.
Where did PROPERCORN start?
Cassandra and I launched the business five and a half years ago from my living room. Since then we’ve grown to 40 staff and now sell PROPERCORN in 12 countries, selling 3 million bags a month.
It was pretty hectic from the start. Our philosophy was just to sell, sell, sell as we weren’t going to get anywhere otherwise. We won our first order from Waitrose in the first six months and other supermarkets followed soon after. Our first customer was Google’s offices – at one point out of 48 snacks that they stock, PROPERCORN was the fastest moving. We really took that statistic and ran with it and quickly got into lots of major high street chains like Leon and Benugo.
How important was your workspace to the company as you grew?
Culture is extremely important in a company, but it’s all very well trying to build an empowering culture for staff if you’re stuck working in a basement somewhere. It’s just not going to develop. Everyone needs to enjoy the workspace and have a place to relax.
Even our first space in a managed office in Primrose Hill was small but had lots of natural light. Next we went to a space in Kings Cross which was also really light and all on one level like this workspace, which we like – it means there’s no hierarchy, no one has their own office. We’re all together.
Why did you choose this workspace?
We had already seen a few options but as soon as we walked in here we loved it. It’s unique, being able to look over the canal. There were lots of dividers from the previous occupants, but we saw the potential and opened it out. It was quite a complicated deal as Kontor had to find someone to buy the building so we could lease it, but worth it.
Kontor were brilliant; as soon as we were introduced to Luke and James we realised there was a great cultural fit. We wanted to work with other entrepreneurs. They were very attentive and came back to us quickly with options and so on. I used to run a property development firm so had a good idea of the process, but they were really useful to add context to the deal and advise on what was reasonable and what wasn’t.
As well as the right environment, did you have other criteria?
We wanted room to grow into and there’s plenty of space here, space for 90 people. We currently sub-let some space to companies that have taken desks for perhaps a year or longer, which subsidises the rent. It wasn’t easy to find tenants as we didn’t want just anybody; we wanted companies with a culture like ours, that complement what we’re doing.
Did you have a specific location in mind?
It needed to be accessible but we didn’t want to be on top of a tube station. We wanted people to eat all together rather than go out separately, so we have our own chef. We’re still only about ten minutes’ walk from the station and lots of the team live nearby.
What sort of fit out were you aiming for?
We didn’t want it to feel too much like an office, more like a living space. We also didn’t want it to just mimic Google or Twitter with beanbags everywhere. This is the ideal fit-out, comfortable but functional, a space we can live in.
The team love it. I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better location in London, especially in the summer when we can spill out onto the canal side.
What’s the benefit to having your own lease rather than being in a managed space?
For us it’s knowing that we aren’t going to have to move soon, that we’re here and settled. We’ve got space to grow into so we’re happy to be here.
What advice would you give to another growing company looking to sign a lease?
Pick your battles. Think about the key points you want to achieve and what you would concede on. It’s all a negotiation.
What’s next for PROPERCORN?
Our aim is to be Europe’s most loved snack brand, so we’ve got some way to go. We’ve launched in Germany recently and that’s going really well. For us Europe is a huge opportunity, so we’ve got a lot to go for.
Architecture continually evolves to meet societal demands. Recently, a global effort to tackle climate change, and to achieve optimum energy efficiency in buildings, has brought standards such as BREEAM and LEED to the fore. However, as scientific analysis and awareness of human mental health has increased, architects are once again required to place humans at the centre of the design process. This growing trend has led to the development of WELL Building Certification – considered the world’s first certification focused exclusively on human health and wellbeing.
The standards behind WELL have been the result of seven years of research involving scientists, doctors, and architects. Similar to LEED, WELL Certification is awarded at three levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum. However, whereas BREEAM and LEED standards focus on the relationship between buildings and the environment, WELL Certification recognizes the relationship between buildings and occupants. WELL addresses seven concepts related to human health in the built environment – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and the mind. A WELL Certified space, therefore, is one which is deemed to improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of its occupants.
Fosbury & Sons has taken up residence in the WATT-tower in Antwerp, a building by legendary modernist architect Léon Stynen. On the impressive first floor Fosbury & Sons founders Stijn Geeraets and Maarten Van Gool have launched a new and high-quality way of working, ‘the renaissance of work’, focussing on the needs of today’s generation. Fosbury & Sons is an inspiring and professional workplace where entrepreneurs, digital nomads and larger companies come together and benefit from all kinds of additional services. As a member, you will enjoy the comfort of a professional office, with the welcome warmth of your living room, the services and looks of a hotel and the fun of your free time. The impressive 3000 m² area was decorated by the Antwerp-based interior design studio Going East.
Fosbury & Sons provides the working man and woman with tools to better juggle their work-life balance. Useful professional services, educational lectures and fun events raise your quality of life during or after work. A quality work environment that inspires both before, during and after work.
As a member, you will enjoy the comfort of a professional office, with the welcome warmth of your living room, the services and looks of a hotel and the fun of your free time.
Photographs that peer into the places where people work always feel oddly satisfying—they fulfill our voyeuristic curiosity about others’ spaces without having to leave our own. That goes double for the offices of architects and designers: Where can you find more interesting spaces than with those who make a living designing them?
The London-based photographer Marc Goodwin has been visiting the offices of architects all over the world, documenting his finds for the rest of us curious interlopers. His ongoing series, which he’s been working on for about a year, has taken him to China, the Nordic region, and most recently to Paris to scope out the digs of leading architecture firms. Goodwin was looking for differences in office design across regions—from the Beijing offices of MAD Architects to the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Paris—and the various ways local character can seep into workspaces.
The verdict? “I wish I had a short answer for that,” says Goodwin. “I’m still trying to work all out in my head.” Many of the offices he shot in London—which included Foster + Partners and the London offices of Zaha Hadid Associates—felt more corporate than the other countries he visited. The Nordic offices were as beautiful, organized, and as minimalist as you might expect. The spaces were most unexpected were in Beijing—”I was taken by surprise by the beauty of some of the Chinese offices; they were quite exceptional,” he says—and Paris, where the offices felt more eclectic and personal.
The “urban grain” of Dublin influenced ODOS Architects’ design for the European offices of Slack, the company known for its inter-office messaging app.
The San Francisco-based company opened a Dublin office to serve as its European headquarters in 2015 but soon outgrew its original space.
For Slack’s new offices, which span 2,700 square metres of the One Park Place building on Hatch Street in the city centre, ODOS Architects chose a dark colour palette and a winding layout inspired by the office’s locality.
“The concept of the design originated from the urban grain of Dublin City,” said the architects. “Unlike the planned American streets with a regular street grid system, the streets of Dublin have a unique fluidity to their routes which in essence became the core of the concept.”
In keeping with this idea, the main path through the office is designed to be a “lively, active” space with common areas for break-out sessions.
Meeting space provider Breather arrived in London last summer and has been expanding fast. The company has more than 300 spaces across North America, including more than 120 in New York and more than 65 in San Francisco.
Breather’s USP is to provide beautifully designed, functional spaces that any company can book via its app for as little time as an hour. Kontor has been helping Breather in its London expansion.
We caught up with Tom Sleigh, Breather’s Head of Real Estate – London, at its space in Staple Inn near Chancery Lane.
What is Breather’s growth story so far?
Breather was founded in June 2013 with a $1.5m seed round. We first opened in Montreal, quickly followed by New York, San Francisco and Boston. We raised $20m in series B funding in September 2015 and opened in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Toronto, and London in 2016. In December 2016, we raised a $40m in Series C funding. This most recent round was led by Menlo Ventures, the venture capital firm behind Uber, Tumblr, and Siri.
Why is there a market for Breather’s spaces?
Space for meetings is always difficult to find. Whether you’re a big or a small company there will always be a requirement for overflow space, or the desire for a change of scene or geography. There are arguments emerging that suggest working in private spaces is more effective than working in an open plan space, where you will be constantly interrupted. With no distractions, either as a team or as an individual, you can be more productive.
What were you looking for when you took this space?
Something light, an interesting space with character, ideally with a wooden floor, central, well-connected. At the time we were looking for single big spaces rather than the multi-unit spaces that we have elsewhere. Our meeting spaces range in size – the smallest has space for four people, this is the biggest with space for 25 seated.
Why did you like this space so much?
More than anything, the size of the space caught my eye. I love the windows, the high ceiling. People use our spaces for away days, to get out of the office, so they want something a bit different. Our team works very closely with many of our clients, so we learn all the time about how and why people use our spaces. You can book them for an hour, a few hours, and this one is frequently booked for the whole day by companies such as Marks & Spencer, PwC and Spotify.
I also loved the character of the whole building. It’s unusual, it makes a welcome change to your typical corporate office. Normally we don’t take spaces above the second floor if there’s no lift, but we made an exception for this space because we loved it so much.
Where in London are you looking for more spaces?
We’re looking for more spaces in London, period. We want 100 spaces in London this year and we’re doing very well so far – we’ve got 21 open and 36 in legals at the moment. Our target is every corner of London.
This is why I enjoy working with Kontor ; they understand what Breather is looking for and they’re willing to spend time looking through many options for us. Any agency could show me what’s on the market but Kontor finds clever angles on buildings. They take a longer-term view of the relationship and they are committed to growing with their clients. Because a lot of our early adopters are in the sectors that Kontor is strong in, there’s a natural synergy between what we like and what their other clients are looking for, which helps.
You’re expanding fast; how many properties have you looked at?
We’ve looked at a huge number of properties – across the ten cities we operate in, we’ve looked at more than 1,500 buildings in the past year. In London I must have viewed at least 250. Our parameters for what we’re looking for are changing all the time based on the demand of our users. Now we’re looking for bigger spaces than when we started and are excited to continue growing throughout the city.
New York developer Macro Sea has turned a warehouse at Brooklyn’s Navy Yard into a workspace for tech entrepreneurs, using the building’s “cathedral-like” steel trusswork to inform new elements.
New Lab is located in Building 128 of the Brooklyn Navy Yard – a former shipbuilding complex between the Dumbo and Williamsburg neighbourhoods that is undergoing extensive regeneration.
Macro Sea worked with Marvel Architects to transform the disused shell into a space for designers and entrepreneurs working in the fields of emerging technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and connected devices.
“As developers and designers of the space, we were very attracted to this particular community, which is simultaneously at the top of its intellectual and technological game, while looking into the abyss as entrepreneurs,” said Macro Sea founder and New Lab cofounder David Belt. “We wanted to build for them.”
Facilities include offices, private studios and lofts, as well as shared amenity spaces like lounges, communal worktables, advanced prototyping shops and meeting areas.
The noisier and more private spaces are located in the building’s wings, while communal areas sit closer to the central axis.
A new flexible office solution has arrived: the hybrid model. Finally, a solution that allows growing businesses to take the space they need on terms that suit their growth plans.
What we need is the space for this new model to expand.
I’m not talking about space for start-ups. Cities are just about providing enough spaces for entrepreneurs and teams in their infancy.
I’m talking about established businesses, perhaps three to five years old, looking for 50 to 100 desks or more. They are still rapidly scaling so don’t want to take a traditional five- or 10-year lease, but they’ve moved beyond taking a few desks in a co-working space.
The hybrid model, as we at Kontor call it, merges the best elements of different solutions.
A company can take its own entire floor in a building, and even dictate the layout and fit-out, while having the space managed for it.
At first glance this may appear more expensive than taking an individual lease, but it is much less prohibitive for a business than doing everything itself – undertaking the fit-out, paying a rent deposit and waiting for internet to be installed, for example, all take their toll. And there’s that all-important flexibility.
Kontor client QuantiQ is an excellent example of the hybrid model in practice. QuantiQ signed for a minimum term of two years in a serviced office for its 110 staff.
The space provider sat down with the business and designed a floorplan to accommodate its requirements. The fit-out was amortised over the rental period, which still works out cheaper than the occupier doing it itself. This is the ultimate managed solution.
There is a growing trend among managed solutions operators to offer this kind of space as they look to capitalise on the change among occupiers.
Operators that have so far only offered co-working desks or offices are looking to offer larger floors or groups of desks, not just to SMEs but to corporates that want spillover space.
WeWork, for example, is starting to look at enterprise deals for businesses looking for more than 300 desks. A recent tie-up with Microsoft means that the tech giant’s employees can use its spaces.
WeWork is not going to start knocking down the walls in its existing buildings to provide hybrid spaces because they already have a strong market, but they may underwrite the first two years of rent on a building by signing up a corporate to take a floor.
This can only be good news for landlords – guaranteed rent, a stronger covenant – but there still isn’t enough space for managed solutions providers. At Kontor, we have more than 1m sq ft of open requirements from hybrid space operators right now. When our flexible solutions team looks to find a space for a client wanting a bigger office, all the providers are sold out.
To landlords this is an opportunity either way – they could look to run such space themselves or take on an operator that can run it for them. In the latter case, there’s no need for a landlord to take on the uncertainty and cost of running the space. If they lease to an operator with the skills to manage the space under a 20-year lease or management agreement, then traditional valuation models don’t need to be affected.
Is the hybrid model the solution for growing businesses? It could be, as everyone – landlord, operator, tenant – wins from the situation. Certainly, from where we sit at Kontor the market appears to be screaming out for more space like this. There’s no doubt that the future looks flexible.
Selencky Parsons has designed its own London studio, using a cork pod with pegboard walls for storing stationery, displaying models and hanging plants.
Selencky Parsons’ studio occupies the ground floor of a residential building located on a street corner opposite Brockley station in southeast London.
Large windows make the space visible from the outside, so the architects used the pod to create an intimate working studio in the pointed corner of the irregularly shaped space.
Cork is used to line the walls and floors, as well as make desks, to add a warmer atmosphere to the previously “characterless” commercial space.
“We wanted to create a comfortable working zone within the space, while maximising the benefits afforded by the highly visible site,” said the architects.
What can be done with a 18.000 m2 empty office building situated at the outskirts of the city and that has been deemed unsuited for redevelopment for the last 11 years? This is the big challenge faced with B.Amsterdam at the Johan Huizingalaan in Amsterdam. From the start, NEXT architects was closely involved in the transformation of this static cube-shaped building into a lively hotspot for startups, freelancers and creative entrepreneurs. Strategic interventions are used to strengthen the quality, experience and identity of the building.
B.Amsterdam is a new working space concept in the former IMB headquarters building in the Rieker Business Park in Amsterdam’s Nieuw-West district. Usually, this is the place to find monofunctional office buildings, lack of occupancy, and, outside office hours, a chronic absence of entertainment. It is exactly here that B.Amsterdam’s 5 stores building is re-thought as a lively and dynamic city. Just as with any city, different functions are present that grow and develop organically. People can go to B.Amsterdam for work, sports, dining, events, and, most recently, to enjoy lunch or dinner on the rooftop restaurant Bureau.
NEXT was involved in developing the vision of the building as a city, with a recognisable, industrial appeal and re-use of materials. An important intervention is the new entrance situation, which now focuses on the experience and the quality of the entrance space for dwelling and encounters. Likewise, the raising the external fire staircase with the characteristic orange top makes the building highly recognizable from the road.
Entertainment powerhouse HBO uses this office space in Seattle, designed by California firm Rapt Studio, to develop and test its digital and interactive products.
HBO – the TV network behind shows such as Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, and The Sopranos – has seen a rapid uptake of its on-demand services like HBO GO and HBO NOW over the past few years.
The company’s software engineering division, HBO Digital Products, has grown dramatically in response, so leased the top three floors of a new mid-rise building known as Hill7.
“They recognised this as an opportunity to develop a high-performance workspace that would support their main objectives — reimagining and reengineering entertainment,” said Rapt Studio, which was tasked with designing the interiors.
The firm previously completed offices for tech companies Eventbrite, Adobe and Ancestry.
InMotion, a subsidiary of Jaguar Land Rover, has made its home in a fully managed office in Shoreditch, with the help of Kontor. The team’s workspace requirements were specific: a trendy space that could be personalised to attract startups, alongside the flexibility of no long-term commitment. We speak to InMotion’s head of accelerator programme James Nettleton to find out how they’ve settled in.
(To see a 360° walkthrough of InMotion’s space click on the top right pic!)
What exactly is InMotion?
InMotion invests in technology for sectors such as transport and smart cities. Here in London we run an innovation lab, and combine the insight that it produces with entrepreneurial and technical talent to build new startup businesses. The large part of the Jaguar Land Rover business is based in the Midlands, but we wanted to be in the hub of Tech City.
Is that why you chose Shoreditch?
Ideally we would have been closer to Kings Cross or Euston as some staff commute in from the Midlands, but the office stock just isn’t there yet. This is a great location for the businesses we’re building here and space is a core part of our proposition to them – we house them for a certain period of time.
What were your criteria when searching for space?
Space that would give us flexibility but also be personal, so the team feels that they are somewhere with an identity. Location, capacity and the overall atmosphere were also very important.
Kontor really understand the market, and really understood our requirements. This office was half built, but Luke and Sam knew it was coming online so suggested we take a look. When we took the space the downstairs was still a building site so we had to trust they would finish the space in a good way, which they did. We wanted an office with space for events, and the downstairs here is ideal.
How much flexibility were you looking for?
We were in a tricky position in some respects, as we didn’t want to make a long-term commitment, but most co-working spaces don’t offer enough personalisation for us. It was obvious from the beginning that we would go for a managed space, as we didn’t have the time to fit the space out, but we also wanted our own space – we needed to be self-contained. We also have a finite number of startups we can take on for a period, so we don’t need ongoing flexibility in that respect.
How important was it that the space reflects your brand?
That was a challenge for us, because we needed a certain appearance for our brand but we wanted to be in managed space. When you don’t have your own building, you have to take what you’re given up to a point in terms of furniture and so on as you don’t want to spend a fortune.
We were looking for a very specific image. There’s a spectrum in managed spaces ranging from the very corporate to the scrappier startup world. We needed the best of both worlds: somewhere entrepreneurs would feel at home, but where we could also host investors. This space feels like a good balance between the two.
Has the team settled into the space?
They really like it, it’s a great location and the space feels like our own. For the first home of InMotion, it’s ideal.
Sky Central was designed to challenge conventional ideas of workspace; embracing and evolving the simplicity of the industrial shed, to define a new model for the industries fast-paced and evolving future.
The vision reflects the workings of the organisation with a campus connected by the assets that drive the Sky business forward: creativity and people. AL_A along with PLP and Hassell brought this vision to life with naturally lit, overlapping voids within deep floor plates to create high levels of visual connectivity.
Sky Group CEO, Jeremy Darroch said: “Our culture and our people are fundamental to Sky’s sustained success. Our people want to do their best and be their best, and we want to support them in doing so, creating an inclusive and creative workplace that facilitates the flow of brilliant ideas and creativity.”
Open and flexible spaces are designed in clusters of neighbourhoods to accommodate a new type of creative industry, where the traditional distinctions between creative, technical, production and corporate have been broken down. These have been replaced with an interwoven, fluid workspace that can be utilized by all of Sky Central’s different expertise and needs.
The coolest workspaces of 2016 don’t have a foosball table in sight!
In the past, all it took to have a cool office was a foosball table, a beer tap, and a few couches. Today companies are looking for ways to boost creativity, spark innovation, and motivate employees. Additionally, tech companies (which have carried the brunt of those foosball stereotypes) are thinking of their workspaces as physical representations of their brand—and as tech matures so too do its offices. In 2016, office design grew up and put on a tie. But the best examples we saw still maintained some punk soul. Here are our picks for the coolest workspaces of the year.
A Web Publisher Finds A New Home In An Old-School Printing Press
Squarespace’s sophisticated new office in the West Village feels like a work of modern art, thanks to its sculptural architectural detailing, like a wood-clad staircase and steel facade. But it’s not about good looks. The designers wanted to create a space that could house all 320 of its NYC employees under one roof. Before this they were spread across six floors in four buildings. Now there’s ample room for quiet work and collaboration, plus a pretty sweet roof deck.
Pinterest’s New HQ Mirrors The Platform’s Evolution
For its new San Francisco headquarters, Pinterest collaborated with local architecture firm Iwamoto Scott. The space—which occupies a former John Deere factory—is an exercise in subtlety. “At the time, Pinterest was undergoing a significant redesign of the website itself, moving to a more streamlined, pared-down aesthetic,” architect Lisa Iwamoto told Co.Design. “It was a cultural shift for the company, moving away from what people had been more used to—the content, the DIY, craftsy feel of Pinterest to the platform of Pinterest. That was something that the architecture was also trying to achieve.”
Tara Davies and Esther Kinnear Derungs set up their modelling agency Linden Staub in December 2015. They needed a specific workspace, with areas for computers as well as photoshoots and conversations. Eight months after Kontor helped them find their ideal space, we discover how they’ve settled in.
(To see a 360° walkthrough of Linden Staub’s space click on the top right pic!)
How are you finding your new workspace?
Tara: We love it! We use the space for everything. We even have family dinners in the evenings here. It’s just a great space for hanging out.
What were your priorities when searching for an office?
Esther: Natural light and space, lots of space as our photographers do shoots here. We wanted an office that could be compartmentalised because we need it to feel communal, but with defined areas. We didn’t want girls to walk in and have to sit with us at our computers while they wait. Our area is now split into a work area, a lounge area, a food/dining area and the studio that has a glass partition wall.
Tara: The models hang out here all the time, they keep food in the fridge or lounge on the sofa. If you have one model in it feels like 10, they have so much stuff, so it was important we had a comfortable area. Then we have studio area and can always shut the door if we need a private room.
Why did you decide to set up in Shoreditch?
Tara: We didn’t mind where we were in central London, but we’ve got girls coming in all the time, on their own or with families, so it had to be accessible. We looked at a workspace we really liked along the waterfront between Old Street and Angel, but we couldn’t imagine girls leaving the office at 5pm in the winter and walking in the dark.
This is our dream location; so convenient and such incredible buildings. Plus, the majority of our clients are based in east London nowadays, so this location makes the most sense.
How important was finding the right workspace to suit your brand?
Esther: Very important, its advertising for our brand. If a girl visits a shoddy office with her family, they’re not going to think we’re a very good agency.
The whole message of our brand focuses on empowerment of women, so we needed to reflect that. For example, we’ve never worked anywhere with a dining area before, but we’re firm believers that it’s not healthy to eat at your desk. Now at least once a week we all sit together, chatting, flicking through magazines. We meet girls at such a young age that we had to have a space to bring them to that is homely, that has a family atmosphere while remaining professional.
Have you had good feedback from employees?
Tara: They love the space. If you work somewhere and you’re proud of your workspace, that’s going to be uplifting and you’ll be more productive.
Were you looking for flexible space?
Esther: We didn’t realise when we starting looking that we’d need to sign a lease for several years, so we had to find a space that was a bit flexible. We did look at some co-working spaces such as WeWork, which didn’t suit us but made us realise we needed to be able to use space in different ways, have places to interact with each other.
Did you have any knowledge of the property market before looking?
Tara: Not a clue! We told Kontor that from that beginning and the team were brilliant. They showed us exactly the spaces we were after – before, other agents had shown us a load of basements, even though we said we needed natural light. They didn’t seem to take us seriously as a new, young modelling agency. Kontor were able to show us this place before it even came to market and the costs came in below budget.
Do you think you’ll stay here a while?
Esther: When our lease is due to finish here will probably be the perfect time to reconsider what we need. If we do need more space it will be an upgrade, the same vibe but larger. We love the aesthetic here – we’re supposed to return it to its original condition at the end of the lease, but the landlord loves what we’ve done so much he’s said we’ve added value!
The space retains much of its original appearance because the idea was to keep alive the “spirit” of the place giving a playful appearance in order to favour fluency in the communications as well as the exchange and relations among workers.
An open office concept was the request from the customer with a meeting room, an office, a small library, toilets and a break-out area to relax and eat. The main task was to adapt the project to all of these requirements.
A modular piece made of wood and glass was constructed to contain the meeting rooms, private office and toilets. In the southern part of the space are the desks with communal seating, to support meeting spaces and help the communication among the workers.
With a large percentage of our clients coming from the tech sector it is interesting to note that almost 9 out of 10 technology companies polled by industry group Tech London Advocates are against the UK leaving the EU. The survey of the group’s 3,000 members suggested a number of reasons for this: fear that leaving the EU would make it harder for British customers to reach customers in Europe; fear that it would become more difficult to recruit overseas talent; and concerns that it would become harder to persuade EU companies to branch out to the UK.
If Brexit does go ahead, this could certainly impact London’s flourishing tech scene. The capital’s well established position as a global leader in tech relies not only on our own creativity, but on our transparent business practices that have enabled strong networks in Europe and across the globe. Cross border collaborations have become commonplace; we work with a number of clients that have offices in the UK as well as other European countries and are often approached by companies that want to expand in to and out of the UK.
Another concern not mentioned in the poll is that London’s ability to attract tech start-ups and entrepreneurs from overseas could be hindered. Already the escalating costs of living and securing workspace are inhibiting people’s desire to come to the city, and if the UK leaves the EU the increased paperwork involved could pose an even greater obstacle.
This could give other global cities an edge over London. Berlin’s tech industry is well established and could be an obvious choice for a tech company from outside Europe looking to put down some roots. We’ve worked with companies in Madrid, Amsterdam and Stockholm to name a few cities, all of which could prove popular options if the business of setting up in London becomes more difficult. Across the Atlantic, cities such as LA or Austin are also attracting their fair share of tech communities, as well as Silicon Valley.
All businesses, not just the tech industry, operate on a global playing field now, which is evident in how the occupiers who we advise search for space. Many of our clients, from international corporations down to start-ups looking to have just one desk, want a space in London to complement offices in other countries. Coworking spaces are an excellent way for a company to achieve this.
The UK government is placing a lot of emphasis on the growth of our digital economy and seemingly relies upon it for the country’s future prosperity. Though nothing is certain, a Brexit could spell trouble.
The final design incorporates a library-like experience: On the first level, the traditional corridor-office layout no longer exists, rather a wide open plan space instead, a bar counter provides basic management and service to the co-working space; The big discussion table serves for both groups and individuals; More privacy can be found in booth area, which is suitable for smaller groups. If you do not want to be interrupted by the crowd, private workstations are provided for you to dive into work. In a word, the way a university library space is used is integrated into this project: any space you require is an option here.
Besides the library-like experience, the art of “exhibition” is also adapted during the space design. Most occupants here are small or medium size teams on their start-up phase, which means that the product publication, presentation and even marketing activity requires consideration in the design stage as well. Therefore, 4 display-units and a whole display wall are placed on the first level to meet the presentation needs of the teams. Here the notion of co-working evolves to not only the habitat of the team, but also the habitat of their product.
The shine may be wearing off Shoreditch, as entrepreneurs pick other places in the UK to base their start-ups.
Fewer new start-ups are being founded in Shoreditch’s start-up scene, Silicon Roundabout, with 2015 stats showing that the number of new companies fell by a third (15,620 to 10,280) on the previous year, citing high rents as one reason for the drop.
“Rising rents in the Silicon Roundabout area are causing many start-ups to choose other neighbouring areas of central London, such as City Road, as their first base,” says Colin Jones, a partner at UHY Hacker Young, who conducted the research.
“By attracting larger firms into the area, rents increase, available space decreases, and smaller start-ups that were initially attracted to the area are forced out into neighbouring areas. That is exactly why we have seen the tech start-ups heading away from Old Street to the City Road area.”
On behalf of multi-media production company Dotwell, Elsedesign undertook two small projects: one being the office renovation and the second being a new coffee shop which adjoins the existing structure.
The main challenge of the office design was how to merge the site conditions and usage, for example the ratio of open area and private working area, interaction and meeting spaces, and also the atmosphere of the space suiting the company’s identity etc. Since the office is a multi-media company, the innovation, preparation departments need open work spaces except for the meeting rooms and human resources department. Then we had enough freedom and possibilities to plan for the allocations.
American architect Clive Wilkinson has been responsible for some of the most creative office spaces on the planet and has become recognised as a global leader in workplace design.
With a thoroughly modern approach to the way we work, his firm has created spaces for Google, Twentieth Century Fox Digital and countless other business leaders using everything from hanging pod chairs to bean bags and breakfast bars.
He says office spaces are becoming more like home, and vice versa, all the time.
“Offices are becoming more like homes as lifestyle becomes increasingly important and companies compete for talent … Our world is now ideas driven and our environment needs to be energetic, inspiring and even provocative. Employers also want people to stay longer at work and making the space awesome certainly helps.”
Our very good friends at Jump Studios have done it again and have created another masterpiece!
Renovating a 19th-century battery factory in Madrid to create the sixth Google Campus – a co-working space for entrepreneurs and start-up companies.
Jump Studios designed the first Google Campus London in 2012, and were asked to create a similar space in the Spanish capital city that would support 7,000 members and 50 resident start-up companies.
“The consideration Google has for its Campus members needed to be mirrored in an environment that enables and fosters effective communication with clients and co-workers in both physical and virtual formats,” said Jump Studios associate Michelle Nicholls. “No two start-ups are the same and this is acknowledged in our design by the creation of a variety of formal and informal spaces.”
What do we find most attractive about a new job offer? How important is the physical workplace in that decision-making process? A recent Australian study, undertaken by Hassell Architects and Empirica Research, dug up some intriguing stories about the role of workplace culture, people and design in the decisions we make about where we will spend ours days.
In this recent pilot study, 1000 un-primed survey participants were presented with a series of hypothetical job offers and were asked which job they would prefer. Despite what appears in the cloud of open comments above(fig.01), almost half of respondents (45%) placed salary as the most influential factor in their decision to take a job or not. (fig.02)But that is not the whole story.
According to the survey, 32% of respondents found workplace culture to be a primary influence on their decision. For 16%, a significant proportion of the sample, their decision was most influenced by physical workplace conditions (fig.02). Interestingly, work technologies were the least attractive factor (around 7%).
Put simply, when combined, workplace facilities and culture can exceed the lure of money.
The offices of smartphone manufacturer Fairphone were created inside a former industrial building – and informed by the same sustainable design principles the company uses for its products.
Fairphone aims to make its Android devices from ethically sourced materials, following a modular design that allows users to swap and replace defunct components rather than buy a new phone. Its first model was launched in 2013, and the Fairphone 2 is set for release this autumn.
The company wanted this ethos to translate through to the interior for its new workspace, located in a warehouse building along Amsterdam’s northern docks that dates back to 1884.
We are expanding the breadth of our services aimed at the creative, media and tech industries through the recruitment of Sam Dawson.
Sam joins the team to focus on providing flexible office solutions to high-growth businesses in London. Deploying his specialised knowledge and experience of the sector, he will advise on both flexible, serviced offices for businesses looking to grow and traditional leases for businesses further along their growth path.
Welcome to the KONTOR family Sam!
Architecture firm reMIX Studio has transformed a traditional house into its own office space, pairing glass and steel with the original wooden structure.
With the property in a state of disrepair, the studio demolished false ceilings to create space, and removed plaster from brick walls to create “interesting textures that were worth exhibiting”. The traditional pitched wooden roof was also restored.
The ground floor of the building is now used as a co-working and exhibition space. Office staff can occupy desks on a new mezzanine level, with a metal grid floor that allows light to filter down. Newly installed glazed windows also bring additional natural light into the space.
London is set to lose 3,500 creative workspaces by 2020 according to mayor Boris Johnson, who is asking planners and developers to prioritise culture as well as housing.
“As London continues to grow and prosper, there is a critical need to build more homes for Londoners, but this should not be at the expense of our culture and distinctiveness, which are hugely important for our economy,” said Johnson.
His office has published a 40-page A-Z of planning and culture, which offers steps that can be taken to protect and support culture as new developments spring up across the city.
To round out 2015 we thought we would share one of our favourite offices of the year. Designed by Steven Vandenborre Architects this project takes minimalism to a whole new level and we want to work there!
Because of the scale of the building, the interior design of the new offices was based on a small city where you walk, work, sit and dine like in a real city. After studying plans of old, organically grown cities Steven Vandenborre Architects worked out a kind of promenade in the building (‘Rambla’) with squares (‘Plazas’), terraces and large stairs.
The main goal of the design was to eliminate all disturbing objects and to make a feature of the typical character of the building like the concrete columns, concrete floors, big spaces and large panoramic windows.
Before we get carried away with 2016 we thought we would share some of our highlights of 2015:
~ We acquired more than 450,000 sq ft in total working with some awesome clients such as WeWork, Propercorn, Dr Ed and Hassle to name but a few.
~ Carrying out over 700 property viewings in the process.
~ KONTOR was nominated for both the CoStar and Property Week Best Newcomer of The Year Awards 2015.
~ Co-founder James was recognised by Property Week as one of the top 40 property professionals under 40 (we like to think its a team effort).
~ We ventured out from our home comforts of London and visited new markets such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, Dublin, Brussels, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, New York, Miami and Toronto.
~ Thats a total of 92 flights and 80,000 sq ft acquired as a result.
~ We welcomed Jack Fryer to the KONTOR family and not forgetting Amy our artificial intelligence P.A.
~ 587 cups of green tea consumed … thanks Jack (we’re a healthy bunch!)
Above all we had the pleasure of working with industry leading clients and having loads of fun along the way. Bring on 2016!
A plywood bar that transitions into a staircase forms the centre of this office and networking hub housed in the Dutch city of Delft’s former technology museum.
The facility was designed by local firm Ateliers for Connekt, a non-profit organisation that supports a network of enterprises and institutions focused on improving mobility in the Netherlands.
Ateliers was asked to oversee the creation of Connekt’s offices and a drop-in space in the same building that its members can use for causal networking, formal meetings or large conferences …
The office cubicle turns 50 years old this year. Andrew Shanahan investigates the history of the system that revolutionised office design and which, after falling out of favour, is now being re-evaluated.
It was 1965 and George Nelson took to the stage, soaked up the applause and accepted the Alcoa Industrial Design Award for his role on the Action Office (AO-1). The two most surprising aspects of this celebratory moment are that Nelson’s design had been a commercial failure and his speech entirely failed to mention Robert Propst.
Propst had invented the Action Office after three years of work at the newly-formed Herman Miller Research Corporation, with Nelson drafted in to give Propst’s ideas form. What no one at the awards ceremony could possibly know is that this was a product that would soon take over the world, make Propst an incredibly wealthy man and change the workplace forever.
Put on your party hat, release the balloons: it’s the 50th birthday of the office cubicle!
TRA are a leading edge research and analytics business who are at the forefront of their industry. A key part of what they do is gathering and analysing consumer information for their clients, offering insights to unlock and drive new avenues for growth. We wanted to play on the capture and processing of information and somehow translate what TRA does into a 3 dimensional form, into the architecture of the space.
The spatial brief asked for an open plan office of 40, including a boardroom as well as a series of smaller meeting rooms and a staff break-out area. In order to preserve the character and not dominate the existing space, the new spaces were created by the insertion of pragmatic volumes within the existing framework. These volumes were then clad with mirrored panels so as to dematerialize, reflect and accentuate the raw fabric, in particular the history and patina of the existing building …
We are rapidly running out of old warehouse buildings to renovate, and selling space in the glassy towers of the central business district is difficult as corporate buildings become less and less attractive. We need a new building that is attractive to companies who cut their teeth in co-working incubators before seeking their own digs.
We are a society obsessed with the new. We want to look eternally young, drive the latest car, wear runway-fresh clothes and have up-to-the-minute technology at our fingertips. We do not care if the battery in our phones cannot be changed, because we are happy to simply get a newer phone. The American pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness is a glittering glare of polish and gloss, all sparkling and new.
That is, unless we’re talking architecture …
We are pleased to have helped our friends at 500 Startups find their new home in London.
Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups isn’t new to the U.K. or Europe by any means. The seed investor and accelerator program has backed something in the region of 15 to 20 British startups, depending on how you count these things, and over 50 European startups overall.
But now they are officially setting up shop in London with the launch of “Distro Dojo”, a new three-month program for ‘post-seed’ startups that will aggressively focus on growth in a bid to help bridge the gap between seed funding, which is arguably becoming plentiful in the U.K., and the so-called Series A “crunch”.
Paul Crofts Studio carried out the refurbishment of a 1980s office block in Clerkenwell, London, for advertising agency Fold 7.
The London-based studio reconfigured the space, adding a stage-like platform between the basement and upper floors, soft seating areas and a new staircase.
The team also added homely furnishings to meeting spaces hidden behind a bookcase, and created a range of neon and graphic signage displaying tongue-in-cheek messages.
“The key drivers were that we would make the place feel inviting … keeping in tune with their strap-line ‘welcome to the fold’, which was was translated as welcome to my home.”
Stacked three storeys high, the used shipping containers are conceived as an experimental prefabricated scheme that challenges universal waste issues and traditional building techniques. the span between the units is utilized as flexible space for primary workspace functions, while interiors can be used for secondary functions such as meeting rooms, workshops and storage.
The container stack is wrapped with high performing insulated sandwich panels, which help protect against the harsh scandinavian climate. the cladding is bolted directly onto the container frame – as are the windows, roof elements and internal floor slabs. visible installations are used for water, electricity and heating, making it easy to set up and take down …
We caught up with Simon Jordan from Jump Studios to find out more about this exciting architecture and design firm and the future trends within workspace design.
What does the brand stand for?
A point of excellence in the work, rather than a point of difference.
What are you trying to achieve?
Through good design, improve how we experience the built environment.
How is the studio evolving?
As architects, we think technology and how it will increasingly mediate the world around us, how the digital world is permeating the physical world, is interesting. We are already developing skill sets around designing digital interfaces to complement our architectural skills.
What exciting projects are you currently working on?
We’re working on a series of innovative workspaces for Google and Yahoo! Saatchi & Saatchi, Mother London, Sutherland Global, Nike and Rapha, to name a few.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
From the good designers that populate our Studio!
Who do you admire both within and outside your industry?
Brands or organisations who have a clearly defined ‘higher purpose’ than merely the profit motive.
With your experience having worked for a myriad of exciting clients have you noticed any particular changes or trends emerging within workspace design?
I think if we take a step back from the architecture, and look at prevailing social, economic and technological trends you’ll see the clues; the demise of state and social institutions have given birth to a more informal social culture, and that’s reflected in more informal, less hierarchical work spaces. With the Western, liberal democracies having to deal with maturing economies, we find people working harder and spending more time at work, hence the provision of more lifestyle amenities; showers, cafes, play areas and learning environments. Technology is liberating people from desk bound computers and we see a move to more eclectic and diverse work settings, perhaps more domestic in feel – which brings us full cycle to informality again!
Taking this one step further If you were given a blank canvas by a client to design the workplace of the future, what would it look like?
I’d love to see clients think differently about work spaces being closed, introspective, private spaces and open up to more community focused, shared and collaborative spaces, perhaps with a shifting mix of like minded tenants – perhaps brining together business partners, supply chain, even customers, under one roof. Making it more accessible too.
Turning to Jump Studios itself where would you ideally be located?
East London for it’s vibrancy
What would it look like?
It’s more important how it feels, rather than how it looks….when designing, it’s always important to define the experience you are looking for first hand, before designing any spaces, elements or furniture.
What is most important to you – location, cost, transport, amenities?
A confluence of all these is the ideal
Would you consider moving to areas such as Haggerston, Dalston, Hackney Wick or what about south of the river Bermondsey, New Cross or Peckham for example?
London continues to be seen as a city at the forefront of progressive culture and creativity and this is in partly due to the concentrated, dense nature of the city; you end up with architects, fashion designers, musicians, technologists, artists all sharing the same spaces which leads to more interesting outputs. So long as London maintains this ‘friction’ any area including those mentioned will be desirable to ambitious creatives, entrepreneurs and thought leaders.
Is it imperative for your business to be in London?
Yes, but not exclusively in London. It is the best place for creativity, and so good to reinforce our positioning on a global stage, good for recruitment, good for retaining the best and brightest and not a bad place to live either!
To see more of Jump Studios amazing work please see www.jump-studios.com
The top floor of this former Soviet telecommunications building in the centre of Moscow has been converted by studio Archiproba into an open plan office for a technology company.
Called DI Telegraph, the new flexible space occupies the upper floor of the 1927 Central Telegraph building designed by Soviet architect and engineer Ivan Ivanovich Rerberg. The corner site building on Tverskaya Street had been derelict for several years before its recent restoration.
The Moscow-based studio striped the dilapidated building back to the original concrete shell to produce an open plan workspace for technology company Dream Industries …
You won’t find slides, ping-pong tables or other faddish touches at the New York offices of advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, designed by US architecture studio WORKac.
Instead, the 4,600-square-metre space in Lower Manhattan features places for collaborative work and discussion between Wieden + Kennedy employees.
“The design for Wieden + Kennedy New York moves away from the office-as-playground to put work back at the heart of creative work,” said WORKac …
New firm DH Liberty inserted a mezzanine level, a new staircase and a glazed glass facade to add a distinct character to the building with exposed brickwork and iron columns in the heart of London’s creative district, resulting in a large industrial loft-like work space.
The brief from the occupants, digital advertising agency Analog Folk, was to harness the company’s use of traditional values and digital technology to inform the look and feel of the space.
The result is an aesthetic that draws heavily on reclaimed objects dotted around the 929-square-metre property alongside a simple black and white colour palette …
Kontor talks to Paul Byrne and Seb Marling of Village Green to learn more about this exciting creative studio based in Clerkenwell and what they look for in a workspace.
What does the studio stand for?
Creative excellence and rigorous execution across any field that we work in.
Being creatively led means you focus on the output and we find our clients respond to that. In general this has served us well. You can’t always get your own way and you have to make it pay but good work makes opportunities for more good work.
What direction is the business going in?
Recently our work has been very much across three areas. Property, our ongoing work for Nike and work for arts institutions such as The Barbican.
Broadly we are involved in branding, image making and marketing creative. Property branding and marketing has been a really interesting sector for Village Green over the past few years. It takes a little while to get underneath the business but there are some genuine creative opportunities to be had.
Where do you aspire to be?
More of the same. You are always looking out for a bigger project or a new exciting opportunity but we have been fortunate enough to have some great clients. We feel very confident in our ability to create good work at any level.
What exciting projects are you currently working on?
We are currently creating the branding and marketing for two properties in and around the City / Shoreditch fringes. Both have been very exciting and as ever we are enjoying immensly. We also have a big project delivering for Nike which runs across image making, marketing, digital and retail environments and an interesting brief from the Barbican we are working on.
What is one of your favourite projects to date?
Alphabeta from a property perspective. We were brought in following our work on the Bonhill Building (home of Mind Candy and others) to brand and market a huge 220,000sq ft building on Finsbury Square initially called Triton Court. We needed to alter perspective so a strong branding aesthetic was brought in alongside a very understanding client. We developed everything from the marketing suite, to the agents presentation, interior wayfinding, all marketing collateral and website etc…good brief, good client and good results.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Never an easy answer to that. We are quite intuitive and the senior team have worked together for quite a while now so there are subliminal modes of understanding bouncing around the studio. That said, individually people have quiet different aesthetics and approaches. Like most designers, I imagine, It’s about the things that we see and take an interest in and how we research, share ideas and refine them.
Who do you admire within your industry?
From a creative studio perspective I think there are a lot of groups / people out there doing great work. Too many to list. Many we like do very different work to VG but if ever you see work you wished you’d done you admire it and take inspiration from it.
Turning to the property side of things what is it that you as a studio look for in a workspace?
An open area that we can make our own.
Given a blank canvas where would you be located?
Clerkenwell works well for us as its close to Central but also on the fringes of Shoreditch and The City.
What is most important to you?
Location, cost, transport and amenities are all important. It’s a balance of all.
How, if at all, has this changed over time?
At a previous agency some of us were based in West London as that was where many of the companies we worked for happened to be, but over time the work comes to you wherever you are and East London feels more like home.
Would you consider moving to areas such as Dalston, Haggerston and Hackney Wick or what about south of the river, Bermondsy, New Cross, Peckham?
All the areas you mention are interesting. As long as the area is well connected for all of our staff I think we’d be open to most of them; as a small business we are cost sensitive. Haggerston currently has many lovely spaces and is an area we are quite fond of.
To see more of Village Greens amazing work please see www.villagegreenstudio.com
A picture is worth a thousand words and we couldn’t help but compile some of our favourite workspace and architectural images over on our new Pinterest page.
Serving not only as daily inspiration but a reminder that there is no excuse for mediocre office design. Enjoy!
Shanghai-based studio Neri&Hu has converted an industrial roof space in Shanghai into offices for leading global insight and strategic consultancy Flamingo. The design features a series of house-like forms that are inserted into a landscape of concrete platforms, breaking down the homogenous volume. The roof becomes not just a singular element, but can be experienced on multiple levels, from various vantage points and scales.
Based on the paradoxical and enigmatic notions of the attic, the designers wanted to exaggerate the existing condition by occupying the space within the eaves of a roof, giving people the sensation of both being tucked away and looked upon …
Workplace design has undergone a radical transformation in the last several decades, with approximately seventy percent of today’s modern offices now converted to open plans. However, despite growing concerns over decreases in worker productivity and employee satisfaction, the open office revolution shows no sign of slowing down.
The open office model has proliferated without regard for natural differences in workplace culture, leading to disastrous results when employees are forced into an office that works against their own interests. If we are to make offices more effective, we must acknowledge that ultimately, design comes out of adapting individual needs for a specific purpose and at best, can create inviting spaces that reflect a company’s own ethos.
The new headquarters of internationally renowned online platform SoundCloud cover three levels and approx. 4,000 square metres of an old brewery building close to the former Berlin Wall. The complex, designed to serve as a future incubator for up-and-coming start-ups, will become the one-stop office for all 180 Berlin employees of the foremost hub for musical exchange on the net. Anticipating future expansion of the rapidly growing SoundCloud platform, the spacious offices could potentially accommodate up to 350 desks.
To provide the company and its new HQ with a matching spatial identity and the right architectural framework for the platform’s novel business and working structures, SoundCloud asked KINZO to turn its new hub into a space that exudes and encourages innovation and creativity. The platform envisaged a welcome beacon in Berlin’s office landscape that both shapes the company and evolves with SoundCloud over the years. Against this background, KINZO’s conversion redefines the rules of office design with its tangible reflection of a virtual community …
When it comes to a high-energy drink giant like Red Bull, most would probably expect their corporate offices to reflect the sporty, frat bro-friendly culture that the brand overwhelmingly attracts. Not a single hint of that can be seen in the company’s newly designed office in New York by Brooklyn-based architects INABA.
In fact, Red Bull’s New York office looks generic and insignia-free — which is not common for large companies. INABA states that the design doesn’t integrate the latest theories of workplace productivity nor is it driven by narrative or graphic imagery. It ignores workspace interior trends like grand-scale gestures, playful recreational lounges, or urban-chic office decor. On the other hand, the no-brand minimal aesthetic is a growing trend itself as well …
Alex Hill from Hello Work tells us more about their vision to revolutionise the traditional workspace.
Alex, tell us a bit about yourself and Hello Work.
I’m project coordinator at Hello Work, which Allied London set up a year and half ago as a next generation property company to service their workspace assets. Hello Work looks at the new way of working and providing workspace for businesses of any size.
Where did the inspiration for Hello Work come from?
It came from looking at the relationship between start-ups and the property industry and the inefficiencies, especially in terms of cost, flexibility and how the traditional office market doesn’t allow for the new age of business to evolve and adapt to market demands. This is important from Allied London’s perspective, in regards to developing the right building that will stand for the next 50-100 years.
How does the concept of Hello Work therefore cater for those start-ups?
It works with developers to provide workspace for companies at every stage of the growth cycle, so whether you are a one man band with a great idea looking to hot desk or whether you are more established and want to take a number of permanent desks in the co-working facilities all the way up to the larger self contained units. The difference between competitors and us is that we allow for growth through our spaces, as well as nurturing our ecosystem keeping our community engaged, so it becomes the place you want to be! The concept began with start-ups; however larger international corporations are now evolving the way they work so the workspace concept becomes appealing to them also.
In terms of the roll out where is Hello Work currently and where do you plan to take it?
We have our first co-work space in Manchester which is currently 3,000 sq ft with 300 members and have an aggressive 24 month plan to open two more spaces in Manchester, one in Leeds and two in London.
Hello Work in Manchester is part of the Old Granada Studios site; do you envisage it being an integral part of the wider scheme?
Absolutely. It’s very much a site with the ‘Shoreditch feel’, based on creativity, independence, and creating experiential spaces. There’s currently no property company or platform to service those requirements, especially those with larger workspace requirements. We like to be forward thinking and work with different contractors, agents and the tenants themselves which in turn replicates our ethos and brand so it’s a great synergy. We have over 100,000 sqft of workspace and are at about 80% occupancy within 6 months.
In terms of your growth plans you mentioned London, are there any particular areas that you have your eye on?
It would be silly not to look at East London, however, we feel that does overlook other exciting areas. If you look at Southwest, Hammersmith for example there’s lots of exciting and established enterprise companies. All along the central line provides exciting locations for us, and not just your usual spots, we will concentrate on the micro market and ensure the fundamentals are in place.
With regards to the actual designs of the Hello Work space, where do you draw your inspiration?
We’ve travelled to the likes of New York, Amsterdam and Berlin and have been taking inspiration from a wide variety of places and spaces, which we then turn into reality with Hello Work. We feedback our ideas to our architects and they will translate our brief to provide us with a base concept, we’ll then evolve the top layer of design to make sure it has the Hello Work personal touch.
How do you see the co-working and serviced office market evolving over the next few years?
I think it will go national and establish itself as a core platform for the businesses discussed earlier. There is a lot of activity going on in the regions, they just haven’t shouted about it until now. I think it’s quite diluted in London already and we’ll see a retraction of co-working operators as they consolidate and evolve, the larger operators are now entering the market and will probably end up taking up an even greater market share.
How do you plan on promoting the Hello brand to become an established market player?
We invest a lot of time in networking, being a part of the community, attending events and become a face in the local community, before opening a space. Then we roll out our Hello campaign including a number of events which engage potential members. If we’re not sure on a location these events provide real-time feedback as to which areas work better than others. Upon finding the right location and property the whole promotion campaign escalates quickly including a carefully combined marketing plan. The real key however remains word of mouth and being embedded within the community, to demonstrate we are genuine as opposed to who has the largest marketing budget and who can shout the loudest.
To learn more about Hello Work please see www.hellowork.co.uk
Medical research suggests that too much sitting down can be bad for your health, so RAAAF and Barbara Visser have developed an experimental office that encourages workers to lean, perch or even lie down.
Spending every day at a desk increases exposure to a range of health issues, from heart disease to cancer, diabetes and obesity say researchers from Sweden, Australia and the UK. The End of Sitting is conceived as a space where sitting is just one of the options available …
A creative space for a creative company. Neumann/Smith Architecture helped advertising agency, Lowe Campbell Ewald, breath new life into a 100-year old building, setting a precedent for repurposing long vacant Detroit, Michigan, buildings, shining the light on historic preservation and anchoring the creative sector’s place as a strong economic engine for Detroit.
Bench furniture configurations and minimal fixed rooms were selected to create a more open and collaborative office environment. The design also makes creative use of recycled materials including wooden pallets, 500 locally salvaged wood doors sliced up into slatted partition pods, and electrical conduits used as room dividers. The space features other sustainable solutions including reclaimed barn wood from Michigan, counters made of concrete, and chairs with recycled content and environmentally friendly fabrics …
Over on Twitter @KontorLondon we have been sharing unique workspaces around the world using the hashtag ‘#WorkspacesWeWant to work in’ to highlight these amazing spaces and prove that the traditional office doesn’t have to be boring.
This series of ‘Workspace of the week’ cherry picks our favourites. Enjoy!
We caught up with Tim Beard, co-founder of Bibliotheque, to find out more about the company and what they look for in terms of workspace.
What is Bibliotheque and what does the company stand for?
A design Studio. Creative Thinking. Intelligent Creating.
What did you set out to achieve?
Constantly pushing to make things better. By creating beautiful, useful and innovative work.
Where do you aspire to be?
In London. (A bigger studio would be a step forward though).
What exciting projects are you currently working on?
A new kind of Watch magazine. A website for restauranteur Alan Yau. An identity for an Old Bond Street art foundation. A new permanent gallery at the Science Museum.
What is one of your favourite projects to date?
Identity for Ollo. A mobile broadband service provider, for emerging markets.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Books, Art, Music, Food, Film, Conversation, Exhibitions, The Past, The Present, The Future.
Who do you admire both within and outside your industry?
Anyone who continually innovates, and pushes the boundaries, at the highest levels. Comme des Garçon is always a pretty good place to start. We try to look outside our industry for inspiration, rather than inside it. Those who are good, know it, and don’t need us to tell them.
Turning to the property side of things, what is it that you look for in a workspace?
A single big raw open space, with character. Not a place with nasty polystyrene tiles on the ceiling.
Given a blank canvas where would you ideally be located?
Right where we are now. EC2.
What would it look like?
Honest, with some interesting materials, Grade A finishing and the look of being put together by a combination of Tadao Ando, Saana, Peter Zumthor and Herzog & de Meuron. We’re thinking of hiring them.
What is most important to you – location, cost, transport, amenities?
All of the above. When we moved in our rates were more than our rent. Cost is a bigger and bigger issue, which will invariable impact on the other three parameters.
How do you occupy the space and why?
We try to make it our own, within the parameters that are set for us. We just need to create an environment which facilitates good work, inspires our staff and is centrally located for all travel parameters.
How do you see things going in the future?
Unless there is a change in rental prices, out of Central London.
Where are your competitors moving?
Would you consider moving to areas such as Dalston, Haggerston and Hackney Wick or what about south of the river (Bermondsey, New Cross, Peckham etc)?
Dalston/Haggerston/London Fields/Hackney Wick – Yes to all. South of the River is not on our specific radar for a studio – but I wouldn’t rule it out if the place was right.
Why would you move to some and not others?
Being as central as possible is very useful to us. For both our staff and our clients connectivity. You pick up a surprising ammount of work, just bumping into people on the street, and staying engaged with your collaborators.
Would you consider other regional cities?
London is where its at for us.
One day. (After New York and Tokyo).
To see more of Bibliotheque’s amazing work please see www.bibliothequedesign.com