A huge bank of bleachers acts as a gathering point at the centre of this studio complex created by Emrys Architects within a listed ironworks in the Isle of Dogs, east London. Built inside the former Millwall Ironworks, the two-storey birch plywood structure by London studio Emrys Architects contains studios, workshops and co-working spaces. Named The Forge, the rejuvenated building is now the headquarters of Craft Central, a charity promoting craftsmanship and providing affordable studio space.
Millwall Ironworks formed part of the city’s shipbuilding quarter on the Isle of dogs, a peninsula created by a dramatic bend in the River Thames. The docks were bombed heavily during the second world war, but the brick structure of the ironworks remained intact.
Within the timber structure are a series of self-contained studios that range from 8 to 27 square metres along with meeting rooms. There are also shared workspaces for craftspeople that cannot commit to a full-time studio. A bank of bleacher seating described by the architects as “integral to unlocking the whole plan”, provides access to the first floor studios and creates a social space. This full-height space at the entrance to the building is also used as an exhibition and event space, with large windows out onto the street helping to attract passersby. Additionally, a number of work desks have been positioned along both long walls which can be hired on a month-by-month basis.
Throughout the architects chose to expose services and structure to further “celebrate” the building’s original character, choosing birch plywood and galvanised steel to emphasise the building’s industrial past.
Benyon Estate’s De Beauvoir Block is bringing a whole new cross-section of the creative industry to De Beauvoir Town. The scheme totals 30,000 sq ft and provides light and airy workspaces that range in size from 300 sq ft to 2,500 sq ft. Central to the scheme is the private café, which gives occupants a relaxed, informal extra place to sit and work.
The development firm worked with Shoreditch architect Henley Halebrown to create the property which is almost fully let even though it only opened in July. The only spaces left are a few units offering up to 24 desks.
Benyon’s commercial manager Josh Summers talks to Kontor about plans for the scheme and growing demands from London’s creative industries.
What was your initial plan when you first started developing the property?
Specifically, the aim of De Beauvoir Block is to bring the creative industries together. Current tenants are immersed in industries such as fashion, PR, photography and so on, who were all looking for an attractive, well-priced workspace.
We were very conscious that we wanted this development to be commercial only rather than residential. Although there are amazing pubs, cafes and so on, De Beauvoir Town needed something to bring more people to the area. Few people have really heard of it yet so this is a way to make it more of a destination.
How did your plans evolve as the scheme grew?
Initially, there wasn’t a café/desk area in the plan. As we were carrying out development we realised that it was integral to have a central hub for tenants.
One main reason for this is because as we visited a lot of offices as research, we saw that people often used half their space to create a comfortable space to relax in and crammed their desks into the other half. We realised that if we offer a café for tenants then they can dedicate more of their own space to desks. It adds flexibility that people don’t get elsewhere.
Why did you decide to create a building with multiple workspaces rather than one large office?
We knew there was huge demand for this type of space, offices of varying sizes that accommodate growing businesses. We designed the building so we could offer larger offices of 2,500 sq ft, as well as units of 1,500-2000 sq ft, others of 1,000 – 1,500 sq ft and then 13 smaller units on the top floor of about 300 sq ft which are aimed at startups.
The whole model is designed so a tenant can take a desk, move to a smaller office and then grow into the larger spaces as they come available. It’s almost an entire self-contained offering for companies as they scale. The largest demand so far has been for spaces of 300 sq ft.
Why have current tenants chosen to locate here?
The main feedback we’ve had so far is that people think elsewhere in London they could pay twice as much for an office that just isn’t as well designed.
What other benefits are there to being in a managed workspace?
We have a shared meeting room which is proving very popular. Lots of people book it out for the day to entertain clients. Even if a business has a small office, they can take a client to the café then into a booked meeting space and generally sell themselves much more effectively than if they only had their own small, private office.
Do you believe buildings such as De Beauvoir Block are the future of London’s office market?
Absolutely. For example, we now see that having a café or space to relax is integral in a large office block. The idea has really taken off. We’re shying away from opening the café to the public to try to make a profit, as we want it to be a factor that appeals to tenants. There is enough buzz in De Beauvoir Town as new cafes and pubs open as it is.
For Arhitekt 11, the inspiration for planning the Äripäev office was the very special factory building built at the beginning of the 20th century. Äripäev is Estonia’s most famous and largest business newspaper, radio and publishing company and needed to transform the space into an open office for 280 employees. The chosen space, Luther’s Machine Room, is a former Luther plywood manufacturing plant, one of the largest industrial buildings in the Baltic States from that time.
A modern, open-plan office for 280 people has been created in this historic space with activity-based working principles. The working landscape is on the outer perimeter of the space, moving to the centre there are open and closed meeting rooms and in the centre is a public space with a library and work-cafe. Existing materials like limestone walls and concrete posts, beams, and ceilings have been preserved and cleaned. In order to exhibit the unique constructions of the building, there is a small atrium between the ground floor and the main floor, from where a whole constructive post can be seen from top to bottom.
Inspired by the birch veneer produced in Luther’s factory in the first half of the 20th century, plywood boards are used as a finishing material for the meeting rooms which are stand-alone objects inside the space. Inner streets form between the objects, where the light from the top and the trees create an outdoorsy feel. The biggest challenge was to achieve the acoustics needed for working. Since there are not enough wall surfaces, all closed ceilings are covered with acoustic wool boards. There are also many acoustic materials used in the furniture – the screens on tables, the backs of cabinets, telephone chairs. Acoustic measuring and feedback from employees of Äripäev are proof that the results are satisfying.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.