Putting its money where its mouth is, architect Gensler has radically overhauled a tired east London office building for use as its own European headquarters, adapting both the structure and its own working methods to meet its future needs. “We’ve taken a 1980s building and reinvented it to respond to the evolving needs of creative businesses today and in the future”, says Duncan Swinhoe, Co-Regional Managing Principal at Gensler.
New ways of working were prototyped while the practice was in temporary accommodation nearby. Qualitative feedback was paired with quantitative data gathered during utilisation studies of the existing work areas to inform the new design. The study examined utilisation rates of workstations and meeting rooms, the frequency of activities such as focus work, conference calls, collaboration, and peak dates and times for meeting room demand.
In the new office, the practice has moved to a completely agile working model, and the space provides a diverse range of interconnected work settings to enable collaboration between employees, and between the disciplines in which the practice operates. The workplace strategy clusters teams on each floor in ‘neighbourhoods’. A feature staircase connects teams vertically to create chance encounters. “Agile working is a mindset”, says Swinhoe. “It’s about giving people the choice and freedom to choose the best place to work. Space plays a part, but it’s not what matters most – it’s about adopting a new way of thinking and, in turn, adopting new behaviours. Therefore, the environment, the workspace and the furniture is one of the most important enablers for successful agile working.”
Gensler’s research also uncovered that 80 per cent of its work is achieved in project teams of two to four people. Unable to find a furniture system that met its specific requirements, the practice collaborated with Fantoni to create ATELIER, a bespoke furniture solution that is modular, flexible and adaptable.
The design of the building draws on cues from the London docks, employing an ‘industrial’ palette of timber, brick and exposed steel.
As the only stand-alone building on the estate, No. 6 plays a distinct role in the urban grain, and the design team felt it important that the new office should create and encourage a dynamic mix of activities. It “aims to display social interaction, commercial activity and open opportunity to bring the renewed exterior environment into the ground level of the building – connecting it to the public realm”.
The building has achieved a Design Stage assessment and interim BREEAM Excellent rating.