Re-purposing and re-using furniture for a major financial institution.
A few minutes' walk from Central London, 134,548 sqft of office space for a major retail and commercial bank has recently been converted into a collaborative haven for over 2,800 highly mobile workers. We spoke to Chiara Cantilena to tell us more
What was the brief, and can you tell us about the approach you took and what inspired your approach to re-purposing existing furniture?
CC The client asked us to rethink about their current office space and ways of working in the post pandemic and explore ways of re-purposing, reusing, and up-cycling their existing furniture. The re-purposing program was underlined by a strong sense of responsibility and desire from the client and LOM to do the right thing and extend the lifespan of what they already owned.
Was getting people to return to the office a key factor of your brief?
CC It definitely was. The re-purposing program went hand in hand with a radical re-think of how the office is used and how it can become a catalyst to encourage return to work. The up-cycling piece was integral to the return-to-work strategy as the spaces had to look fresh, appealing and representative of company values but with a strong underlying sense of environmental responsibility. An acknowledgment of people’s need for more flexibility on office days shaped the response to the brief.
During the early stages of the project, how did you break down the design process?
CC Strategic space planning and environmental considerations defined the early stages of work. This was followed by in depth auditing of the spaces to verify how much and in what measure could be reused and what components could become part of a library of parts to draw from to create new settings and spaces. The collaboration with The Senator Group was instrumental as it allowed us to bring an element of reality and sense checking to the early reuse ideas. The team at The Senator Group was able to prototype for us very quickly and effectively so that we could test products with the client and tweak where necessary.
Taking into account the possible changes within worker’s moods and behaviours, how did you overcome the transitions within the cultural shift of new hybrid working routines?
CC The spaces were designed to accommodate a range of needs and behaviours. From areas that allowed maximum flexibility to shape project areas on the basis of team needs to nooks for calmer and more secluded work. A higher than normal number of booths and pods were provisioned in knowledge of a continued and growing requirement for hybrid digital and conventional meetings.
Can you describe how you delivered agile and innovative breakout areas?
CC Breakout areas, also referred to as ‘Landing zones’ were developed closely with the client and The Senator Group. They were meant as a three-dimensional expression of the company’s branding. A fresh and versatile ‘macro object’ sat in close proximity to new refreshment facilities. These sculptural dividers were designed to offer support for varying concurrent activities. One-to-one benching and cafe style tables supported by white boards on one side, communal tables that could double up as informal, small group meeting tables supported by technology on another and an internal semi-open niche for informal conversation in a more sheltered, library-inspired mini living room. These break out spaces were intentionally built around tea points to recreate the comfort and creative buzz of a coffee shop.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome during this project?
CC The reuse piece was challenging mostly because the construction industry is collectively still getting up to speed with the environmental challenge and buying new is still the easiest avenue. A considered and careful reuse and re-purpose of spaces and items that looks to minimise the embodied carbon of a project impact is still relatively uncharted. Many processes are yet to be streamlined. Having approached reuse so extensively on this project, has given us a real sense for the scale of the environmental challenge and how much the industry will have to get up to speed with new processes and challenge stale practices.
As we progress into post-pandemic workspaces, do you feel it is important to re-manufacture redundant furniture?
CC I think it will become essential as the world’s resources are finite and we need to acknowledge that recycling or giving old items to charities may not always be possible or feasible moving on with some of these sectors becoming saturated. Furniture industry will have to start designing in end of life in a way that is actually practical and would allow
to effectively break an item into its component parts that can all be re-purposed or modified to create something new.
What trends were you inspired by?
CC We tried to stay clear of trends as we wanted to deliver a space that would stand the test of time and age well. We were inspired by principles of modularity to support future reuse and change of function. The colour palettes were a fresher ‘zingier’ take on the corporate primary and secondary colours that added a lot of freshness and vibrancy to the work areas and landing zones. Colour was used in quite a functional way to help modulate the space and create intuitive transitions.
How would you describe the results of the collaboration between yourselves, as the Architects, and us as the Manufacturer?
CC The Senator Group were always open to exploring our ideas. There was a fair bit of development required and The Senator Group team had a very proactive approach to all the challenges that were directed their way. From re-thinking how components were used to testing new and different materials, we had very open and practical workshops. The Senator Group team were immediately sold on the challenges and approaches all complications creatively. I can’t think of a better way to face head on the reuse challenge. Creative intelligence and a measured approach to logistics.