Fears of moving into a more corporate building were shortlived when staff of a group of disparate media agencies moved under one roof, thanks to a design by MoreySmith that played to the individual character of each agency
Size: 11,150 sq m
Completion time:12 months
Translating a company’s ‘corporate identity’ into an interior design scheme can be tricky enough, but what about doing that for five creative media agencies in one building?
That was the brief when architectural and interior design practice MoreySmith took on this project for Aegis Group, the parent company to media agencies glueIsobar, Carat, Aegis Global, iProspect and Vizeum, which were to be brought together for the first time in one eight-storey building at British Land’s estate in central London, Regent’s Place.
‘Central to the brief was the need for the power brands glueIsobar, Carat, iProspect and Vizeum to retain their identities, and we worked closely with each brand to create dynamic spaces that reflect those,’ says principal Linda Morey Smith. ‘But as it was one project and one business, the client also wanted a sense of consistency running through the building,’ adds designer Nicola Osborn, ‘and that was the real challenge with this project.’
Certain areas, such as a cafe on the ground floor, are designed to suit all of the businesses, but the agencies’ individual floors have been given a more personal touch. A tight budget and a short time-frame meant that much of the design had to be focused on the client-facing areas such as receptions, meeting rooms and breakout areas.
The overarching brief, says Osborn, was to create an innovative and vibrant space: not an easy task in a new building with a standard Category A fit-out. ‘It would have bee great to have been able to strip back the building as we have done on other projects,’ says Osborn, ‘but it would have cost a lot of money, so there had to be some compromise along the way. We decided to keep the Cat A ceiling in the main work areas and remove it in many of the client-facing areas and communal spaces, such as the cafe.’
The design team,which included MoreySmith’s creative director Andrew McCann and director Graham Montague, then added ceiling rafts, some made of plaster board and others made of layers of plywood, which bring down the heights of the ceilings in some areas and demarcate various zones, such as the reception area on the glueIsobar floor.
MoreySmith had designed an office for media agency Vizeum three years ago and the company was still very happy with that scheme, which involved glass screens decorated with the agency’s signature graphics of trees and birds in flight, so much of it was simply moved to the new office and furniture was reused wherever possible.
But there were plenty of scope for creativity, not least on the 7th floor for ad agency glueIsobar. It had moved from the Tea Building, a converted warehouse in trendy Shoreditch in east London, and many of the staff were apprehensive about moving to a more corporate building. ‘We wanted to create a new space for them that was funky and fun and really reflected the brand,’ says Osborn.
The 7th floor’s reception area has an exposed ceiling and a feature wall made of reclaimed wooden railway sleepers. A cut-out window in the feature wall gives a view into the breakout area beyond.
For reasons of economy, the reception desks on each floor are simple boxes of lacquered MDF, but the designers customised this one with a front of raw steel bent into a zigzag pattern.
Where possible furniture was reused from the agency’s previous office, but the design team also sourced secondhand pieces and found what Osborn calls some ‘real gems’ from UK furniture designers including Very Good & Proper, whose Canteen Chairs are used in the breakout space behind reception.
Two chandeliers – one by Conciluce and made of metal rods with LEDs, and one made of broken-down pallets with standard fitments and standard lamps – provide focal points for the breakout area.
Each floor has a similar row of meeting rooms, but the design team treated these differently. For the glueIsobar office, they clad the wall around the meeting rooms with white brick slips and used reclaimed sliding garage doors painted red to give what Osborn calls an ‘art studio feel’.
Occupying the third and fourth floors, digital media specialist Carat is perhaps the most corporate of the agencies. To reflect this, the designers came up with a more grown-up feel for the reception area, using a parquet floor of reclaimed dark timber blocks. A feature wall behind reception is made of timber planks painted white and with the Carat logo cut into it.
For the cafe on the ground floor, MoreySmith went for a pared-down, industrial aesthetic inspired by bars and restaurants of Shoreditch, with exposed ceiling works and reclaimed factory lights from Eastern Europe. Plywood ceiling rafts have been installed again here, but this time they are perforated with a line of holes so that LEDs mounted in the ceiling shine through like spotlights.
The designers created different zones in the cafe by using two kinds of flooring – timber parquet flooring in one area and a floor of black and white ceramic tiles (a reference to the classic bistro floor) – elsewhere. Square PLC tables sit on the tiled floor, while round Yipsilon tables occupy the timber floored area. A bespoke mesh screen painted in a bronze colour divides the serving area from the rest of the cafe.
Alongside the cafe, Osborn’s favourite area is the glueIsobar office. ‘It’s a good combination of reused and new furniture and materials,’ she says. ‘We were also able to inject a bit more creativity with the finishes, such as with the brick slips.’
It has also been very popular with the client, say the designers. ‘They tell me that people have settled in really well there,’ says Osborn. ‘We’ve been told that people are actually dressing better and even that attendance is up. That’s great to hear because those things are also part of the success of a project.
‘It’s great to know that people love the building and, whether they know it or not, that it is making a positive difference to their working day.’