Gensler is heading north. Its new regional HQ in central Birmingham provides staff with a stimulating environment in a flexible space, with the practice aiming to be well-placed for other regional regenerations.
Size: 279 sq m
Duration: Two months
Words by Emily Martin
Images by Gensler
Earlier this year, global architecture, design and planning practice Gensler opened its Birmingham office in Digbeth's Custard Factory. As the practice's first UK office outside of London the new city-centre location, among an emerging cluster of creative businesses, forms Gensler's new regional HQ and represents big things for Gensler, Birmingham and the country's wider creative community.
'Locating our regional headquarters in Birmingham was a deliberate decision; as the UK wakes up to devolution, the new office will engage with a city on the cusp of a resurgence,' says Alistair Cory, head of Gensler's Birmingham office. Cory is in charge of developing the company's presence in the Midlands and other UK regions. 'Growth potential is huge,' he continues. 'Regeneration is well underway and the UK has one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7.'
An eclectic mix of seating and furniture pieces create a breakout zone
The new space's interior is an exploration of the link between the building's historical past and the local area. With the design brief requiring an 'open-plan, multifaceted creative work and events space that actively encourages users to contribute towards its organic development', the resulting design scheme provides staff with a stimulating environment to nurture creativity as well as foster new talent -- akin to the numerous creative entrepreneurs and start-ups in the area.
Gensler says it 'allowed' the original architecture to come through in the scheme by exposing brickwork, concrete floors and wiring, while also introducing industrial-style lighting and preserving the vast Crittall windows, to 'inspire us with their drama and authenticity'.
The design addresses the challenge of its single open-plan space, with a multispace requirement met through flexible and adaptable work areas that allow individuals, teams, collaborators and clients to work and interact in a variety of ways. In accommodating some 30 creative staff and between 50 and 100 guests for events, seminars and design experiments, a key driver for the project was to create the maximum impact in a flexible and adaptable space, at minimal cost. It also needed to lead by example: elevating Gensler's local status while acting as a creative incubator and start-up and being a role model for other local emerging businesses.
The open-plan space features a kitchen area, while the red curtain can provide privacy or create a stage for events
The space is reminiscent of a New York warehouse: the open-plan set-up of the L-shaped space lends itself easily to zoning. Featuring two banks of desks and a kitchen area, tables and chairs are placed at one end of the office, with sofas and a breakout area towards the entrance. A red curtain provides privacy as well as facilitating a staging area during events. 'It is an extremely collaborative space, and the notion of collaboration is fundamental to the ethos of this office -- we want to cultivate collaboration between colleagues, but also among the other businesses in the Birmingham community,' says Cory.
The new HQ intends to not only grow the regional business but also firmly establish itself within the city of Birmingham: a city it seeks to help shape. 'We plan to foster the array of local talent by partnering with local businesses and universities,' explains Cory, 'as well as reversing migration and attracting key talent from across the UK's [other] thriving cities -- including the capital.
Finishes and equipment