For a body representing mobile phone operators, The Interiors Group has created an engaging and attractive new HQ space with integrated IT, naturally.
Fit out: The Interiors Group
Designer: Engine Room Design
Size: 4,180 sq m
Cost: Not disclosed
Duration: 16 weeks
Words by Emily Martin
An Organization representing the interests of mobile phone operators worldwide has relocated its London HQ to the second floor of the Foster + Partners-designed Walbrook Building. The design and fit-out for the GSMA by The Interiors Group, together with architecture and design group Engine Room Design, embodies a sleek and flexible space, while also serving as a cost-effective example of the use of interactive technology and integrated IT infrastructure within the workplace.
The previous offices of the GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) displayed a more 'corporate' layout, with bench desking throughout; this time around it was seeking something different, handing the design brief to The Interiors Group and Engine Room Design and requesting a 'marketplace' for employees and visitors in order to unite and engage in a 'creative enterprise'. One challenging element of the brief was housing, in addition to the company's 200 staff, the frequent international visitors and clients, requiring a space designed to accommodate up to 600 people.
Moveable arched partitions can be pushed together to create a separate unit within the main office.
The resulting design scheme incorporates flexible workspace elements, including a cleverly designed 'piazza', accessed via the reception. This area suits a variety of individual and group requirements through its mix of soft seating. Featuring individual lounge chairs, standing-height benches with perching stools, high-back sofas and fixed banquette seating, the piazza is multifunctional - visitors can wait in this space, small groups can meet for general discussion, and it can be used as an informal meeting space.
'In our opinion the best design feature of the scheme is the piazza, which in this case is a mix of both reception and town hall area,' says Andy Black, CEO of The Interiors Group. 'It unquestionably has one of the greatest wow factors of any project we have been involved in or had the pleasure of visiting.'
Near the entrance is the striking reception, which faces open bookcases sited either side of the entrance door. Linear and symmetrical lines in the reception area create a futuristic feel as visitors are met with the striking contrast of a bold red against white walls.
Flanking the entrance are six, two-person conference booths, each with a 'lid' with acoustic properties. A red light beam comes on automatically and is projected on to the ceiling above the booth, signifying that it is occupied - one of the many useful integrated IT features included in the fit-out.
A bookcase sits in front of a self-contained conference booth
The spacious office floor has been planned with 'built-in flexibility' to help reduce the monotony of day-to-day office life. All booths, pods, meeting and conference rooms - even desks - have been fitted with intelligent prebooking systems, which allows employees and visitors to schedule meetings from any part of the world via their mobile device.
In total, 15 types of meeting facilities are available, including individual 'thinking' rooms, breakout areas for informal meetings, two-person conference booths, meeting pods, group meeting rooms and standing-height desks. The largest conference room is divided into four separate rooms for daily use, though they can quickly be converted via the bi-folding walls into the larger conference space. In addition the room houses a smart, interactive AV system, which automatically directs sound output from front and back speakers when the space is back to being a single room.
And being a lively office new acoustic wall panels and glass partitions have been installed help create an 'acoustic haven'. Acoustic feature lighting is set over meeting tables, controlling noise output when groups gather for informal discussions. High-back breakout sofas in various locations and desk screens also help control sound levels.
The glazed partitions of a conference room are vehicles for graphics
Additionally, there are arched overhead partitions set over a selection of workbenches. Set on runners, the sliding partitions can be arranged individually or closed up together to form a 'tunnel', thereby creating a separate space within the main office floor.
In the tunnel form, they are designed to absorb sound and diffuse it.
And with vinyl graphics applied to many of the meeting room's glass partitions, the resulting design scheme is not only visually stimulating and representative of a modern technology company, but is also a platform for the GSMA to implement its strategy for new working methods: agility and team working. Patricia Bessey, Engine Room Design founder and director comments: 'Our goal was to create an inspirational space that draws on advanced technological cues from within the mobile industry and build an exciting, vibrant workplace for GSMA staff. Based on the feedback that we've received from the GSMA, I'd say that we hit the mark.'
Andy Black comments: 'Engine Room's ability to create such a flexible design scheme to facilitate the working requirements of the GSMA has absolutely blown us away. The design truly has the principles of agile working at its core, meeting the needs of every different type of working practices that the GSMA requires.'