Corporate cool is the name of the game for interiors by EDGE for a pair of insurance companies newly relocated at the ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper.
Client: Lancashire Insurance Group
Size: 3,054 sq m
Duration: Eight months
Words by Emily Martin.
Photography by Gareth Gardner.
20 Fenchurch Street has been a topic of conversation since construction began in 2009, and with building works completed last year the 'Walkie Talkie', as many know it, has dramatically altered London's skyline.
The building offers spectacular city views, but its greatest advantage for tenants is the enlarged floor space when compared to some of London's other commercial buildings.
And this was a deciding factor for the Lancashire Insurance Group, which has taken up occupation in the latest landmark structure.
It has dedicated more a third of the floor plate to front-of-house and break-out areas while retaining comfortable and spacious work zones.
'The floor plates throughout 20 Fenchurch Street are larger than many of the other London skyscrapers,' explains Michael Fern, project principal and executive director at EDGE, which completed the new interior space for the Lancashire Insurance Group. Located on level 29, the gross internal area is 3,054 sq m.
A freestanding reception desk greets visitors
'This allowed the company to occupy only one floor and yet at the same time keep to its density requirements,' says Fern.
With the space shared with Cathedral Insurance Group, another insurance company underneath Lancashire Insurance Group umbrella, EDGE was briefed to create a 'next-generation design', with the practice establishing the 'common elements shared by both businesses'. Fen explains: 'We needed to work out how to affiliate the two companies' employer brands to form a unified space that complimented them both...EDGE's big idea for the space was to create "The Forum": an open and honest community celebrating the unified spirit of Lancashire and Cathedral.'
Key materials were selected to represent the two brands
A principal challenge for EDGE was integrating the two businesses - or what it describes as 'two cultures' - to create a unique employer brand while maintaining individual identity. Ferns says the resulting design promotes interaction and transforms the Lancashire and Cathedral ways of working into a more collaborative and productive method. 'The new office is the first integrated workplace for both companies, which in effect do the same thing. But the space needed to reflect their separate cultures while allowing them to share spaces, such as reception, visitors' lounge, meeting rooms and staff facilities. The project promotes interactions, so answering a key brief requirement with social design.'
Using 'impact' as the scheme's principal vision, EDGE has created an uplifting journey for visitors and staff from entry to workspace.
And being located on the 29th floor the practice wanted to capitalise on the spectacular views. 'We wanted to do justice to the London skyline by ensuring the design provided great visibility throughout,' says Fern.
'As the lift doors open and you step out into the space you are greeted with a circular reception desk, the shape of which frames the panoramic backdrop of the city skyline.'
A pic 'n' mix vending machine is a quirky addition to the visitor's lounge
The Forum design concept features a dedicated client and staff social/entertainment area, occupying a third of the floor space. Featuring orange bar stools that offset a statement black and white tiled bar - key colours of the Lancashire branding - the space is used primarily for staff events. In discussing how the space could further reflect the characters and work ethics of Lancashire and Cathedral, EDGE decided on a few statement pieces using materials that 'emulated the honesty' Lancashire wanted to convey.
Concrete benches, which stand as a statement of 'integrity' for the businesses, mixed with a timber theme to represent Lancashire/Cathedral as 'honest and open businesses.'
One of the more quirky features seen in the design is the installation of a 'pic 'n' mix' station in the visitors' lounge. This, along with some retro vending machines stationed on one of the lounge walls, creates a playful environment where clients and staff alike can relax and feel at home. In merging the personalities of the two companies colour quickly became significant and the bold black and orange branding of Lancashire was integrated into the design scheme to create a welcoming space.
These accent colours, also used in some seating and wall panelling, are mixed with more muted tones to provide warmth, as well as with more subtle tones of Cathedral's branding.
Space-efficient 'trader booths' fit in with the open-plan style of the design
With a large part of the overall space being used for client and staff entertaining, EDGE considered how to maximise the efficiency of remaining space for meeting rooms and work areas. The more traditional booths of insurance firms' underwriters were replaced with more space-efficient 'trader booths'; a more open-plan style of booth. EDGE say that they also fit with the relaxed office environment taking away the formality of an enclosed room.
This open-plan style is a feature of the workspace, encouraging not only space efficiency but also the desired 'family feel' as wished for by the client. For quiet work space EDGE has created 'focus booths' as part of the scheme, which are interspersed throughout the open-office space, and feature transparent sliding doors to keep with the theme of openness while providing privacy.
Fern comments: 'The dramatic, branded interior breaks new ground for what is normally a staid and "traditional" industry, positioning the client as change makers within their sector by creating a new "corporate cool".'