Markel International, London, by EDGE

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  • Markel’s ‘ground-floor’ reception, on the first of its three floors, is on the building’s 27th floor

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  • Walnut joinery features in the reception desk

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  • An internal staircase links the company’s floors within 20 Fenchurch Street

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  • An internal staircase links the company’s floors within 20 Fenchurch Street

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  • Sam’s restaurant has been created as a place to relax for staff and visitors

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  • The Sam’s neon sign sits on black tiling

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  • Tom Dixon’s Wingback sofas feature in the brokers’ lounges on each floor

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When the insurance company left its sole-occupancy building and moved to three floors in a prestigious new office block, it gained a building within a building.

FX

Words by Emily Martin

Images by Tim Crocker


Project Info

Client: Markel International

Architect: EDGE

Size: 7,500 sq m

Duration: 15 months


In 2008 insurance company Markel International decided the time was right to find a new workplace. With the lease for its then offices terminating in mid-2015 the company sought out a prestigious location at 20 Fenchurch Street, into which it has now moved.

With the building's floorplates able to accommodate larger offices and collaborative working, as well as having fantastic city views, the relocation would also switch the insurance company from occupying a whole building (and having its own front door) to being a tenant within a large multi-occupied building.

Markel’s ‘ground-floor’ reception, on the first of its three floors, is on the building’s 27th floor
Markel's 'ground-floor' reception, on the first of its three floors, is on the building's 27th floor

Working with architecture practice EDGE an agreement was reached with the landord for an internal staircase to be created between Markel's three floors in the building. It's the key design feature that provides the company with the 'building within a building' concept.

'We needed to ensure that the design for the space would create Markel a home within the building that would become a destination in itself,' explains Racheal Cadey, project principal at EDGE. 'Markel did not want to sacrifice a drop in visits from its customers because of not having its own front door.' EDGE identified the business's 'DNA' to provide the project inspiration, which it called 'The Big Idea'.

Walnut joinery features in the reception desk
Walnut joinery features in the reception desk

'The Big Idea for Markel 20 Fenchurch Street was "Reasons to Visit" and focusing on "Spaces, Places and People"...to see this as an attractive destination...in order to go about business,' says Cadey.

Arriving at floor 27, the lifts open into an impressive lobby dubbed the 'Portal'. The space features a shimmering gold, silver and bronze staircase, bespoke ceiling lights and Portuguese limestone flooring, leading to the reception area and a client lounge; with its south-facing vistas overlooking the Thames and South Bank.

An internal staircase links the company’s floors within 20 Fenchurch Street
An internal staircase links the company's floors within 20 Fenchurch Street

Behind the elegant reception backdrop of American black walnut partitions is the Executive Suite, where the senior Markel team is accommodated. It includes a 12-person boardroom, overlooking the City of London, and interactive screens. The glazed partitioning used for the boardroom is constructed with electronic Smart Glass, which can transform from opaque to clear at the flick of a switch.

An internal staircase links the company’s floors within 20 Fenchurch Street
An internal staircase links the company's floors within 20 Fenchurch Street

Each of the management offices features fine detailing such as marble-top cabinets clad in the same American black walnut as showcased in the front-of-house area. Back at the reception area, the striking feature staircase cuts through the suite of floors to link them and the brokerage areas. It is designed with low iron balustrades, leather handrails and anodised aluminium in bronze tones. Clever engineering means the panelling, which slides up into the ceiling, absorbs deflection from any movement across the three floors.

'The beautifully crafted detailing and joinery reflects Markel's businesses core values of quality, honesty and innovation, and creates a happy place to work for all its staff and visitors', says Cadey of the structure, which is central to the design scheme. 'This is Markel's core and the heart of its new home. The detailing is immaculate.'

Sam’s restaurant has been created as a place to relax for staff and visitors
Sam's restaurant has been created as a place to relax for staff and visitors

Visitors are met and conducted from the client lounge through to the broker lounges, located on all three levels, which greet visitors with a 'wow' factor. Each is dotted with Tom Dixon blue velvet Wingback sofas and black Italian marble-clad counters with tea and coffee making facilities behind. Double-glazed, flush-bond partitioned meeting rooms are set off from these areas. With acoustically sealed sliding doors they create private areas for the underwriters and brokers to work. The broker lounge on level 26 can be opened out to the 'town hall' (a sociable meeting space for staff) to form a spacious area for large events and gatherings. The partition is moveable, semi-automated and fits snugly into a smartly detailed enclosure.

The Sam’s neon sign sits on black tiling
Sam's neon sign sits on black tiling

A key factor for EDGE was an equality of approach for the design scheme. Markel intentionally wanted no reduction in the quality of materials or design standard between client and staff areas, with both areas featuring the same design and material sophistication. Additionally, EDGE assisted with a 'cultural shift', by doing away with closed working areas and installing open-plan workstations for a more collaborative and open-working ethic.

Staff meetings rooms feature European oak joinery and glazed partitions and are sited centrally towards the building's core, in order to optimise the cityscape views for staff at their workstations.Tea points are located within the workplace areas, which also house booths to enable workers to have a break away from their desks.

Tom Dixon’s Wingback sofas feature in the brokers’ lounges on each floor
Tom Dixon's Wingback sofas feature in the brokers' lounges on each floor

And on the ground floor of Markel's 'building', on the 25th floor, is the new London skyline restaurant Sam's, named after Markel's business founder. The neon signage for Sam's is placed against black glazed tiles, giving a more relaxed and playful side to Markel as both staff and visitors enjoy the views of the Tower of London and beyond to Canary Wharf.

20 Fenchurch Street is the London representative of Markel's 18 international offices and is set to form a benchmark for realising the One Markel vision across its property portfolio. 'EDGE, focusing on employer brand thinking, was appointed via a competitive, creative pitch process,' explains Cadey. 'Markel noted that EDGE clearly demonstrated that it had best understood the company.'

Suppliers

Stone Flooring
Harper & Edwards

Carpet
Milliken

Wall Finishes
Tektura
Fabric Systems

Furniture
Suppliers Knoll
B&B Italia
Tom Dixon
Vitra

Lighting
Vibia
Kreon
EDGE in collaboration with Future Designs

Glaze Partitions
Optima Systems

For more information, visit EDGE





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