See inside 'The Gate' in Solihull, the new HQ for the IM Group designed by Squaredot.
Client: IM Group
Workplace consultancy and interior design: Squaredot squaredot.co.uk
Architects: Webb Gray webbgray.co.uk
Services consultants: Couch Perry Wilkes cpwp.com
PM and QS: RLB rlb.com
Landscape design: BEA bealandscape.co.uk
Furniture supplier: Momentum momentumcardiff.com
Main contactor: BAM bam.co.uk
End date: July 2019
Size: 60,000 sq ft (entire campus)
Correction: In our print issue we incorrectly listed the furniture supplier as 'main contractor' when it should have said 'Momentum'.
Words by Sophie Tolhurst
A compulsory purchase order (CPO) isn’t what anyone likes to receive, but when IM Group were notified that the location of its HQ would be cleared to make way for HS2, the company decided to make the most of the situation and plan the perfect new campus. IM Group had been happy with its old location – set in 200 acres of green belt at Coleshill Manor – but while the building was only around 12 years old, company growth had meant it was on its way to ‘extending into the atrium, extending into the mezzanine’, explains Majella Lynch, project director at IM Properties. With the CPO received, IM Group had two and a half years in which to move to a new site.
The 7x6m LED video wall
The interior design was delivered by Warwickshire-based Squaredot and led by director David Kramer, after Squaredot was previously appointed to undertake an in-depth utilisation analysis of IM Group’s Coleshill office in 2016. When it came to delivering the new campus, the brief from the owner of the business, as Jason Jasper, UK project director of IM Properties explains, was ‘to deliver something special, a once in a lifetime opportunity.’ All involved knew the timeframe was tight, and the team, ‘had to figure out a strategy that afforded the business time to formulate its requirements Jasper continues, all while adhering to the critical path.
Slatted ceilings In the office space are made from Oregon pine
The ambitious design included a high level of bespoke elements and unusual elevating details. While detail was important, standout features include a 7 x 6m LED video wall that acts as a showpiece backdrop for the showroom and reception area, shuttered concrete walls in the entrance and connecting spaces, and a cantilevered feature staircase.
The showroom is positioned at the front of the building, but there is continuity between ‘front of house’ and back of house’ spaces and it was important that the showroom would not feel ‘bolted on and sterile most of the time’, Kramer explains. Instead the spaces unfold from one to the other, through sightlines and continuation of the ‘monolithic’ terrazzo flooring, drawing the visitor’s interest further in towards the working spaces.
The second floor space includes a green and textured ‘Henman Hill’ for informal gatherings and watching sports
Furniture throughout was tailored to the different teams following consultations and the utilisation surveys. The building is designed for circa 300 but could support 400-450 with increased usage of agile working cultures and desk sharing. Cultural and behavioural change has come with the new ideas proposed, but there was employee engagement throughout, to ensure it was what they wanted. Features such as sit-stand desks are proving very well utilised, explains Lynch.
There is continuity of materials between the inside and Webb Gray’s work outside: corten steel on the ‘gate’ of the building, as well as dark concrete, dark aluminium and steel. Squaredot has also introduced colour and texture into the interiors in an inspired way; instead of a lick of bright paint, they went for coloured glass for meeting rooms. In the office space there are slatted ceilings of Oregon pine; walls of shuttered concrete, coloured Valchromat joinery for storage and more costly but easily maintained Fenix desk tops and doors. Angular meeting rooms shaped like a shard of glass break up the floor plan, but such irregular spaces called for bespoke interior solutions such as custom-shaped tables, and SAS ceilings along with Kvadrat’s Soft Cells fabric ceilings that were shaped to fit the space.
Squaredot brought both colour and texture to the interiors
Behind the approach is IM Group managing director Andrew Edmiston’s ethos that the company is all about its people. This is most evident in the treatment of the second floor: a space entirely focused on staff wellbeing. It does this through its facilities, offering theatrekitchen dining, a coffee bar, roof terraces, a gym, a herb garden and three hole putting green as well as The Embankment, a green and textured ‘grassy’ bank of seating acting as a ‘Henman Hill’ for the employees during social events like sports screenings or informal team gatherings. Squaredot’s experimentation with textures and creative elements really shines across this floor, and this space is proving hugely popular, whether encouraging people to take a decent lunch break, or to catch up post work staff from across departments over a casual game of table tennis.
Squaredot’s aim was to ‘create an open environment with changing landscapes and points of interest’
Jasper comments that there was little time reserved for reflection or ‘soul-searching’ but they still worked hard to personalise the space. Though the developers are used to delivering quality offices, designing their own HQ took them into unchartered territory.
Shuttered concrete walls have been used in connecting areas
IM’s resulting HQ is bright, playful, and its success is evident in a noticeable boost in staff mood. All involved parties were challenged by the project despite their expertise, but hard work and coordination meant that the project was pulled-off all while meeting and exceeding BCO standards, sustainability and best practice guidelines; in short, a project that all involved were proud to be part of.
Tranquil spaces have been provided outdoors with a roof terrace
SAS & Kvadrat Soft-cells
Bespoke joinery & timber ceilings
Milliken & Bentley
Woven vinyl flooring
Bute, Svensson & Kvadrat
Fenix & Formica
Corian, Meganite & Kerrock
Valchromat & Forbo Desktop Marmoleum
Key Furniture products
Conference tables/ chairs
Meeting room furniture
Andrew World, Modus, Naughtone, Quinti, Deform, B&B, Capdell
Werner Works & Iduna
Jennifer Newman, Fast Spa, Pedrali, Extremis, Kettal