It was at a Mix Round Table, earlier this year, that we first heard about the prospective new Adobe workplace through Cushman & Wakefield’s Giles Flaxton – who looks after the operational facilities management for Adobe’s European offices. When the Mix team shared notes, we realised that we had each underlined ‘Adobe’ and had written ‘case study?’ next to it.
Either Giles had sold the project to us quite brilliantly or it really was going to be one of the projects of the year. It turns out that it was both.
US software giant Adobe – the company that brought us Photoshop and Acrobat Reader (to name but two) – employs 600 staff in the UK and its new working home, located on the 7th, 8th, and 13th floors of the White Collar Factory on Old Street’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’, will be used as the company’s main London hub.
We head up to the 8th floor, where we meet with Adobe Site Operations Manager, Mark Bell, who can tell us more about the project and, indeed, Adobe’s hopes and aspirations for the space. ‘It’s gone really well, we’ve been embedded now for a good three months and everything we’ve designed is being used in the way we wanted it to,’ Mark enthuses. ‘We have really set the space up as three different areas over three floors. Floors seven and eight are linked by an internal staircase, while floor 13 came on quite late in the design process. We acquired another business during the fit-out and so we took another floor to be able to accommodate their office, which then gave us the space on the 13th floor to dedicate roughly a quarter of that floorplate to a Customer Experience Centre.
‘What we’ve tried to do is to create destinations on each of the floors. Level 13 is more of a client facing business and executive floor. Level 8 is more service orientated, with main reception and our IT helpdesk. Then Level 7 is a lot more social – we have table tennis and video games and all those cool things you’d expect of a Shoreditch tech company!
‘Depending on what experience you want or need, you have to have that cross-pollination between the floors – we really wanted to encourage movement throughout the space. So, if you’re sat on 13 for the majority of the week, you should at some stage have a need to go down to the other floors, to integrate and mix with other colleagues you typically wouldn’t speak with on a day-to-day basis.
‘With the way the real estate market is in London right now, it was a real challenge for us to find a building that was the right size for us, in the right location. That was what really forced the internal staircase – to have that connectivity between the floorplates.
‘We have designed the space to be pretty much completely open plan – there’s not one office across the three floors. We’ve tailored the walkways so that they ‘protect’ each of the neighbourhoods and people don’t have to pass through desks to get to where they need to get to. A lot of thought process went into that flow and how we can navigate through the space without disrupting too much.
‘We have an anchored department in each neighbourhood. Every desk is height adjustable and everyone has exactly the same desk – there is no hierarchy, if you’re a Director it doesn’t mean you have extra space. Some departments are fixed and others are completely agile, so people come in and look on the digital floorplans we’ve introduced to see where there is available space. This is the first Adobe office to pioneer this. It’s a really good way for us to manage the space and to identify where there is free space within the office. We actually have sensors under the desks – but these aren’t occupancy sensors or tracking devices, they are there to identify whether or not a space is free. We have what we call first, second and third spaces and we have these in each – in workstation areas, in conference areas and in open collaboration areas. This way, you don’t need to have a one-to-one meeting in a conference space.
‘Every single conference room has video conferencing capabilities and each neighbourhood has small and medium conferencing rooms, together with video booths, to host team meetings and one-on-one meetings. Then we have creative third spaces – interactive social spaces with lounge seating and booths. We worked quite hard to have these spaces – where people can have creative collisions and where the teapoints are – at the centre of the space, away from the windows. We really wanted to encourage those accidental meetings here, in the middle, while it also means that we’ve given all the windows and the views to the staff.
‘Actually, one of the most interesting things we have found – and one of the most popular here – are the open, collaborative meeting areas, which have white or blackboards and are heavily used. The fact that they are right next door to the tea and coffee points might help!’
The new Adobe home boasts cutting-edge connectivity and technology, of course, alongside bright and open areas where teams can meet and work together, as well as quieter spaces for individual work. ‘I think, in this location – Silicon Roundabout – this is a real opportunity for us to have a showcase office in the heart of London and we really wanted to make sure that, as people walk through, there was a technology presence there,’ Mark considers. ‘Hopefully, people come here with a high expectation of Adobe – and leave with a higher expectation of the business.
‘It’s quite hard within the tech business right now. Things such as video conferencing, free coffee and drinks are just table stakes. We’ve actually put in technology solutions that give something back to this building – genuine differentiators. We do have iPads that dispense coffee for you – but there’s a practical reason behind that, it’s not just because we thought it would be cool.
‘We’re an inquisitive company and we like to experiment with new things – we’re actively encouraged to do just that.’
Although there are a number of Adobe guidelines that Mark and the team were encouraged to follow, we’re told that there are relatively few global standards that ‘had’ to be adhered to. ‘We have a similar design feel to other Adobe offices but delivered with a local nuance,’ Mark tells us. ‘We worked closely with business units here to make sure what we’ve designed is practical and comfortable for them as a working space. I think this is one of the first offices that has that Adobe look and feel but also has its own character.
‘We partnered really closely with Gensler for the design. They know our company really well – we’ve worked with Gensler before in the US. They know what we like and what we don’t like. They were completely open to us changing things. They were great to work with. The good thing with the Gensler team was that they really listened to us and understood what we looking for – it was a really good collaborative process.’
The White Collar Factory boasts high ceilings, abundant natural light and natural ventilation, thanks to concrete core cooling. And, as well as being a healthy place to work on the inside, there is plenty to do to keep fit and active with access to a roof terrace including a 150m running track and plenty of space to park bicycles.
There are also plenty of brilliant nods to Adobe’s creative spirit, such as an installation of coloured mirrors that reflects the iconic London skyline, mimicking Adobe Photoshop filters. An amazing exclusive ceramic centerpiece, designed by East London artist Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, sits in the heart of the Customer Experience Centre, which also features a fantastic interactive videowall that can instantly be personally configured for visiting clients.
The Customer Experience Centre provides a customer facing area that allows Adobe to showcase their latest products to clients and visitors.
Finishes in this area are more refined and of a higher spec to create a polished contrast to the industrial nature of the space. A large, open space for customer receptions and events can be created here thanks to a retractable front elevation movable wall and internal Skyfold partitions.
The interconnecting feature staircase, which connects the 7th and 8th floors, is constructed in bold, red perforated metal mesh around a steel structure that sits on a combination of concrete and timber platforms. Light cubes on wire mimic falling pixels spreading through the void space.
This is a business that requires its office spaces to convey the strength and values of its brand to employees and customers alike. This is a truly innovative organisation – and that innovation extends to its working facilities. By creating attractive, productive environments, Adobe is able to continue to win and retain the best talent.
Heading back down to the 7th floor we walk through a variety of neighbourhoods, each of which boasts its own slightly unique culture and feel. While there is a healthy buzz to one, for example, its neighbour has music in the background, and while business suits are prominent in the first, the latter is much more casual – and even features a few Halloween costumes and make-up! And it all works. Now that is truly innovative.