Since we launched this fine tome some 17 and a bit years ago, we’ve racked up thousands and thousands of miles, many of which have been achieved thanks to London Underground. We’ve never counted, but the number of underground stations we’ve emerged from must now be close to three figures.
The latest station to add to our list is NW6’s Queen’s Park – and we have to say that we’re impressed. This is very clearly one of those London boroughs on the up, with its artisan bakeries, coffee shops and gastropubs.
Indeed, following just a short walk past these tempting merchants, we find our destination – the new home of AMC Networks.
The televisual amongst you will recognise the name. And so you should. This is the company that brings us some of the most loved and critically acclaimed TV shows of the past 20 years, including Fear the Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
When AMC bought Zone Media a few years ago, the decision was made to consolidate its staff from three different sites in Queen’s Park into one building in the area – 111 Salusbury Road.
The business now works across three floors (a total of 23,000 sq ft) on the site, which boasts a dramatic central atrium, state-of-the-art technology and a number of facilities previously unavailable to the staff.
“We had quite a few aims; we wanted to attract the right talent and create the right spaces for our people, and we also wanted somewhere we could bring our clients into.”
Speaking of staff, AMC had a number of people who had been with the business for up to 12 years, but also a number of newer staff members and freelancers. Having been split across the different sites, they were divided across the three silos, with some nervous about the move and changes it would bring.
‘They are incredibly caring people and a warm group to be involved with, however they were all concerned for ‘their family’s’
wellbeing,’ Morgan Lovell’s Marianne Paulsen tells us as we approach 111.
As Marianne points out, the original signage for what is the middle of the three original AMC buildings, we’re suddenly made fully aware of just how great a transformation this is for her client. The new signage is bold and contemporary, and leads visitors into a bright, open space that boasts a smart reception desk, a dramatic central staircase and cool breakout/café space.
‘Formerly, you walked in a side door into a lobby, while glazing closed off the atrium,’ Marianne explains. ‘It was originally developed for shared residency. There was a fishpond in the middle and no staircase. The idea behind this is to say ‘Welcome to AMC – come in and be part of our story’. We wanted everyone to be able to come in and immediately be ‘in it’ – and because we’re bringing together three buildings, this is about being part of the one group.’
We’re joined by no less than four of the AMC team – Jay Hunter, VP of Information Technology, Chief Financial Officer Rob Stewart, Facilities Manager Darius Dodd and IT Manager Nigel Proctor – who are happy to tell us more about this amazing transformation.
We’re kindly offered coffee and, taking a perch in the café area, begin by asking about this impressive new facility. ‘It’s a big difference from what we did have,’ Rob tells us. ‘We didn’t have anything like this previously.’
‘We didn’t have a canteen at all in the old office,’ Jay smiles. ‘It’s amazing how having good coffee really does oil the wheels. It’s little things like this that make all the difference.
‘This is all about improving productivity and about retaining the talent – we’re very dependent on getting the right pool of people.
‘We previously had a set of three quite traditional buildings and I have to say that it wasn’t as presentable as we’d like for our clients – and that’s putting it mildly. We had quite a few aims; we wanted to attract the right talent and create the right spaces for our people, and we also wanted somewhere we could bring our clients into. First impressions do count and what we had previously is not how we wanted to start a business relationship.’
‘I think Marianne has done a great job in achieving that initial impression,’ Rob agrees, ‘and the flow of the space works really well here. We’ve already been able to recruit new people, including someone very senior from this industry – who walked into here and was actually very pleasantly surprised that he’d come from a decent office into this space.’
Jay tells us that, as little as four years ago, AMC was a US-only business that had a studio, made content and had a series of channels in the US. ‘It also had a distribution business that sent the content up to the satellites,’ he explains. ‘Like a lot of other major businesses, AMC then looked to expand internationally and acquired five international businesses – four in Europe, of which this is one. So what we’ve been doing over those past few years is to leverage the brand and come out to the market and bring our content and channels to a wider audience.
‘This office is about us resetting the way we operate really. Aside from the aesthetics, it really had to be super functional. We really wanted to design out a lot of the friction – not just the IT, but the way the whole business functions. We needed it to be really lean and also easy for our people to use.’
Morgan Lovell took AMC through a detailed workplace consultancy, including time utilisation studies, surveys, interviews and workshops, before undertaking a vigorous design process, starting on site in June 2016, after six months of collaboration.
Marianne reveals that the project was phased, as AMC was already occupying the ground floor. The team completed Phase 1 (1st and 2nd floors) between June and November, before moving staff up onto these floors and commencing the ground floor works in November, and finally handing over at the end of January.
The project has increased the overall capacity – with the original three buildings providing just over 20,000 sq ft. This, together with smart space planning, has enabled AMC to introduce a number of exciting new facilities for the 190 staff and visitors alike. ‘Some of that space is for the cinema, canteen, teapoints, IT helpdesk and breakout space,’ Rob tells us. ‘It was very difficult for people to mix and to do business together. If you looked at how our ground floor used to be, people sat back-to-back and if two people were to exit their seats at the same time they would clash – it was so tight. Even though the footprint, excluding those added facilities, is about the same, we now have so much space – and that’s the byproduct of using a designer who can help us achieve that.’
‘We kept shoving desks in, as it were, and that worked for the business at the time,’ Darius reveals, ‘but people weren’t interacting very well, the space didn’t flow and nobody knew where we were. It’s so much better now.’
“It’s amazing how having good coffee really does oil the wheels. It’s little things like this that make all the difference.”
AMC has also invested heavily in its IT provision, including laptop rollouts to increase mobility, and easy-interface AV in every meeting room and several of the open collaboration spaces.
The amazing cinema, which sits alongside the ground floor café space, boats a Dolby Atmos Cinema with 3m screen, over 1,000 Watts of audio power and 4K Blu-ray Playback, allowing the team here to host programme launches and staff viewings in-house, as opposed to renting space off site.
Two quad video walls on the lift shaft in the main atrium, along with more than 50 TV screens dotted throughout the floors, ensure all staff can watch AMC shows all day, everyday. This, we’re told, has already helped the team spot continuity issues and other problems before shows are aired.
Nigel, meanwhile, is more than happy to show us the new plant facilities and back-up generator. This is serious stuff – and vital to what this business does.
Heading up the central staircase, we find smart breakout/teapoints and spacious circulatory open floorplates. There are a couple of particularly interesting elements here, including ‘max security’ editing suites (the last thing AMC needs is new shows being leaked before release) and a series of black desks. This isn’t simply a décor choice; due to the fact that there are staff here constantly checking and editing TV shows, the black desks – together with lowered lighting levels – reduces glare and provides far better conditions for this dedicated work.
Black desks? Our Editor is already searching online for one of his own!