There are very few pockets of our beloved Clerkenwell that remain untouched and undeveloped, but 6 Brewhouse Yard had, unbelievably, lain empty for five years. Perhaps it was the disconnected nature of the building, with its bland entrance that had resulted in it remaining untouched for so long? However, in the skilled and experienced hands of BDG architecture + design, this complex 30,000 sq ft development has been transformed into a vibrant media-hub that is home to an array of some leading creative agencies.
BDG worked closely with The Brand Union, along with Sudler & Hennessey, Digit London and Lambie Nairn, to deliver an architectural solution for the building. BDG’s initial design investigations identified a number of significant building interventions that were required in order to fully exploit the potential of the building, and this gave the new tenants the opportunity to architecturally influence the space so that it could better support their workstyles.
This has resulted in a number of key changes; BDG re-configured the space by creating a series of strategic interventions into the existing concrete structure, introducing three new staircases, which connect the new ‘shopfront’ on the ground level, whilst also providing a staircase that doubled as presentation and breakout space. By making these changes to the lower ground floor, the overall foot plate was increased significantly New rooflight openings were introduced on the L1 terrace and the opening on the ground floor brought a much needed ray of light into the middle of the plan, with the sky now visible from these areas.
Vital access to daylight and connection to ground floor facilities were key, but the space also had to be visually interesting and full of its own energising features and facilities, some of which are evident in the form of bespoke bookcases, the large gallery stair, felt box, pin up review space, lounge settings and stand up meeting spaces – which all help to create the buzz of the space on the lower ground floor.
The Brand Union has been part of WPP since 1986 and is a global brand agency with deep expertise in brand strategy, design, interaction, brand management and employee engagement. The agency employs 500 people across 25 offices in every major market. It believes that successful brands make lasting impressions, as a result of continual, positive moments of interaction. These experiences influence satisfaction, build loyalty and create emotional attachment. And, if you look at their stunning new space, you can see the same methodology has been applied.
First impressions count and the original developer’s main entrance to the building was an uninspired galley-like space that was not very well connected to the rest of the space. BDG remodelled the space to ensure an arrival experience, with the entrance shroud designed to give prominence to the front door whilst extending inside and out. The reception is tiled with dark large format tiles and, in contrast, the faceted Corian reception desk pops against this dark tiling where visitors are greeted by Brand Union staff.
This pull is used to create a sense of ‘wow’ and to provide the visitor with an insight into what happens in the creative studio ahead. The transition between spaces feels unique and bespoke and gives a sense that this working environment is different to where their clients work.
The Brand Union’s desire was to have a small agency feel but on a large scale and a celebration of what they do and who they are. Creative Director Ewan Ferrier explains. ‘We planned to constantly reinforce the domestic qualities by inviting our people to prop the space just as a family might do when moving into a new home,’ he says.
In moving to Brewhouse Yard, the agency has been able to accommodate its expanding studio and has simultaneously been able to seamlessly collaborate within the building. In this regard, the building has become home to various creative companies with shared facilities that support their workplace requirements and inter company interactions. The environment actively encourages mingling; fostering a culture where people work across teams and disciplines and share creative solutions.
Brand Union wanted this range of shared facilities for working, meeting and socialising. Various facilities needed to reflect the tone of different interactions, from informal get-togethers and formal internal meetings, through to client-facing situations for different types of companies.
The welcome area gives all visitors the desired glimpse of the creative working space on the floors without entering them. The creative industrial look, with exposed services and concrete, reinforces the culture, as well providing a social space with lockers and coffee points to encourage serendipitous encounters, located alongside a bespoke high bench to support various types of meetings. This bench even has wheels so it can be easily removed as required to reconfigure the space for larger team and town hall meetings.
Circulation was another key consideration and the overall design encourages people to flow through the space and to use shared facilities.
On the ground floor, the four breakout boxes have different materials: timber, felt and rough variated timber and zinc, which all add textural interest. Each one is designed to be used in a different way, from booth seating to stand up working to softer seating and individual concentrated working. They are all non-bookable and promote spontaneity of creative thought. Work areas have large expanses of writable, magnetic surfaces with slat wall and movable shelves. These can display work to create project areas and encourage team input, as well as celebrating achievements.
The central amenities are not just ‘places’ but the people themselves too, and these include the facilities, post, IT teams and receptionists, along with the shared ‘spaces’ such as bike store, meeting rooms, quiet room, project rooms, coffee bar, toilets, showers and a terrace.
The breakout spaces on the ground floor range from non-upholstered booths, stand up review areas, comfy sit down meeting rooms, individual work and reference/study areas. Again, all are non-bookable and open to everyone.
Colin Macgadie, Creative Director of BDG architecture + design, sums up the space for us: ‘It is a space that is cool enough to instill pride but not so precious that they are afraid to use it. It has immense flexibility in use, with such diversity of space with individual personalities to offer different client experiences depending on the nature of the visit and nature of the client.’