It’s only a matter of 48 hours before Mixology – our annual Summer Ball. It feels a little strange to be walking past Old Billingsgate, especially seeing as we haven’t been since this time last year. There’s plenty of activity around the former fish market, as the venue’s team prepare for that night’s glittering event. By the looks on the faces of some of that team, it’s even stranger for them to see us! ‘What? Are we setting up for the right event here? It’s not Mixology until Thursday!’ We reassure them that we’re not here to see them (just yet) and they need not worry.
The reason we have come to Lower Thames Street is that, somewhat ironically, we’re here to see an exciting new project right next door to Old Billy. For those of you who don’t not know the area or are struggling to get their bearings, the Northern & Shell Building at 10 Lower Thames Street is the landmark blue glazed building situated on the north side of the Thames, which has until recently been occupied by Express Newspapers Group.
Resonate Interiors has transformed the interiors for this classic 80’s building (it was completed in 1985) for Halkin, the forward-thinking serviced office provider. Resonate was required to create a space that would appeal to many types of small to medium occupiers, to service their needs and provide a supportive environment to build their companies. In addition to this, Resonate was briefed to transform this dated space into a landmark facility and to create a ‘wow’ factor.
Founded in 2015 by experienced SEO providers Michael Kingshott and John Morley, Halkin is a dynamic venture at the forefront of a new generation of smart buildings. With 30 years’ combined property experience, the Halkin team has created a unique offering that reflects the current demand for design-led, community driven spaces. Each Halkin centre differs from the last – from the established, elegant Mayfair, to the vibrant, pioneering Southwark, what unifies all Halkin buildings is stunning design, the best tech and the promise of an intelligent, human service.
The Northern & Shell Building is undoubtedly the group’s most ambitious project to date – and Resonate’s Pernille Stafford can tell us more about its origins. ‘We’re actually in a Halkin building ourselves,’ she explains ‘Michael Kingshott – Halkin’s Chairman – is our landlord. One day, his son, Jonathan, gave me a call and asked me to come down to see him. He asked if we designed offices and when I said ‘Yes’, he said that he might have a business opportunity for me – and the rest is history!
‘We’ve since been doing lots of stuff together – as well as this we’re looking at three other sites in London, as well as projects in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Brussels. They currently have five sites in and around London.’
When you go into reception downstairs, into the 12-floor high atrium space, you just think, ‘Now there’s an architect with an ego!
We ask Pernille about her initial thoughts when faced with the Northern & Shell Building. ‘What a hideous building!’ she laughs. ‘The building itself is split into sides, with the atrium in the middle. When you go into reception downstairs, into the 12-floor high atrium space, you just think, ‘Now there’s an architect with an ego!’ It’s unbelievable. We’re now working on that space – the big job here! It’s very much of its time right now, but we’re working through the floors themselves and then we’re tackling the atrium itself.
‘We’ve done five floors in this building – it’s all serviced office space. The 4th floor is the coworking club, which has an amazing deck with views across the City and the Tower of London, which is perfect for entertaining or relaxing away from the office space.
‘The amazing artwork throughout the building comes from Michael Kingshott’s own collection. Michael has so many ideas and so many plans – it’s very exciting to be working with him and the team here.’
The coworking club is elegant and eclectic, featuring a variety of comfortable club-like breakout settings, beautiful finishes, a carefully curated furniture selection and a quite brilliant contemporary take on a fireplace, with water and light (apparently) replacing the fire – thankfully, on this warm June afternoon.
‘The furniture selection comes from Rainbow,’ Pernille tells us as we admire the various settings in front of us. ‘Once people get a membership here they can then come into the lounge here and use it as they wish.
‘Beyond this we have the terrace – and it’s a big terrace! They are currently constructing the club bar out here. It’s such a privilege to work on buildings such as this. We’ve been working with a great French contractor – and we really sort of make it up as we go along. It’s been a very informal process. There’s no project manager, no QS – it’s felt like a lovely family of people and we’ve been having a really good time! It’s been a great journey.’
We move up to the 6th and 7th floors, which have been re-designed by Resonate to provide smart new breakout spaces so that multiple occupants may use it for impromptu meetings or informal chats. Black framed partitioning, interesting wall graphics and stunning artwork from the client provides a professional yet comfortable atmosphere. The serviced office spaces themselves benefit from more of those amazing views across the Thames and the City, fantastic natural light and generous amounts of space. The furniture here, we’re told, is cleverly smaller than your typical workstation provision, with the majority of occupants utilising thin technology. The white furniture is matched with white walls, essentially creating a blank canvas for occupiers. There is a real mix of open plan working space, more cellular office space and meeting rooms throughout the floors, to cater for the needs of the variety of prospective clients looking to use the building. Noticeably, there is no Halkin branding anywhere to be seen.
The client lounge on the 8th floor has been fitted out with veneered walls, another stunning ‘fireplace’ and bespoke lighting and detailing throughout, providing a luxurious ambience.
‘Each floor is slightly different,’ Pernille tells us, ‘which is really nice. We didn’t just want to do loads and loads of the same, so we’ve designed-in quite a lot of variety between the floors – each floor has s slightly different ‘theme’ with different manifestations and finishes, for example.
With so many exciting plans if the offing, both here at the Northern & Shell Building and further afield, we’re fortunate to be able to grab a coffee with Jonathan Kingshott, We ask him about the serviced office market itself. ‘If you look at the market here in London and in new York, where it is very mature and the people who use serviced offices are quite used to the concept, it is becoming more and more competitive and is more about the look, feel and quality of the facility – about the quality of the furniture and the technology,’ he considers. ‘That is why we have engaged with Resonate and invested a lot of money in the interiors – and also in audio visual equipment in all of our meeting rooms. We need to provide the latest state-of-the-art technology throughout.
‘This is, perhaps, a level of investment that we’ve haven’t made previously. It’s definitely paying dividends though – and we wouldn’t hesitate to make that decision again. I think that, by bringing a professional designer on board, we’ve been able to set ourselves apart from the competition and to create something unique.’
Speaking of investment, and bearing in mind the massive undertaking that is the atrium space, we ask Jonathan about the length of lease Halkin has here. ‘We’ve taken a 10-year lease,’ he tells us. ‘We’ve got just shy of 55,000 sq ft spread over five floors – so it is a big commitment for us. The team here has spent the last five months, round the clock, fitting out this space. We’ve got a very good working relationship with the landlord and, as a result of the quality of the work that we’ve undertaken on the floors that we occupy, we’ve also got involved in the work on the ground floor – it’s been a snowball effect. Everybody in the building is benefiting from this refurbishment, which is great for us all.’
Does Jonathan see a very different clientele coming into this space compared to the other established Halkin facilities? ‘As you might expect, we are tending to attract more corporate organisations here, from the financial sector and the insurance sector,’ he considers. ‘If we go south of the river, to our Southwark facility, we do tend to get more creative companies and more start-up businesses.
‘One of our USP’s is to take on quite large spaces and one of the distinct advantages of doing that is that we can help accommodate the corporate letting market as well. So, if somebody is looking for a single floor of 10-12,000 sq ft, we can accommodate them. That helps us de-risk our exposure in the building.
‘The larger corporates are looking for a degree of flexibility and are only wanting to commit for periods of two or three years. Their businesses are changing and the whole we conduct business has also changed.
‘The whole mood has been lifted throughout the building,’ Jonathan enthuses as we say our goodbyes. ‘I think this is a really good example of, with the right design input, what can actually be achieved in what was an unloved, tired space.’
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