It’s amazing where you can find inspiration. We’ve just sat down to consider an opening for this feature when a radio advert in the background proclaims, ‘Escape to the tranquility…’
Strangely, tranquility is a word already going around our heads. We’ll set the scene for you; it’s 24 hours earlier and we’re in the West End, walking up Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus. Needless to say, the streets are full of people, with local workers keen to make the most of their lunch hours mingling with tourists. Hardly tranquil, we can almost hear you say.
Well, thankfully, we quickly take a turn into Air Street, which feels like an oasis. There are a few ‘locals’ here, but the tourists are suddenly either ahead or behind us. This is about as quiet and as tranquil as you’ll find on the streets of the West End.
In fact, such is the reduction of human traffic here, we’re able to spot align Director and Co-founder Gurvinder Khurana approaching from some way off.
Following their multi-award-winning office project for BrandOpus and their colourful Tech City scheme for scientific-info rising stars Mendeley, Gurvinder and the busy align team have now completed a very different style of project for Eden McCallum. The new scheme responds to a brief to design a ‘quiet, understated and sophisticated’ environment, which would serve as the new London HQ for these leading management consultants.
‘After the exuberance of our last two workplace schemes, it was really interesting to engage with such a contrasting brief,’ Gurvinder tells us. ‘The challenge was to create a suite of offices that were full of subtle statements and which met the requirement for a ‘fresh, interesting, human-scale and unregimented’ space.’
Eden McCallum is a highly successful, pioneering management consultancy firm, formed in 2000 by Founding Partners Liann Eden and Dena McCallum, with offices in London, Amsterdam and Zürich. Clients include a third of the FTSE 100; a third of the world’s largest private equity firms and 50 of the global Fortune 500 companies. Formerly based in offices in Kensington Church Street, the move to the new space represents a launch pad for the next stage of Eden McCallum’s corporate development.
“After the exuberance of our last two workplace schemes, it was really interesting to engage with such a contrasting brief.”
The location for the new offices is a 8,715 sq ft single-storey space on the 5th floor of a newly-redeveloped Crown Estates building. The premises benefit from great natural light, with windows the full length of both sides, plus a sympathetic base build delivered by the landlord’s architects, featuring limed oak and good quality architectural lighting.
Eden McCallum required an unregimented workspace that worked at a human-scale. Therefore, the heart of the scheme here is all about smart space planning and the creation of a range of different-sized meeting rooms, each with its own subtly different design treatment. The space plan includes an open plan office area with integrated meeting zones, breakout spaces and private phone booth areas for discreet conversations with clients and consultants. These are particularly important because Eden McCallum’s business model is all about offering the very best independent consultants, with only one in ten applicants making the grade, meaning discreet and rigorous interviewing plays a major role in the hiring process.
The scheme features a deliberate and considered choice of materials, balancing a respect for the base build detailing with the integration of the client’s needs for a human, sophisticated and warm spatial experience.
‘We were asked to pitch relatively late on in the process, as part of a three-way pitch,’ Gurvinder recalls. ‘This was a design and build contract but the service is still as if traditional and without compromise. We find that people get a really tailored solution when they work in this way.
‘This is quite a transformation for Eden McCallum. Moving more central, this is about them letting their own clients know that they are really stepping up.’
As we’ve already mentioned, this entire area of the West End feels as though it has stepped up – and Gurvinder took inspiration from this journey into the new Eden McCallum space. ‘As a user experience, you come into a building – especially a multi-tenanted building – and there is often little or no relationship between the spaces. We like to give consideration to that relationship as people journey through from arrival to destination – and that’s why we picked subtle detailing in the timber as you enter the space here. It subliminally connects the experience.
‘We were also involved in helping dress the space – so we went the whole hog and went shopping with the client, bringing in all the cushions and lamps.’
The scheme begins with simplicity and calm via a neutral, off-white base palette. Interest is added by subtle interjections of texture and colour in a range of pale, oceanic blues and greens, as well as a wall of individual feature wallpaper in the majority of the meeting rooms, along with an impressive range of furniture, quirky accessories and the odd touch of vintage.
‘The flow of the varied-size meeting spaces, arranged around two-thirds of the perimeter, prevents the overall environment having any feeling of regimentation,’ Gurvinder tells us as we begin a tour of the scheme. ‘Their previous space was a little bit soulless. We wanted to inject a more personal, human but still professional ambience. Everything’s been extremely considered in that respect. We’ve really tried to consider that journey all the way through – so each element works with each other. The nature-inspired manifestations, for example, are subtle and relatively conservative and yet bring flow and energy – and energy was something that we really wanted to bring to this space.’
The journey here starts with the lift delivering visitors directly into reception, where a bespoke Corian desk, with Eden McCallum branding set into the front in antiqued bronze lettering, gives the immediate impression of a company that is solid and established, yet contemporary. The backdrop to the desk is a wall of white, semi-transparent panel blinds whilst, to the left, a smoked oak feature wall has thin, inset bronze strips, adding warmth, linking to the bronze reception desk lettering and also subtly referencing the antique bronze that, as previously mentioned, visitors first see in the building’s downstairs reception.
The flooring is a considered mix of finishes and styles, which are used to demarcate different zones and include woven grey vinyl from Bolon for the meeting area circulation corridor, plus a sophisticated, darker-patterned carpet by Shaw Contract for the meeting rooms. The open plan office space is laid with Shaw’s Jazz carpet tile, which helps maintain a sense of fluidity in the main open plan area. ‘The flooring and finishes are understated, but still add personality and flow – plus a little bit of colour, along with a lot of the furniture choices,’ Gruvinder tells us.
The adjacent meeting suite, which takes up around half of the overall space, is made up of a six-person meeting room to each side of reception, plus a series of further rooms immediately beyond on the southern side of the space.
The sweeping geometry of the meeting suite, with the boardroom following on and then a number of smaller, more individual rooms, creates an effortless flow of calm and considered spaces for staff and visitors.
The boardroom is a spacious, peaceful room, painted in two complementary colours of Farrow & Ball green. Beyond lies a series of much smaller, more informal and open meeting rooms, suitable for two to three people, each with its own individual feel, giving users plenty of scope to match the right room and ambience to the right visitor.
The smaller meeting rooms each feature a highly individual treatment, with striking furniture, new and vintage accessories and a brilliant feature wall in each.
Opposite, on the inner curve of the corridor, a series of dedicated telephone booths ensures quiet and confidential conversations with clients and consultants. The booths are clad in white oak (picking up on and working with the base build design), with a tall, thin ‘vision panel’ on each door.
“This is quite a transformation for Eden McCallum. Moving more central, this is about them letting their own clients know that they are really stepping up.”
The final zoned area, at the end of this row, is a breakout ‘hub’ kitchen and dining space, for use by staff, consultants and visitors alike.
This spacious area features a limed oak vinyl floor, Louis Poulsen feature lights and smart Vitra furniture.
The open working area features Knoll desking and is both generous and professional in nature. A feature ‘snug’ seat – the Verco Jensen informal meeting booth – adds interest, whilst also allowing discreet ad-hoc conversations. Natural light floods into the space, making it a bright, inviting place for dedicated work – especially on a sunny London day like today!
‘Gurvinder was great and we really trusted her opinion on what would work,’ Liann Eden, Founding Partner of Eden McCallum commented. ‘I appreciated that she was so thoughtful about every aspect of the design and able to articulate to non-designers how elements of the design on paper would translate into the feel of the new workspace when built.’
‘We couldn’t be happier with the design of our new office’, Kathryn Whinney, Operations Director for Eden McCallum adds. ‘We wanted the experience of visiting them to be really impressive and we were on a tight timescale, but Gurvinder wasn’t fazed by this and worked extremely closely with us ensuring we got what we asked for and in incredible detail. Overall the experience was made far easier by align and the rest of the firm is very happy to be working in such an attractive and enjoyable space. Not only that, but visitors always comment and say what a fabulous workspace it is too!