Grey London

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We’ve ‘journeyed’ just around the corner from our adopted home of Clerkenwell to London’s famous Hatton Garden.

Although the area is synonymous with the jewellery trade, there is a real beacon of creativity slap bang in the middle in the shape of the Johnson Building – home to established, leading, integrated creative agency Grey London.

Grey London first moved to the Johnson Building in 2007 and over the last eight years the business has evolved and grown significantly. Grey recognised that it needed to re-examine the way it utilised its workspace in order to continue to support the business and truly reflect its brand.

The leadership team required an environment that would represent Grey as the world-class agency that it is and was, we understand, extremely open to radical ideas to transform the space. We are met in the impressive ground floor reception space by BDG Senior Associate, Geoff Anderson, who was tasked with leading this transformational process – although it is upstairs where our focus for today lies.

‘We first worked with Grey back in 2007 for the original scheme here, but they have really changed as a business in terms of size and also how they work,’

BDGG_000212Geoff tells us that BDG undertook a space use study involving accommodation and occupancy analysis, along with observation study, stakeholder interviews and an e-survey. The purpose of these studies was to make necessary recommendations to ensure that Grey London can align its organisational structure and identify how space can be used more effectively going forward.

The study demonstrated that the occupancy levels were 55% at their peak, therefore agile working was recommended for some departments with the support of different task and activity based spaces, greater efficiency and connectivity, resulting in a work environment that further embraces collaborative working.

‘We first worked with Grey back in 2007 for the original scheme here, but they have really changed as a business in terms of size and also how they work,’ Geoff explains. ‘We’ve been able to fit a lot more people into the space – from 250 to 400. This comes from being more efficient, demonstrating that they can work flexibly and, from when I first came into the space, which is a double-height space, it quickly became apparent that, if we built a series of mezzanines, we could facilitate much of that expansion by increasing the net area.

‘They have used much of the ground level for the workspace and where we have optimised the height of the space through the mezzanines we have been able to incorporate shared space areas. Generally speaking, we encouraged them to move towards a 40/40/20 split – so 40% workspace, 40% shared space and 20% circulation, so the split is quite even. They are within specific zones, so it is not fragmented.

As Geoff has already mentioned, the real key to the success of this scheme is the integration of mezzanines or interventions. BDG developed these key interventions not only to maximise the use of the space, but also to help encourage movement, create dynamism and support the creativity that is inherent at Grey.

‘They are so alive and there is constant activity here, so the principle was to create three interventions – small, medium and large,’ Geoff continues. ‘They went for quite a bold feel with plenty of dark finishes throughout. It is intentionally quite hard and exposed – but it is really robust and hardwearing and they have got a lot for their money, especially when you consider that we’ve increased the net area by so much.

‘We certainly didn’t have a view that they should be focusing all their money on one particular area – such as front of house – we wanted the same look and feel to run throughout all the spaces here. There is a certain amount of improvising on their part, but that’s ok – that was part of the challenge here. These are creative people and need the space to work for them.

‘There tends to be a lot of movement here depending on which pitches people are working on and which teams they are working in. There are certainly a lot of people sitting in different places now than when I was last here. Most are working from laptops – and agile working does come down to the tools you work with. Again, this is changing all the time for them.’

The overall redesign and refurbishment means that visitors and employees are greeted by a workplace that offers a range of spaces as well as creating architectural interest through that variety of built elements over the 4th, 5th and 6th floors.

Each of the three mezzanines has its own distinct character and use. The large mezzanine is a strong sculptured drum that containing a spiral staircase linking one of the main pitch rooms to additional workspace on the 6th floor. ‘We wanted to connect the 6th floor to the rest of the space so came up with this pre-fab, almost off-the-shelf spiral staircase and then simply wrapped it,’ Geoff reveals.

BDGG_7190The medium mezzanine is now a multi-use space for enclosed meeting, collaborative working and informal presentations on smart bleacher style seating, while the smallest of the three houses one of the key coffee bars and surrounding social areas with intimate quiet space above.

The main coffee bar on the 4th floor is a pastiche of a New York diner and serves as another alternative setting for informal meetings.

‘They really wanted to get away from any corporate look or feel,’ Geoff continues. ‘They wanted it to feel very honest and not too pretentious – and I don’t think it is pretentious. Their culture has undoubtedly changed and this space hopefully reflects that new culture. I don’t think this is overly clever – it is clever that they now have more space without changing the actual building fabric or leasing more space.

‘They didn’t really compromise on anything and they certainly haven’t lost anything – in fact they’ve gained a lot.’

A subtle delineation between different zones in the open plan areas is created with a series of open timber bead black screens, whilst the colour scheme of black, white and grey is bold and strong, highlighted further through the introduction of red as an accent colour. In fact, we particularly like the subtle use of the red in areas such as the wrapping of the large mezzanine and on the meeting room numbers.

‘They didn’t really compromise on anything and they certainly haven’t lost anything – in fact they’ve gained a lot.’

Speaking of meeting rooms, there are a surprisingly high number of both formal and informal meeting areas throughout the floors here – with more seemingly appearing around every corner. These vary from open booths and picnic style tables through to a series of small, fixed rooms, each of which is in use throughout our visit and each of which appears to have its own character. One has even been turned into a pop-up hair salon! There are certainly no oversized, underused spaces here.

Elsewhere we find perching tables, even more pitch rooms, more coffee points and breakout seating in the shape of well-worn armchairs and Chesterfields.

‘Grey shared our vision to take a number of bold steps to create a working environment that embodied its brand and would accommodate new ways of working,’ Geoff concludes. ‘I think the result is a solid, striking and intelligent use of space that supports the business now and for the future.’

We totally agree.