Recently, the working environments of advertising and media companies have been synonymous with slides that link floors, meetings in caravans and Astroturf in the reception.
Such elements of design, whilst fun and attention grabbing, belie what is a very mature and established business sector, with heritage and luminaries to rival the most traditional sector of law and finance.
It is just this that we are reminded of as we enter the floors of GroupM, WPP’s consolidated media investment management operation, serving as the parent company to a number of agencies including Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, Mindshare, Catalyst and Xaxis. It is the global number one media investment management group (RECMA July, 2012).
The primary purpose of GroupM is to maximise the performance of WPP’s media communications agencies on behalf of its clients, its stakeholders and its people by operating as a parent and collaborator in performance-enhancing activities such as trading, content creation, digital, finance, proprietary tool development and other business-critical capabilities. The agencies that comprise GroupM are all global operations in their own right, with leading market positions.
The focus of GroupM is the intelligent application of physical and intellectual scale to benefit trading, innovation, and new communication services, to gain competitive advantage for its clients and companies.
Prior to consolidating at Red Lion Square, GroupM was split between two locations and seized upon the opportunity to benefit from a new working environment, to realign its teams and to work in a more flexible and collaborative manner.
Geoff Anderson, Senior Associate at BDG architecture + design, who led the project, explains.
‘The design brief evolved through consultation with the senior management team, comprising the CEO, CFO, two directors and the vital PA to the CEO,’ he tells us. ‘The team fully recognised that we were in a position to create a mechanism with the potential to promote connectivity, bring people together and support the business more efficiently and effectively.’
With this common objective, the brief formed within lose parameters of longevity, durability and an exemplar space rationale.
Situated on the border of Holborn and Bloomsbury, 26 Red Lion Square had recently been refurbished to Cat A standard by the landlord and had a number of distinguishing features – the most notable of which are a pop out box on the second floor and the roof terrace accessed via the sixth floor. GroupM now occupies some 38,000 sq ft across the lower ground, ground, 2nd and 6th floors of the building.
‘The design brief evolved through consultation with the senior management team, comprising the CEO, CFO, two directors and the vital PA to the CEO…’
The need for a simple rationale for the way the space would work and the elements that needed to be included where identified as a clear client facing area and social space, a working space with assigned desks to accommodate circa 400 employees and a vibrant reception space on the 2nd floor. It is clear as we walk through the space that everything has been considered to create a consistently dynamic environment that exudes maturity and confidence. The new pop out glass box on the second floor provides the obvious setting not only for the reception but also for a large coffee bar and social space. An additional distinguishing feature comes in the shape of the ribbed timber structure walkway, which links office space with social areas, creating a setting conducive to both informal meetings and/or quiet working.
Traditional bench style seating is supplemented with alternative settings from booth seating, that ribbed structural zone which helps link spaces, complete with integrated banquette seating, communal kitchen style tables and clusters of soft seating.
Consistent detail within the cellular offices and meeting rooms are apparent through the deep party walls with integrated storage, as well as a deep ‘sill’ detail around the perimeter of each of the rooms. The darks stained oak ‘sill’ lines create interesting apertures and site lines, which help to subtly connect the spaces.
The internal atrium had received minimal attention during the landlord’s refurbishment and in order to achieve parity between this and the new space, BDG created a ‘visual buffer’ in the form of dark stained oak, timber fins, which allow light to flood through, but also serve to mask aspects of the atrium structure. This produces a natural internal circulation route, with pockets of soft seating to encourage chance interaction and consolidate the way staff moves between and through the space.
The meeting suite, located on the 2nd floor, comprises six impressive rooms, including three main boardrooms, which can be linked together to form a larger presentation space for up to 100 people.
Speaking of consistency and high standards, we can’t help but admire the array of products used throughout the new space. Leading furniture supplier Dovetail, we discover, worked closely with BDG, Group M and Project Manager Bollingbrook to supply all of the loose furniture, task chairs, meeting room furniture and outside furniture, providing extensive support and guidance in all furniture related aspects of the project.
Dovetail spent time with the client team on extensive showroom tours – as well as presenting furniture proposals and the process of furniture selection to the whole company (some 400 people) at the Odeon Leicester Square. Nice.
GroupM is a working environment that has been designed to work harder, every space has a multitude of uses and nothing has been over accommodated. This impressive space is holistically minimal, without lacking in any way, shape or form.