Office Space in Town

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As we’ve said before, we’re always looking for the story. When we choose projects to cover, it is the story behind the design that we focus upon.

There doesn’t have to be high design throughout – nor does there have to be a quirky angle. No, what we’re after is that cultural change or that great business decision.

This case study, we soon realise, features all of the above. However, we also have to be totally honest and admit that, following just one brief look at the images we were forwarded by our friends at Peldon Rose, the firm already responsible for creating corporate offices for Google, Revlon, Tullow Oil and Sega, we were sold. We had to take a look at this space.

Media-Lounge-and-Post-RoomWe’re just a short walk from London’s Waterloo and, despite the fact that we’ve looked at a number of serviced office facilities over the past couple of years, we’ve certainly never seen anything like this before.

Developed by Office Space in Town and designed by Peldon Rose, @Waterloo is markedly different. And we’re not just talking about the astonishing Lewis Carroll-inspired interior. Sure, the look of the space makes it unlike any serviced office we’ve featured before (any office we’ve featured before, for that matter), but that is just one differentiating factor, as Peldon Rose Design Director Chris Jenkins is only too happy to reveal.

‘They’re amazingly proud about what they do – and they never hide that,’ Chris begins. ‘They’re serviced office operators in a fiercely competitive marketplace. Each of the three interiors we’ve completed for Office Space in Town have been one of a kind interiors. When Giles Fuchs (MD of Office Space in Town) approached us about this space he asked us to ‘take our blinkers off and design something totally out there.’

‘They’ve not only hit the ball in the back of the net, but they’ve created what is arguably the best serviced office in the world,’ Giles enthuses. ‘What that has achieved – and this facility was opened just three months ago – is very nearly 100% occupancy – unknown levels and figures. It has attracted really interesting businesses. We set out to attract tech businesses but it has in fact attracted all types of businesses across a spectrum of industries, but all with a common goal – they wanted something different. Instantly, just by walking in here, it says a great deal about your organisation – it makes you look incredibly bold and confident.’

‘I think there’s a real renaissance in braveness and, in many ways, the workplace has never been at a better time,’ Chris considers. ‘I think workplace is going through a great resurgence – and we’re talking about creativity on a budget. Nobody’s giving us vast amounts of money – but people like Giles are giving us freedom to push the boundaries and create spaces that are different.’

‘We’ve created an environment which is not Alice in Wonderland – it’s a pastiche of the story. I believe we’ve created a 21st century version of it.’

This 35,000 sq ft serviced office has a 61:39 ratio split between office and communal areas. That split, we understand, is normally 84:16 in the serviced office market. Like we said, this is different.

Speaking of different, why Lewis Carroll? ‘This used to be the Nokia UK HQ but this area was previously renowned for making gentlemen’s hats, particularly toppers, bowlers and boaters,’ Chris tells us. ‘Around the corner from here is The Mad Hatter Hotel, a lasting tribute to this aspect of London’s industrial heritage.  We knew we wanted to make a standout environment – we wanted to create a destination that has an emotional pull – thus the seed was sown!

‘We’ve created an environment which is not Alice in Wonderland – it’s a pastiche of the story. I believe we’ve created a 21st century version of it.’

We’re joined by the man responsible for the running of @Waterloo, Simon Eastlake, who tells us a little about the amazing reaction to the space from its new residents. ‘It’s gone a lot faster than anyone expected,’ Simon enthuses. ‘We’ve literally got one room left – and there are 453 workstations here. It has been amazing – and we are now looking to have a high-end, artisan café/bar put in, which will also be open to the public and which will really complement the rest of the space. Everyone is so happy here. It does have a real ‘Wow’ factor – we’ve even had people bringing their kids in. Maybe we should charge people to look at it?! Clients are constantly asking if we have meeting rooms free, just so they can show them off.

‘We’ve got a real mix of people in here; the NHS, cyber security, an ex-army colonel and then we’ve got the 18-year old digital, new media guys. It’s amazing that we’ve got such a variety of people – and the reason they have chosen here is that they really do want something so different. Interestingly, I’ve also got clients in here who feel they are now being taken more seriously – because they are not afraid to have a smile on their face and to have a bit of fun.’

The amazing Alice in Wonderland theme runs throughout @Waterloo. In the roof garden on the 4th floor, for example, a giant Alice can be seen disappearing down the rabbit hole, only to then reappear in the bright reception area.

From design-led meeting rooms evoking the Mad Hatter’s tea party and the Queen of Hearts’ garden, we’re then guided around the stark white corridors in @Waterloo by intermittent strip lights, which simulate Alice’s journey through the rabbit hole. Chris describes the corridor as ‘negative space’. We know what he means – we’re just a little reticent to use the word negative in relation to any part of this facility. ‘The negative space in the corridor is the anchor to everything we’ve done,’ Chris explains. ‘It’s intentionally non-formal and it intentionally does not have meeting room names – which people might find confusing at first, but is very much part of the joy of the space.

‘We’ve become afraid of showing our emotions – and what we wanted to do here was to unlock that, to allow people to show something of themselves.’

‘It does make sense. We all read the book and we all see it in very different versions. We’ve created an environment that is designed to make you smile, and when you smile you create an emotional attachment. That’s often not easy in an office, where you have your stern work face on!

‘We’ve become afraid of showing our emotions – and what we wanted to do here was to unlock that, to allow people to show something of themselves.’

Queen-of-Hearts-Meeting-RoomBeyond the minimal corridors, you can enter your own unbranded office world – a blank canvas for businesses to make their own mark. All the refreshingly light and airy offices are fully furnished with modern and luxurious fixtures and fittings. They are also completely supported by a first class administration function, providing clients with support that has been developed to be as seamless as their office environment.

The high standard of accommodation is matched by the premium grade facilities, which include fully integrated telephone and data communication systems with high-speed internet connections and back-up lease lines.

There are also stimulating open plan breakout spaces, discussion areas, a media room, business lounge and a terrace garden.

@Waterloo might not be to everyone’s taste – but it’s certainly a bit of us. On our short walk back to Waterloo station we can’t help but grin like Cheshire Cats!