We don’t like to start features with a negative – so we’re going to begin by telling you that this is a review of a quite brilliant new workplace. Smart, collaborative, logical, people-centric…
this is a space that ticks all the boxes.
As you know, we’re fortunate enough to visit a lot of new workplaces and it still amazes us how often we find that crucial (yet seemingly unimportant) design elements aren’t quite as they should be. For example, one of our pet hates when visiting a new project is, upon arrival, having to take that ‘walk of shame’ from the front door, through a vast marble chamber, to the distant reception desk.
Invariably, the person or people behind reception will immediately look up – and often hold that stare as you spend what feels like the next three minutes of your life approaching them. Maybe it says more about us than anyone else, but we can’t help feeling as though we’re being judged!
Well, we’re in London’s West End to take a look at the new working home for the London base of MoneySupermarket Group – and nobody’s making us feel any of that unease here. The new 34,000 sq ft space, at 1 Dean Street, features efficient, friendly concierge/security at street level (we approve), from where we’re guided up and through to the fourth floor and the new MoneySupermarket Group space. This could not be further from that ‘old school’ reception experience we so deplore. Immediately, we feel as though we’re in the heart of the space – and that’s quite simply because we are.
MoneySupermarket Group appointed BDG architecture + design for the interior design of the space – and the firm’s Colin Macgadie and Adam Childs are on hand to tell us more about this transformative scheme, starting with the client themselves.
‘They’d seen the work that we’d done for brands such as Sky and, despite the fact that they are such a great business – with great people and great leadership, we genuinely enjoyed the entire process with them – they were previously in poor accommodation. They were just around the corner from here, across a number of floors. You had to get in and out of lifts to go to meet other people – the floorplates were over-densified and they were in silos. It wasn’t good.
‘Also, because all they had were desks, they had nowhere to break out to or to meet. The facilities weren’t supporting the business or our people – and everyone in that room was trying to make people’s lives better!’
Colin tells us that this actually created a great starting point for the design team – how could they make the London teams at MoneySupermarket Group’s lives easier? ‘That was a real springboard for us,’ Colin confirms. ‘Looking at this new space, it didn’t originally have any cut-outs in the floors, but there was no way we were going to put these people over three floor and then make them use a lift. So we immediately knew we had to put stairs in – and that gave us the opportunity to create a space where people could move through the stairs and then stop and get together – to become one team. These are really simple points of design – there’s nothing revolutionary about this but for them it was a massive step.’
As we mentioned earlier, there is no awkward ‘welcome’ here – instead we’re greeted, concierge style, by smiling, truly welcoming people. The business, we’re told, has always been extremely keen for its people to come together, collaborate and interact, however previous facilities made this more and more of a challenge.
Adam was the creative lead on the project and explains that, BDG spent time exploring the opportunities of the space to ensure that there was a true central hub area that connected everyone.
Today, however, MoneySupermarket Group staff in London – regardless of which team or floor they are based – can come to this central space for a laid-on breakfast or (as we are currently seeing on our tour of the space) use the space for coffee and informal meetings throughout the day.
There are further ‘stopping points’ at the bottom and top of the stairs, allowing for more of those accidental collisions and interaction. ‘We’ve now got that three-storey interaction,’ Colin continues. ‘So it was then all about making this space in the middle work really hard – so we’ve got big sliding doors that can shut the space off and create a town hall environment while people can carry on working beyond. The predominant setting is that the doors are left open because this is all about transparency and visual connections.
‘They also needed some of that conference- style meeting room facilities – and the meeting rooms are extremely smart. In fact, the meeting room suites on floors four and five could be at home in any top-end corporate bank or financial institution.
‘What this space now provides is a real variety of spaces for everyone to be able to work – from casual and informal breakout spaces, through to serious meetings and open working areas where you can see across the entire business. It also means that staff visiting from the Group’s other locations in Manchester and Ewloe have adequate drop in spaces to collaborate and work.’
And this is absolutely key to the space. This is one business – and the design here allows that to happen. There is a real intelligence in the flow and connectivity, with materials, lighting levels and brilliant graphics used to intuitively and seamlessly connect different zones.
‘They were a great client – they really got it!’ Colin smiles. ‘There is a real alignment between the business and its space now. I also think – and no offence to Acrylicize (who produced the amazing graphics here) – if you strip the brand stuff away, the space is still intuitive and functions in the way that we envisaged it would.
‘If we get that bit right – if we get the base right, the functions right, the principles right, the materials right…the art becomes a great way of promoting the brands. It’s not just a brand colour on the wall and a mission statement – it’s a piece of art.
‘We quite deliberately brought Acrylicize into the process early on. We wanted to express what is a really strong brand in the right way – advertising isn’t branding and we wanted to bring something that would really work for the space and for the business.’
‘We did a lot of work on this,’ Adam agrees. ‘The brands they have are really strong and the colours they use are really bright. When we put them on a page together, they really didn’t work with the look and feel images they had already picked out. This made them think about how they wanted the brand to be applied to the space. We were looking to create a space that wasn’t owned by any individual brand – we were trying to create a really collective space that was open to everyone. So, we moved away from the colours and back to the words – the values of the business.
‘All their brands are trying to make things as simple, honest, down to earth and upbeat as possible for their customers – and this became the driving force behind the look of the space and our choice of materials. For example, when we looked at honest materials, we weren’t going to use anything that just replicated real materials – we’d use real timber.
‘Similarly, they liked the idea of the central space being totally open and approachable. They weren’t scared of a bit of mess or ‘organised chaos’ here.’
‘I really liked that about their business,’ Colin continues. ‘You really do feel as though you’ve walked into their ‘home’. They’re like that because their brands allows them to be – but the brand is like that because they are like they are. It’s a really nice balancing act.’
Balance is an extremely appropriate word to use here. There is a fantastic balance between focused workspaces, formal meeting areas and informal, collaborative areas. All flow seamlessly, subtly demarked by changes in material use and lighting levels. For example, teapoints make use of timbers, lower lighting levels and feature exposed ceiling cut-outs, while the working floors benefit from amazing natural light and brilliant rubber floor tiles. The meeting suites on floors four and five are found in the farthest wing and, as Colin mentioned a little earlier, would be at home in any City bank HQ. Again, beautiful timbers, reduced lighting levels and smart furniture selections set the scene perfectly.
We can’t leave without talking about the central Acrylicize artwork. Colourful and dynamic, it’s also incredibly clever, with a multi-layered aesthetic, which reflects what the business stands for. The Acrylicize team achieved this aesthetic by literally and painstakingly ripping pieces off the wall.
If you hadn’t already guessed, we really like the new MoneySupermarket Group home. So do MoneySupermarket Group – and that, after all, is what really matters.
We’ll leave the final words to the client. ‘Our new London HQ offices at 1 Dean Street are a real game changer for everyone,’ Caoimhe Keogan, Chief People Officer, says. ‘The space has been designed in such a fantastic way that, regardless of which of our three brands you work in, there are numerous opportunities to collaborate and connect with one another. The space has been deliberately designed so it feels like a collaborative space for everyone. Wherever teams are based, it feels like you they are coming to our HQ office; and also feels like an office that anyone, regardless of their geographical location, can work in.’
Client Moneysupermarket Group
Interior Design BDG architecture + design
Furniture Supply Spacecraft
Rubber Flooring Artigo (supplied by Chroma)
Timber Flooring Havwoods
Feature Lighting FUTURE Designs