Spark44

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London might well have been in the grips of the ‘Beast from the East’, with people struggling to navigate their way in, out and around the capital, however we got a serene, calm and beautiful view over this winter wonderland.

We’re on the 11th floor of the White Collar Factory in Shoreditch to take a look at the dynamic new workspace of global creative agency, Spark44.

align has completed the highly-functional and client-sensitive workspace project, over two storeys of The White Collar Factory – the major new office and retail campus on Old Street Roundabout, described by developers Derwent London as ‘one of our most ambitious projects
to date’.

The design approach for the new Spark44 London office, which is uniquely dedicated to fulfilling creative projects for Jaguar Land Rover, sought to achieve a balance between respect for the building’s proportions and base-build materiality, the specific needs patterns of the agency’s London team and the brand principles
of Spark44.

The London office of Spark44 had grown substantially over recent years and needed to move on from an existing, fragmented space, no longer conducive to creativity or collaboration. The agency wanted a new workspace with a strong personality, without being either corporate or gimmicky, which would be able to house a variety of different departments with ease. As Spark44 offers a 360° service both above and below the line, it therefore has a lot of different teams and activities with different needs and focuses.

The agency’s working emphasis is very much about delivering to deadlines, as opposed to people simply being present at desks – and so the working environment needed to support the teams across different locations and environments and stimulate creativity at all times.

We’re met here on the 11th floor by Spark44 Facilities Manager, Damien Jones, and align Director, Gurvinder Khurana, who can show us around this forward-thinking space. We begin by asking Damien to tell us a little more about the company’s relocation. ‘We were in a converted factory warehouse at Morelands on Old Street,’ he tells us, ‘but when we first occupied that space the company was a lot smaller – there were probably about 70 people working for the company then. Our headcount increased to about 200 in a couple of years – at which point we were packed to the rafters.   

‘We originally occupied one building at Morelands – and then took ownership of a second building there and created a link bridge between the two, which then opened things up to create one bigger office space. Then, we had to take a third building to fit people in – because we were really crammed in. Even then we were really tight on space. We even had people working out of the kitchen at times!

‘So, one of the main reasons behind the move was to have a space where people could have different places to sit, different collaboration areas, different places to have their lunch – a whole multipurpose environment.’

By way of example, Damien points out a series of booths here in the open, bright reception space, which are used for breakfasts, lunches, meetings and team working. ‘Clients also like to come here and use these spaces,’ Damien says.

7 - The booth seating area is backed by street art feature wall

‘It’s important to note that, when the decision was made to move, we were already having the conversation about how disjointed everything was becoming,’ Gurvinder explains. ‘We started fitting the third building, and we had conversations about the fact that the business was becoming so fragmented because it was growing so much – and it didn’t make sense to keep spilling over into these mini-units.’

‘It was conducive to supporting a creative environment,’ Damien adds. ‘We really needed space in which people could collaborate, could come together as teams. At the same time, we didn’t want to create a series of soulless breakout spaces, where there was little or no energy. One of the things that works really well here is that, no matter where you are in the office, there is always activity. There is always energy here. Again, while a lot of companies have the luxury of having a great big town hall – that’s only ever a town hall – we can move things around here, so every space is multi-use. All of this gets used all day, every day. None of it is wasted.’

‘That’s how true agility should work,’ Gurvinder agrees. ‘The space should have multiple functions throughout the day – otherwise you’re paying whatever you pay per square foot and 50% of the time it just sits there not being used.’

Our hosts admit that this is still something of a work in progress, with Spark44 constantly learning how and where the teams here prefer to work. Despite the fact that, due to the nature of the agency’s work, people have fixed desks, that certainly doesn’t mean that they are fixed to
those desks.

‘We know how people are using the space now,’ Damien confirms. ‘There are certain pockets of the office that people took to immediately, without anyone having to tell them how they should be used – which was really nice to see. The garden booths, for example, are really popular. People really like these alternative settings.

‘In saying that, we’ve created a couple of spaces, such as the library space upstairs, which isn’t used as we anticipated – it’s still really popular but people are using it in a totally different way, so we’ve adapted it to suit how people want to work there.

‘One of the really good things about this scheme is that we’ve got plenty of places we can play with and change as we move forward.’

We move through to the dedicated client area, which features a suite of six meeting rooms, arranged around a central breakout/gathering space. Each meeting room is named after a car model from the Jaguar or Land Rover ranges – Velar, Range Rover, F-Type, F-Pace, XJ and Discovery. The rooms include two boardrooms – Range Rover and XJ – with a folding wall between so that they can be adapted for larger-scale meetings.

18 - The kitchen features silestone worktops and counters

At the heart of the space is a dedicated, open kitchen/food prep facility, and the incorporation of the Spark44 mantra, ‘Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Honest’, together with a high-impact colour palette of red, grey, white and black.

Technology was a key consideration throughout the process, we’re told, driven from a desire to facilitate and support growth and change within the company over the coming years.

In order to create a workspace that would be future-proofed as much as possible, the design solution fully encompassed an agile working philosophy. Although there are 234 desks in the final scheme, a further 96 work settings have been incorporated over both levels to allow for and actively encourage agile working. WiFi is accessible across both floorplates at all times to support this.

Our hosts tell us that a projector upstairs on the 12th floor allows for presentations and announcements to be unified throughout the office if required, with the 11th floor always the focus of companywide meetings and presentations.

There are a number of elements and settings that catch our eye as we continue through the space. The open plan working areas do have a genuine creative buzz and, despite the fixed desk nature of the agency and the inclement weather outside, there are pockets of activity just about everywhere we look. A suite of four executive offices runs across the rear of the open plan office space on both levels 11 and 12. These offices, which feature black, metal-framed glazed doors and windows, are purposefully simply arranged, so they can double as meeting space when not in use.

We find cool green, biophilic areas on each floor in the form of ‘garden pods’. These feature a thick-textured green carpet, referencing grass, with plants integrated throughout. A central table and write-on walls encourage staff to use the space for stand-up working or meetings.

The triple-booth meeting and working zone mentioned earlier is illuminated by a brilliant feature wall, designed and hand-painted by street artist, Nerone, featuring a mythical international city skyline, with the outlines of real iconic buildings from around the world,

We love the subtle car-inspired details we find here. The bespoke booth tables, designed by align, feature a double exhaust pipe detail at the end of the table top, while the red ribbed glass references the idea of car brake lights, and car pedals are even set into the outside wall of the client booth to serve as footrests. Brave and bold. Honest.