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Creative members club Bureau opens in London Design District

We first brought news of the Design District back early in 2020 – a lot has happened since then, both in terms of the way we work and interact. An awful lot has also changed in Greenwich, where Design District has moved from exciting prospect to creative destination.

18/11/2021 5 min read

We’re back to take a first look at Bureau – the new workspace and members’ club for London’s creative industries, which occupies two purpose-design buildings here on the Greenwich Peninsula. Bureau is described as an affordable and dynamic space to collaborate, exchange ideas, socialise, and engage with the surrounding creative ecosystem of Design District. Bureau’s innovative and versatile model of membership is designed to nurture and connect the community, leading to a stronger future for creativity in London and beyond.

Opening in September, Bureau is designed to offer freelancers, start-ups and independent creatives flexible workspace to develop and run their businesses, and allows larger organisations to offer their employees an alternative to the conventional office. With almost every survey and study suggesting that more of us are looking for greater flexibility in our working lives, Bureau represents an inviting solution to the return-to-work dilemma: a ‘third space’ that offers the social benefits of the office, without the formality; think freedom of working from home, with better facilities and fewer distractions.

Having developed the Bureau concept over the course of the pandemic, the Design District team has not only been able to ensure COVID-safety protocols and precautions are in place, they’ve also been able to address some of the issues that working from home has brought to the fore.

To ensure the site is never overcrowded, special operational software ensures a limit on the number of members permitted in Bureau each day. The software informs members of how busy the site is at any given time, so they can decide if and when to attend. And, in response to the new working behaviours that have emerged from lockdown, interior designer Roz Barr has ensured there are flexible spaces for different types of work, as well as plenty of dedicated areas for video conferencing and private Zooms calls.

Everything – from the layout of the spaces and the events programme to the weekly communal no-tech lunches – is geared to encourage members to (safely) make connections across disciplines, allowing for those inspiring moments of serendipity that can only occur in shared spaces – a key creative driver that is almost impossible to replicate when working from home (and the coffee’s probably better, too).

As part of Bureau, members are placed in the midst of a creative ecosystem: the wider Design District community. The entire district has, like Bureau, been designed to nurture inter-disciplinary connection and collaboration, and members will be in the heart of a dynamic and inspiring environment.

‘We want Bureau to be Design District in microcosm – somewhere that nurtures a diverse and dynamic creative community, giving freelancers a space to grow their businesses, connect across disciplines, build networks and advance their careers,’ says Helen Arvanitakis, Director of Design District.

Indeed, Bureau is consciously structured to provide a pathway for professional growth: members can use Bureau to grow their practice, ascending membership tiers from hot desk to serviced studio as they evolve, then move out to take tenancy of a Design District workspace when their business is fully fledged.

Bureau memberships can also serve larger international organisations that are exploring work-from-home alternatives for their teams, enabling staff to take advantage of a flexible, closer-to-home workspace, while requiring minimal company investment.

Bureau spans two of the 16 buildings that make up the Design District. C3, designed by HNNA, has an undulating form with an irregular white exterior interspersed with large, irregular windows. An inwardly falling roof on the top floor creates a pair of courtyards that serve as alfresco workspaces for members. C3 houses the restaurant and main members’ lounge and – thanks to its position at the entrance to the Design District – its reception serves as the front desk for the whole neighbourhood. Next door, D1 (by Architecture 00) has floor-to-ceiling windows throughout and open-air terraces for circulation. With an array of versatile workspaces, D1 is ideal for members seeking to undertake more focused work, and also includes Bureau’s events space.

Roz Barr Architects has consciously included a wide variety of workspaces to accommodate all types and styles of creative work – from open, collaborative and energetic, through to quiet, calm and concentrated. They feature intelligent design with controllable task lighting, breakout areas for meetings, acoustically optimised Zoom meeting rooms, spaces for private phone conversations, and informal spots to grab a coffee and a catch-up with other members – a perk that those of us working from home will have missed out on.

‘Our design for Bureau recognises the fact that the way we work and how we use office space is changing,’ Roz explains. ‘It’s not about rows of booths and cubicles any more – we need places where we can connect with each other, build ideas together, and enjoy the magic of chance and happenstance. Above all else, Bureau is somewhere people can meet, work, converse and engage, and every aspect of its design encourages these things to happen.’

The honest and utilitarian but sophisticated aesthetic of the space is set by Roz’s approach to materials – many of which are unexpected in an interior setting. Exposed galvanised stud walls and fibrous cement board are juxtaposed with Marmoleum on the floors and walls, and digitally printed carpets and rugs. Sustainability has steered the material selection. The Marmoleum, from Forbo, is made from 97% recycled materials and is carbon-neutral.

Natural fabrics have been used throughout the space. Sheet materials from small Welsh business, Smile Plastics, have been used for the worksurfaces, and recycled plastics also feature in the joinery. Bureau’s innovative furniture selection includes pieces by some of the most respected designers in Britain and beyond, including work by the likes of Hay, Stuttgart-based Richard Lampert and British-Canadian, Philippe Malouin. Desks are fitted with diecast aluminium legs from London manufacturer Very Good and Proper. Consideration of COVID-19 has also been factored into the design, and Roz Barr Architects have ensured that the internal spaces are adaptable, as well as paying attention to cross-ventilation throughout the spaces – effectively, everything is recycled but the air.

Set just a few seconds’ stroll from North Greenwich Tube station, Bureau is one of the most financially accessible facilities of its kind in the capital. Whereas some clubs can typically charge their members £200 a month or more, Bureau delivers a comparable service for as little as £80 a month! Now that’s the kind of value engineering we can buy into!

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