United House, Notting Hill: the latest offering from The Office Group
TOG’s Head of Design Nasim Köerting tells Mix about the 40th space from the flexible workspace providers.
As you’re probably already aware, January 2020 is a rather special issue (happy 20th birthday to us!) We asked an array of the UK’s finest interior design firms to contribute to our fantastic commemorative front cover, as well as asking them about their own journeys and stories over the past two decades.
AECOM is dedicated to making the world a better place. As a global multidisciplinary company who thrives on creating a legacy for people and communities across the world, we create opportunities through the design and delivery of our buildings and infrastructure. Over the past 30 years AECOM has successfully expanded its capabilities and expertise in several areas. Its global design offer was enhanced through the acquisition of the renowned company, DEGW – one of the leading workplace strategy and design practices, previously led by Dr. Francis Duffy. Specialising in the design of office environments, DEGW was one of the first design practices to emphasise how organisations use space and the important role research and design plays in this.
Continuing this legacy, our workplace advisory and interior design specialists have worked on iconic projects, including the redevelopment of Estee Lauder’s London HQ,, Rolls Royce’s London HQ and also worked with global clients such as Microsoft, Sony, Novartis and Accenture in supporting their future real estate strategies.
AECOM has also delivered several iconic projects, including the London Olympic and Paralympic Park, one of the most signiﬁcant urban regeneration projects undertaken in the UK. AECOM was also commissioned to deliver the Rio masterplan – making us the first firm in the history of the games to develop two consecutive Olympic cities.
Digital technology has played a significant role in transforming the way we operate. Not only has it enabled us to streamline project delivery but also contribute to the industry’s shift to a circular economy approach, whilst creating a net-zero carbon future for our clients.
In 2021 we celebrate our 60th anniversary, but 2019 has been pretty stellar. Last year we have reported our highest income to date with a 21.8% increase in turnover and a 9.2% increase in operating profit. We have enjoyed significant growth at home and abroad, establishing a new Singapore studio and fully integrating a 200-strong Toronto practice of architects and interior designers into the BDP group.
We have also opened new UK studios in Liverpool, Leeds and Cardiff, all cities where we have designed award-winning projects and have a high level of local knowledge.
Looking back to our 1960s roots ,the Grade II listed Preston Bus Station, one of our most loved and iconic buildings, was celebrated this year in a major 50th anniversary exhibition at the Harris Museum in Preston. It featured previously unseen material from our archives. At the time of its opening in 1969 it was the largest bus station in Europe and we were involved in every aspect of its design, from the delicate concrete curves, which shelter passengers and soften its rugged modular form, to its unique Pirelli rubber floor, airport-style signage and a very beautiful Dieter Rams-like clock.
We have again won multiple awards this year for our projects and our people and launched some exciting new initiatives to enhance our social values, equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as organising workshops for the whole practice to contribute to our policy on climate change.
As our Founder, George Grenfell Baines, advocated many years ago – Keep On Getting Better!
I have to say that pinning 20 years of design down to a single moment has been incredibly difficult. I guess it’s because throughout my working career I’ve been very fortunate, having worked with some great people on some fantastic projects.
The most staggering aspect of my career is that I’ve always worked for FaulknerBrowns and as a consequence I’ve worked on an incredible variety of building types, from indoor ski centres, to civic offices, libraries, food market halls, swimming pools in the desert, ice rinks and a glass centre.
Many of these projects have been the first of their type in the UK and have achieved fantastic plaudits following their completion.
But if I were forced to pick one single moment as the most memorable, I’d have to pick the completion of The Word, National Centre for the Written Word. As a huge fan of public architecture, to have contributed to this exemplar project was incredibly rewarding. It’s also on my doorstep, which gives me an opportunity to visit the building regularly.
I love the fact that the building inspires people to achieve the best of themselves – and I love witnessing people walk through the front door and look up into the atria with a smile on their face. It’s uplifting to see the joy a building can bring and the pride it brings to a community.
That’s why The Word is my significant moment in design.
We’ve recently celebrated our 30th year in London with the completion of our new European HQ in East London, affectionately known as No. 6.
Our architectural, interior design, brand and consulting teams worked seamlessly to create a design scheme inspired by locality and contextual history. This can be seen predominantly through the building materials themselves – timber and exposed steel.
We wanted to ensure that our presence in the area was complementary and enhanced the existing environment, and ‘bringing the inside, outside’ was key. We refashioned the front entrance as a more porous and transparent façade, with clear glazing across all floors, creating a much stronger connection between internal activity and public realm during the day.
Inside, the space has been designed to incorporate a high percentage of free address, with focus given to providing a choice to individuals and teams of where to work. The workplace strategy clusters teams on each floor in ‘neighbourhoods’, aligned to foster collaboration.
The feature staircase connects teams vertically to create chance collisions and spark moments of innovation, while also promoting the healthy benefit of active design.
No.6 is a product of everyone within it. With more than 200 employees, made up of 35 nationalities, it’s a testament to the space’s success that it enables and facilitates team members from different parts of the business, with a diverse range of skill sets and roles, to come together.
In July, 2008, Hassell made a bold shift. After more than 70 years, the traditionally architecture-led practice chose an interior designer to be its Managing Director.
Robert Backhouse’s appointment marked a radical shift for Hassell. While the practice had always offered architecture, interior architecture, landscape and master planning expertise, Backhouse was the driving force behind Hassell’s transition to becoming a truly integrated, global design house.
He, in partnership with Hassell’s board and senior leadership team, led a strategy that re-aligned the business. It was focused on bringing together the world’s best design talent, strategists and researchers to deliver on a commitment to create places people love.
During the following decade, the practice has built on this position, making considered acquisitions, including award-winning hospitality design practice, Distillery, in Singapore and London-based experience master planners, FreeState, and entering new geographies, including the UK in 2011 and the United States in 2017.
It was the completion of Sky Central in west London that cemented Hassell’s position as one of the most exciting and progressive entrants to the highly competitive UK market. Within one year of opening, the 45,000 sq m workplace secured more than nine awards, including Large Commercial Interiors Project of the Year at Mixology 2017, and ‘Best of the Best’ 2017 at the National BCO Awards.
Working with architects, PLP, Hassell brought a human-scale to Sky Central’s vast 14,000 sq m floorplates and delivered an agile workplace for 3,500 people that has enabled Sky to remain responsive in an increasingly complex environment.
Having been established over 50 years, winning Design Practice of the Year at the Mixology North awards in 2012 for our interior design work was a pivotal moment.
Originally established to support a range of architectural projects across HLM Architects‘ seven sectors, our interior architecture team was really fired up by the win. Driven by a passion to create spaces that are inspirational and memorable, the award brought further momentum, ambition and opportunity to pursue standalone interior design opportunities in the hospitality, workplace and residential markets.
Over the following years, in addition to delivering award-winning, thoughtfully designed schemes in partnership with our architectural and landscape disciplines, from specialised rehabilitation hospitals in the UAE to a student village in St. Andrews, we have added a wide range of standalone interior projects to our portfolio. HLM Interiors’ team has grown, both in numbers – we now have 17 designers based in our studios across the UK – and knowledge to deliver complex hospitality projects in landmark locations for both international and bespoke hotel operators, dynamic workplace settings for a really wide variety of businesses and accommodation for both the student market and developers.
We love variety and, whatever the brief, we craft spaces that are memorable, understanding the influence our designs have on people’s performance and their physical and emotional wellbeing. Seeing our spaces used, loved and delighting our clients is always the biggest reward.
Just over 25 years ago, HLW International, although being a significant business in NYC (founded in 1885 and famed for designing iconic buildings such as the Flatiron building and The Times Building in Times Square) started on their journey to grow outside of New York, establishing offices in London and other strategic locations, such as LA. Since opening our doors for business, our London office has grown from strength-to-strength. Some of our most significant, memorable and proudest moments involve our clients, our projects and our awesome team. Of course, winning the Mixology Design Practice of the Year in 2014 and 2016, as well as Mixology prizes for Best Large Project for Google EMEA HQ Dublin and Best Medium Project for HPE CEC would be up there too!
Industry wide, the last 20 years has really seen the birth of the tech sector, and some of HLW’s most significant growth and moments have occurred in working alongside the development of this sector – the impact it’s had on all our lives, our designs, our view of the workplace, the buildings that house these workplaces and the changing job roles of the people working for these businesses have been significant to say the least. HLW started working with start-ups such as Google 18 years ago – and today we are currently on site for their new headquarters in Charleston East. The difference over the years is staggering! These differences are emulated throughout all our projects – the adoption of technology, understanding and designing in sustainable and healthy ways, changing the view of what a workplace is, better amenities and support spaces and the densification of the buildings themselves – the changes are never ending!a
Tallying up the number of projects we’ve completed since 2000 would be nigh on impossible – 20 years doesn’t seem that long, but when we look back to what we were doing then – mostly offices – it turns out we’ve come a long way (baby!).
Highlights for the practice include rejuvenating a derelict Victorian canal basin district with Edinburgh Quay (2005), creating RBS’ global HQ campus near Edinburgh Airport (2006), a memorable office trip to Amsterdam that none of us can really remember, and the wonderfully eccentric design process for Hendrick’s Gin Palace in 2018.
Of course, a big low point was the financial storm of 2008 onwards – a difficult time for everyone.
But the crash ‘invited’ us to diversify into new sectors and, in 2012, working in a consortium with Sir Robert McAlpine and MLA (with Reiach and Hall Architects), the design team won the bid for the new City of Glasgow College campus. This project was a huge undertaking, providing over 80,000 sq m of a variety of educational spaces across two separate locations – and all to be completed within a four-year timeframe. Tight for any project!
Complete it we did – with Riverside Campus opening in Autumn 2015 and City Campus a year later. The two projects received many plaudits and awards for their cohesive design, organised internal spaces and world class facilities; however, we had no idea that both projects would go on to be successively shortlisted for the nation’s top architectural award, the RIBA Stirling Prize.
Sure, we didn’t quite win in the end, but not many practices can say they’ve been up for this award two years running. Plus, we got to meet Kevin McCloud!
There have been so many amazing achievements and milestones over the past 20 years, but becoming the London studio of Perkins&Will was a very significant moment in our history.
Being part of an international company that works across many disciplines and has a strong focus on research has enabled us to explore and grow in ways we couldn’t before. We have the resources to push the boundaries of design, and work in a much more holistic, multidisciplinary way. To support our growth we moved to The White Chapel Building in Aldgate, another big change for us. Our previous offices were split across three floors, but moving into one floor alongside our sister company, Portland, has created a new working environment which fosters collaboration and communication. We have also recently welcomed award-winning architecture practice, Penoyre & Prasad, who joined us at the end of 2019. Working with a diverse range of designers, both in London and internationally, enables us to create world-class, innovative and sustainable design.
I hope that we continue to go from strength-to-strength over the next 20 years and beyond!
I remember the first time we said no to a project – it was in 2008. It was a massive project but it just didn’t feel right – the brief was just wrong. It was just after my partner, Geoff, died and I was totally consumed with questions like ‘what’s life all about and what is really important?’. So we said no and walked away from it. It felt great and liberating. That day changed everything. Being honest about what you feel is something really important – and to this day it drives everything we do.
Two defining moments for Squire & Partners in the past 20 years have been about relocation – from South Kensington to King’s Cross in 2001, and then to Brixton in 2017. Each move came at a time when the practice had grown in size but, more significantly, experience and confidence. Relocating offers up an opportunity to redefine who we want to be and how we want to work.
Back in 2001, moving from a South Kensington townhouse to a derelict 1930s former printworks on a cobbled backstreet was a bold move, preceding the large regeneration projects north and east of King’s Cross station. The practice had grown to 70 people, and we wanted to show a confident and contemporary face to our growing client base, which included fashion house Reiss, The British Council and Derwent London. The new location allowed us to add different facets to the office, including a model shop, computer generated imaging department and a dedicated team for interior design.
In seeking a new location for the practice in 2015, now with over 200 people, we searched many areas before settling on a derelict department store building in Brixton. The extraordinary narrative of the building, and the development of our approach to collaboration and craft, offered the chance to create an array of spaces for the various design disciplines within the practice – which had grown to include illustration, branding and products – as well as retail, event and social spaces for the local community. The move to Brixton has redefined the practice for a new era, and created a showcase of our multi-faceted approach to design for our staff, clients, collaborators and friends to enjoy.
While tp bennett is almost 100 years old, in 2018 we celebrated 20 years of our interiors team. From a single Principal leading interiors to six Principals working across the UK from offices in London, Manchester and Leeds, as well as globally through 80 partner firms, we are now the largest interiors practice in the UK – a truly multicultural, diverse team and the most successful design firm in the history of the Mixology awards.
We’re proud to have been entrusted by businesses in a wide range of sectors, from TMT to financial and professional services. We recently designed Schroders 1 London Wall Place workspace, which has just won Best Workplace Design for Business Culture at the Business Culture Awards. We are working with PayPal across its portfolio, most recently revamping its San Jose campus, ranked the second coolest office in the US by Glassdoor. With an emphasis on working smarter, in London we are in the final stages of delivering a new UK headquarters for Societe Generale in Canary Wharf and for Investec at Gresham Street. We are also currently working with Spotify.
Two stand-out moments for our projects in this decade have been winning two BCO Test of Time Awards – in 2014, for the new Guardian headquarters at Kings Place in London, which has supported the business as it has evolved, and this year for PwC’s One Embankment Place, which has enabled a positive cultural shift.
These are our moments, and we look forward to many more over the next 20 years.
Inspiration for your next read
As the hard-hit hospitality industry prepares to reopen under new government regulations, Mix sits down with Dylan Wills, Associate at HBA, to shed some light on how the industry can manage the inevitable changes they are facing.