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5plus Architect utilise space and materials to create an activity-based workplace for BASF

When global chemical company BASF decided to up sticks and move their UK headquarters to Stockport, they turned to 5plus to make the relocation happen – creating a new, activity-based way of working.


5 min read

Project Team

  • Client

    BASF PLC Limited

  • Architect & Interior Designer

    5plus Architects

  • Contractor


  • Environmental/ M&E Engineer

    Hilson Moran

  • Furniture Supplier

    The Furniture Practice

  • Furniture

    Hitch Mylius, Workstories, Vitra, Established and Sons, Modus, Boss, Brunner, Allermuir, Humanscale, Albion, Spacestor, Muuto, Anglepoise, Hay, Fritz Hansen, Silverline, Lintex

  • Flooring

    Tarkett, Interface, Desso

  • Fabrics

    Kvadrat, Camira

  • Surfaces

    Egger, Polyrey, Kvadrat, Forbo, Annie Sloan Paint, Tektura Digital

  • Lighting

    Atrium, Muuto, Northern

  • Other

    Spacestor, Optima, H&H Acoustic Technologies

BASF provides a wide range of raw materials to most industries in the UK, including agriculture, automotive chemicals, construction, energy and pharmaceuticals, and has committed to supporting the regeneration of Stockport town centre with this move to Stockport Exchange. The decision was taken to relocate to a reduced footprint, in a lower energy modern building, to realign with the company’s corporate global strategy and ‘future of work’ concept. BASF was also keen to promote greater use of public transport in travelling to work, alongside the social and economic benefits of being able to use the town centre amenities.

The brief for 5plus was to deliver a welcoming, calming, homely and engaging environment that would support agile and collaborative working for BASF’s 200+ employees.

‘BASF made the decision to change the way it operated in the UK and Ireland in line with a realignment of our Global Corporate Strategy in 2019,’ Chris Skurray, BASF Facilities Manager UK & Ireland, says. ‘As a result, our ‘Future of Work’ concept was developed, designed to bring our new global strategy to life.

‘The ‘Future of Work’ was built around a new way of working, adopting modern thinking and principles to enable us to achieve our goal. Agility, empowerment, digitalisation and collaboration were just some of the principles we adopted as the foundation of our concept.

‘To enable us to achieve our goal we made the decision to relocate our UK and Ireland HQ, moving from a building we had built and owned for almost 25 years to leased space in a multi-occupancy office building at Stockport Exchange. The challenge of moving from 5,000 sq m to 2,000 sq m, with no reduction to headcount, was one we didn’t take lightly, understanding it was critical to engage with the right architectural and design partner to fully interpret and help develop our vision.

5plus worked very closely with us from day one, listening to our ideas and requirements and developing them into the exciting, multi-functional and fun spaces we now have. It was important for us to create collaborative spaces/areas, enabling our colleagues to work closely together, balanced with quieter areas to offer privacy and seclusion.’

The project includes a wide range of settings, from a library space to a games corner, with areas for both individual and team-based working. The reception and welcome area is located on the 5th floor, alongside a flexible café and events area that opens out onto the large terrace, allowing the opportunity for meetings, collaboration and private conversations in the fresh air. The terrace also adjoins the open plan café and games area to encourage staff interaction with the outdoor space. A new central feature staircase was designed to connect the two floors and further encourage both collaboration and staff interaction.

In addition to the customer facing area, the 5th floor includes a range of traditional and agile work settings, collaboration spaces and meeting rooms. These continue through to the 4th floor, which also includes numerous quiet working areas, an IT help desk, a library space and dedicated wellness room.

In order to create a personal and responsive new home, which explores the very nature of BASF, 5plus smartly selected products and materials that contain BASF raw ingredients within the interior finishes. With support from its graphic design team, 5plus also designed signage, wayfinding and feature walls that showcase both BASF values and products to further strengthen the narrative and personalisation of the space.

The workplace design places the health and wellbeing of the building’s users at its centre. This approach is embedded into the core principles for the fit-out – the completed space is not only healthy and environmentally friendly but also offers people a home away from home.

‘The heart of the concept was to promote an agile working environment, creating connectivity between the two floors and, ultimately, between the people within,’ Natasha Dance, Associate Interior Designer at 5plus, explains. ‘The key architectural intervention was to include an accommodation stair between the two floors to further encourage those chance interactions between users and allow BASF staff to move freely between the two floors. With BASF being one of Europe’s largest chemical manufacturers, many of the materials and surfaces used throughout the scheme were chosen for their use of BASF raw materials. We worked closely as a design and client team to ensure the overall design reflected the BASF values.’

Much of the loose furniture was also selected because it included BASF raw materials,’ Natasha continues. ‘This was also apparent for many of the interior finishes, such as acoustic panels, paints and laminates. The overarching interior vision was to create a homely space that included biophilic elements and showcased BASF’s identity, which influenced the choice of both colours and textures.’

The internal arrangement prioritises the location of workspaces in primary zones near the external walls to maximise the natural daylight and views across Stockport. Cellular spaces were then inset from the building perimeter, with considered use of glazed partitions to maintain connections and create sightlines across the space and out through the perimeter curtain walling. ‘Third’ spaces account for a large part of the scheme, ranging from private personal focus areas to short-stay collaborative open spaces. They are carefully distributed around both floors.

Some facilities, such as phone booths, are located close to open plan workstation zones for ease of use, whereas café and utility areas are deliberately centralised to ensure staff stand up regularly and move around the space, increasing chance interactions with colleagues. The aforementioned external terrace on the 5th floor is a key feature, allowing staff to connect to the outside and fresh air. The theme is continued internally with the use of biophilic design and planting. BASF’s facilities team was fundamental in this, carefully selecting specific plants to maximise their air purifying attributes whilst reinforcing the function of the spaces.

Once the project completed, it resulted in a unique situation for the client. As the space had been intrinsically designed with flexibility in mind and generously spaced work settings, there was no need for the layouts to be modified to respond to COVID measures. The client introduced carefully considered management strategies, which allowed some staff to return and experience the space, once government restrictions allowed.

‘The design had progressed quite significantly when we first went into lockdown, just as we were due to appoint a contractor, therefore the original design intent remained,’ Natasha recalls. ‘The original intent was to create a space that promoted both flexible and agile working throughout an open plan environment. The client had a fully agile remote working functionality in advance of the workspace project and the design has lots of flexibility built into it with many connected, but subtly separated spaces. The open areas were designed with the intention of adaptation and re-configuration in the future.

‘Appointing the contractor during the first national lockdown meant that we had to work closely as a design and client team to adapt to new ways working. Many of the final finishes’ presentations were held online with furniture fabric samples being specified from home.’

‘Activity based working was an important part of our vision. We wanted to create multiple working settings designed to suit whichever mode of work one was conducting at that time,’ Chris concludes. ‘The subtle and complementary blend of fixtures, installations and furniture has enabled us to provide our colleagues with a setting to suit every activity they might undertake.

‘With clever and innovative use of space, along with in-depth research and analysis of how our existing space was being used, we believe we have absolutely achieved our goal.’

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