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At Convene’s first UK offering, the workday is reimagined. We explore why the Woods Bagot-designed space is the hotel of offices.
Words: Harry McKinley
Photography: Jack Hobhouse
Convene’s first international outpost aims to change the way we work. It’s a towering ambition housed with an ambitious tower: 22 Bishopsgate, the UK’s second tallest building and a project of immense audacity and scale. For those unfamiliar, Convene is an American-headquartered provider of places to work, meet and host; a brand already well established in Stateside hubs such as New York, Chicago and Boston. As its seductive marketing collateral espouses, it was launched on the basis of a simple question: what if you ran an office building like a hotel?
In practice, that doesn’t mean bellboys and beds, but instead facilities that cater to a reimagined workday – from beginning to end. There’s coworking, of course, but also elevated F&B for breakfasts, lunches and even dinners on the go; there are abundant, slick meeting spaces; and, perhaps most impressively, events spaces outfitted with state-of-the-art technology for larger-scale corporate or social gatherings. That’s the broad sweep then, but how has this workplace innovator translated its bold concept for the Brits?
Well, Convene 22 Bishopsgate is spread across a monumental two storeys – with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out across the City. There’s no mistaking the location, which is why tailoring the space to London and its residents was central. Woods Bagot was drafted in on interiors and, for Convene itself, it was crucial that that this first opening met the high bar already set by the capital’s flexible workplaces.
“It was so important that we were able to bring the standard achieved in the US over to the UK,” explains Peter O’Donnell, principal at Woods Bagot. “Users are met with an offer that’s like that of a 5-star hotel and the design has been influenced by the concept of the modern livery as – much like the livery companies of the City of London – this space will provide a platform for creators and innovators.”
Katie Timmerman, senior director, Design at Convene, expands: “The design nods to the rich history and heritage of the specific area – and of London – with a concept of old meets new.”
The convergence of past, present and future is manifest multiple times within the project – not just in the design and through the surrounding urban skyline, but in the meeting of traditional and pioneering practices.
“We started the design process before the major changes that came with the pandemic,” says O’Donnell, “and Convene has been clever in assessing the space in terms of the value it holds beyond desks. There’s consideration for amenity and engagement, reinforcing the reasons people come into the City now – for connection and interaction. Technology and digital capabilities have played a fundamental role and are ingrained throughout the design. This means that any company using one of these spaces can ensure smooth and wholly flexible ways of working, something of key importance to business after the last two years.
“I think this design and Convene’s approach overall to the future of work will become much more commonplace in office buildings, not only in London but beyond.”
The technological aspects emphasized by O’Donnell include – for those joining remotely or for from further flung climes – cameras capable of motion tracking a speaker across a stage and broadcast options for hybrid interactions. There’s even an AV team on site to deal with any prickly devices. In terms of capacity, these advanced events and meetings facilities include a 410-seater auditorium and four flexible ‘hubs’ that can be partitioned to create smaller areas. They feature Vitra ergonomic .03 chairs designed by Muller Van Severen and all have access to gallery-style spaces for breaks and breakouts.
In terms of the wider footprint, members and guests arrive into an airy third floor lobby with wrought iron staircase – a bespoke design by Woods Bagot. On this floor lies a membership workplace and a swish Spanish porcelain-clad barista bar that doubles as a cocktail bar come clocking off time. It’s bookable in the evening for private soirees. There are nine private rooms for client meetings, smaller hybrid conferences or private dining.
Throughout, little expense has seemingly been spared on fixtures, fittings and finishes, with pieces by Molteni, & Tradition, Gubi, Arper and Stellar Works. There are fabrics by Kvadrat and House of Hackney, rugs by Massimo Copenhagen and tiles from Pyro+Echo. Designer John Lau was commissioned to devise the lighting narrative, deploying pieces by brands including iGuzzini and Reggiani. On the art front, Convene commissioned colourful works by local creators, inspired by East London graffiti artist Ben Eine. If Convene is the ‘hotel’ of workplaces, then certainly a hospitality-level of attention has been lavished on the interiors.
For Convene, this first international location is a brave roll of the dice. London is neither uncompetitive nor inexpensive. Yet in investing in an offer of such scale, detail and originality, it’s clear the company doesn’t just want to break into the market, it wants to break the mould. With 22 Bishopsgate, it has certainly made a dent.
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