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Basha-Franklin creates tactile and flexible workplace for Related Argent

For Related Argent’s reimagined headquarters, Basha-Franklin was tasked with developing a space fit for changed working habits, that’s also good for the planet.

20/07/2022 4 min read

Words: Clare Dowdy
Photography: Ed Reeves

When mixed-use developer Related Argent moved its headquarters from Piccadilly to Granary Square in 2012, it was 50-strong. As its staff numbers grew to 160, “we kept putting in more desks and losing amenities,” explains Sam Williams, Related Argent’s development manager. What’s more, “the views across the space were blocked and the meeting rooms were in constant use.” In short, the two-storey, 1300 sq m, 14,000 sq ft space felt cramped and teams were siloed.

Related Argent, which is the development and asset manager for the King’s Cross Estate, had started looking into changing the way its staff worked in 2019, before the pandemic affected some working practices. By 2020, there was a sense that when people returned to work, they would have higher expectations of their office environment, according to Williams. So Related Argent commissioned commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield to come up with a workplace strategy to determine the best way to use the space. The result is a ‘dynamic working’ policy, which allows people to choose where and when to work.

Design firm Basha-Franklin was brought in to interpret the policy into new interiors for the industrial heritage building at 4 Stable Street. Their concept included introducing biophilia, opening up views and sight lines by removing some internal walls and rooms, improving the natural light, increasing the variety of spaces and creating the sort of welcoming environment that would entice staff back into the office.

But this was not going to be a complete start-from- scratch overhaul. Rather, it was about reworking the space in the most sustainable way possible. The project was aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 targets aimed at transforming the world to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. To this end, Basha-Franklin reviewed all materials, sourcing and specification, process and fabrication. This also applied to the furniture, fixtures and fittings: “We took everything out and stored it,” says Nicola Osborn, Creative Director at Basha-Franklin, who was part of the design team that created the first iteration of 4 Stable Street.

The designers retained, reused and repurposed around 80% of the materials in the existing space, including a section of timber flooring which was relocated to a new coffee bar area. Shards of waste product from the timber were combined with copper flecks and incorporated into terrazzo for communal tables and new coffee bars. And all joinery has been mechanically fixed, rather than glued, with copper caps on the screws which, like the new terrazzo, pick up on the previous scheme’s use of that metal.

As for the existing furniture, around 70% of it is out of storage and has been reconditioned and reused. The rest is still stored or has been sold or sent to charity and all the retained light fittings were relamped to LEDs, improving efficiency by 80%. Meanwhile, smart sensors were installed throughout, so lighting achieves optimum function, working in sync with natural lighting levels. CO2 monitors were also installed, to adjust airflow.

The existing exposed brickwork inspired the material and colour palette – previously white had been the dominant colour, with some copper. Now, there is brushed copper sheeting on one wall of the ground floor arrival area. The ground floor also introduces the use of green – which is present in many tones throughout. “People do gravitate to colour,” says Basha-Franklin Director, Rachel Basha- Franklin, “and green is restful on the eyes.”

On the left-hand wall, there are 3D green tubular tiles laid vertically – mostly gloss with a few matt, to give a sense of movement. More movement is implied on the right-hand wall through the new temporary artwork – lit tubular sleeves of foliage patterns, in reference to the biophilic theme and the new floor is a warm pink recycled terrazzo from Diespeker & Co.

The first-floor reception has the original timber flooring, though some was reused for this floor’s coffee bar space, where the counter itself is of recycled terrazzo – red brick, slate and terracotta. New flooring comprises Cempanel magnetic floor, with a natural, hard-wearing waxed finish.

Fabrics have been introduced to make the environment more welcoming and as a way of bringing in more colour. Much of it – from curtaining to banquette upholstery

– is Kvadrat or Vitra. A team presentation space can be cordoned off with De Ploeg’s recycled ocean plastic sheer curtain and a thicker pink Kvadrat curtain.

From this floor, the double-height space allows people to look up to a long trough of greenery on the mezzanine. The plants are in a soya-based ply planter that runs the length of the workstations above.

The second floor houses the main work area, where all the old desks and chairs were reused. Basha-Franklin have added lockers from Your Workspace.

Throughout, smaller rooms for meetings or individual quiet time have acoustic walls of recycled felt. The second floor also has an informal lounge area, given a domestic feel with a big floor rug, arm chairs and an L-shaped sofa and fabric blinds at the window. “We’ve softened brickwork by layering materials,” says Basha-Franklin. The chandelier has been refurbished and is on its fourth life.

This floor has a big kitchen area with new white units. Its existing island has been extended with a half-circle of copper on the end, and also has a new banquette and high-backed chairs.

With its design approach, Basha-Franklin has worked hard to balance two needs: that of staff returning to the office and that of the planet.

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