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While individuals get a letter from Her Majesty to mark 100 years in existence, independent property consultancy, Montagu Evans, decided to move premises as it approached its own special milestone.
‘The vision was to launch the business into a completely new and modern way of working, in an office environment that fostered mentorship and collaboration,’ explains Tony Knight, Director at BDG architecture + design, who worked on the strategy and design of this new 25,500 sq ft space.
BDG supported this client’s property search, working with Montagu Evans’ real estate team to look at potential new HQs, eventually deciding to take two levels of 70 St Mary’s Axe, colloquially known as the Can of Ham in the City of London. BDG used input from a variety of sources, including building and occupation analysis, stakeholder interviews and scenario planning, recording over 6,500 survey measurements in the process. ‘This then allowed us to design and create spaces with connection, health and inclusion, with a range of modern work settings,’ explains Adam Childs, BDG Creative Director. ‘This is a very human office, designed to nurture community, encourage collaboration and care for the wellbeing of its people.’
On level 11 of this curved high-rise building, designed by Foggo Associates, a series of glazed and open flexible meeting spaces fan out to either side of the central core with its new stylish black steel staircase, installed by BW: workplace experts as part of its fit-out works here at 70 St Mary’s Axe. The staircase has a glass balustrade with no immediate posts or supports and presented a challenge in terms of ensuring the quality of finishes and interfaces. Responding to this, BW built a full-size section so these could be fully investigated and signed off before being installed.
Agile working is the name of the game here, with a series of booths and team working areas, including a long banquette opposite whiteboards that run the length of the open space surrounding the staircase. A hot desking area, meanwhile, has its own kitchenette, allowing for smaller café type meetings.
This workplace interior isn’t just about how Montagu Evans’ own people work together but also how they collaborate with their clients. To this end, much of this flexible space can be client facing, with a high-end finish featuring warm, light and natural materials, combined with sharp detailing to achieve a balance of quality without extravagance. Multi-coloured exposed surfaces with a softly lit joinery feature wall continues the sophisticated look and feel where spaces flow from one to another, inspiring a dynamic and connected way of working.
There has been an organisational shift to neighbourhood groupings here, which is reflected in the layout of the upper floor on level 12. Individuals now sit with experts in similar industries, who work with complementary clients, and this colocation strategy ensures there’s plenty of scope for knowledge sharing.
Acknowledging that Montagu Evans’ people also need their quiet time as much as the rest of us, BDG has incorporated a library and wellbeing space. Both floors of this dynamic workplace interior also benefit from the building’s panoramic glass, and fantastic views across the City and way beyond.
Sustainability was considered carefully by BDG and it was of importance to maintain focus on it for the client, who has swift ambitions to achieve Net Zero. The design maximises natural light and the layout has been deliberately planned around efficient building density. While old furniture went to local reuse schemes, new elements included environmentally sound choices such as Interface carpets, which use 100% recycled yarn, and acoustic panels featuring at least 60% recycled PET. On the upper level, the CAT A ceiling was left largely untouched to once again cut down on new materials used. Elsewhere, natural materials, such as oak flooring and clay brick for the reception desk, were used as much as possible and planting also features heavily to provide staff with plenty of that outside inside.
Individual end users are encouraged to live and work with less environmental impact and the business has its corporate future in mind too with a modular approach to lighting and air conditioning.
The strategy piece of this project gave Montagu Evans a chance to reflect on when and how the company wanted to work in the future, as it approached its centenary. A review of its offices at Bolton Street, near Green Park, was undertaken before the move to the Square Mile, ‘There was a desire to mark the landmark year with a complete office reset,’ Tony says. BDG’s workplace analysis formed the foundations for this change in office dynamic, giving the client the confidence to invest in a new and intuitive way of working in a variety of facilities and amenities. As Montagu Evans is part of the property world, helping its clients shape some of the UK’s largest commercial, residential and mixed-use development projects, it was really important that it led the way in terms of its own real estate.
That’s not to say a century of innovation has been forgotten. Far from it. This interior retains the best of the client’s identity and culture, while providing a workplace fit for 2021. Summing up the scheme, Tony concludes: ‘We created a space that supports how the business wants to work and grow together, attracting and retaining staff in the process.’
The new space for Montagu Evans is an expression of modern work, with staff happiness, wellbeing and community at its heart. This is a very human workspace, which reflects the nature of the partnership and the value it places on building and maintaining relationships. Spaces flow from one to the other with a shared DNA: ‘Better Together’.
The scheme encourages collaboration, inclusivity and diversity at every opportunity. Dramatic views across London have been maximised as a dynamic backdrop for work life, whilst long sightlines give the environment a welcome sense of openness and spaciousness. Warm, light, natural materials and well executed details give the scheme a timeless quality, whilst striking the right balance of professional without being corporate.
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