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BDP create PwC’s first biophilic office

BDP has created a memorable, feel-good office for long-standing client PwC, featuring relaxed living spaces and a tranquil and immersive ‘garden’ floor.

09/03/2021 4 min read

Project Team

  • Client

    PwC

  • Architecture & Interior Design

    BDP

  • Contractr

    GTH

  • Furniture

    Boss Design, Orangebox, Senator, Task

  • Flooring

    Interface and Solus Ceramics

  • Acoustics

    Autex Acoustics

We’re always keen to take a look at PwC’s ever-evolving portfolio of forward-thinking workspaces – and when our friends at BDP revealed details of their latest transformative project for the business in Watford, we wanted to know more, particularly in light of the pandemic.

PwC occupies three floors of 40 Clarendon Road, comprising a total of 28,448 sq ft, with the first floor remaining open for a new tenant. The building is in the main business district of Watford and was chosen with the aim of creating a destination workplace in the north London region. The practice floors are organised across levels 2 and 4, with level 3 dedicated to visitors, clients, external events and coworking.

This new office is a merging of two previously separate PwC offices: St Albans and Uxbridge. Among the most appealing features of the building are the floor-to-ceiling curved bay windows, orderly exposed ceilings, wide staircases, extensive bike storage and showering/changing facilities, with an exceptional Cat A fit-out providing a good starting point for the project team. BDP worked closely with both PwC’s internal real estate team and the change management representing the two regional offices.

A large part of the sampling, coordinating, presenting and approvals on this fast-paced project was carried out remotely due to the pandemic. The agile spaces here have been designed to work effectively in a COVID environment, but equally as effective without, as only a few items of furniture were removed to ensure the 2m social distancing within the office. ‘I think this new office’s advantage is its inviting ‘relaxed living spaces’ with state-of-the-art technology and its location slightly further out of the city centre,’ Zena Jankowska, Interior Designer at BDP, tells us.

‘The heart of the concept is to create a ‘welcoming’ environment where community and wellbeing take centre stage.’

The scheme draws inspiration from the district, its history and future vision to promote engagement for both PwC staff and visitors and clients, with each floor offering a different experience through distinctive themes: internal garden, library and social/fun floor.’

There is a similar rhythm to the layout on every floor. The impactful and unique ‘welcoming and communal spaces’ are positioned at the front of the building to benefit from natural daylight and the best street views. To encourage connectivity, spontaneous conversations and impromptu collaboration, these casual alternative work settings, with their layer of domesticity, are further enhanced with personalised library bookcases. Staff selected book collections with diverse topics, with the intention being for them to expand and to promote diversity and inclusivity within the office, which is central to the client’s purpose in building trust in society. Other cognitive activities to lower stress and encourage a sense of community are board games in all welcome areas, electric waterfalls and table tennis on level 4.

Intricate details that add character, like bespoke neon lights above the refreshment hubs, pay homage to a famous local bridge graffiti, ‘Give peas a chance’, and one of the company’s slogans, ‘Better together’, emphasises the importance of fun and togetherness. The building has no outdoor space, therefore a biophilic design strategy was applied to all floors to support wellbeing and add a softer dimension to the office. The tranquil immersive indoor garden on the second floor was inspired by Watford’s parks; subtle references to Watford’s plants and wildlife can be found in the wall graphics and a window-like digital screen with endless moving landscapes and waterfalls. A wellness suite located on the top floor has been designed to be split into three parts, providing a calming space with a built in music system. The space offers a nursing/mother’s room, a contemplation room, and a space for yoga sessions to unwind or a private refuge.

The spacious practice floors with long span external views provide a variety of activity-based work settings that support and enhance agility, including sit/stand and fixed desks for focused and individual work and large desk benches for collaboration accompanied with mobile screens. Meeting pods with vibrant block coloured upholstered interiors are dotted around the open plan to create semi-enclosed workspaces if users prefer more privacy. The middle floor is client focused and dedicated to coworking. The versatile and tech-enabled meeting rooms support event hosting, theatre style presentations, large collaborative group events and training. In addition, when the feature pivot doors in the client area are open, the space is unified through a shared colour palette to become one coworking floor.

We’re told the response to the office has been overwhelming positive; not only as a great place to work but also as a representation of PwC values and principles and really making a mark for the business in this area. PwC considers Watford to be its first biophilic office – and one that will be seen as a benchmark for future offices. The interior evokes a ‘feel good’ factor, with users describing the office as dynamic, yet inviting, warm, a place of calm and welcoming. There has been lively debate about ‘favourite’ floors and competitions to identify the subtle references in the design and fittings.

‘Our aim is to create a memorable ultimate workspace: a new ‘destination’ to lift the spirit and encourage collaboration; chance encounters that can spark new ideas, fun and opportunities,’ PwC says. ‘An office to look part of the family, focusing on community ‘connectivity ‘ and an inclusive flexible environment; attracting diverse skills and experiences and creating an experience in itself; a place where the space doesn’t get in the way – breaking down barriers – one can work anywhere, allowing reconnection; a place that allows us to be dynamic, proud, connected, focused, inspired and to innovate together.’

BDP has created a memorable office that has its own sense of place, and a welcoming interior that encourages connection and community.

Photography: Philip Vile

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