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Part of their £50m Pioneer programme, Bruntwood Works’ latest coworking space has a foundation in technology, hospitality and wellbeing.
Workspace Design & Build
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Bruntwood Works’ vision is to balance work and lifestyle, blending spaces that encourage interaction and create community. 111 Piccadilly Manchester is part of its Pioneer programme to invest £50m to create customer-focused buildings across the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands.
The design for 111 Piccadilly was a collaborative process with 3DReid; Bruntwood Works challenged Cathy Mocke and her team to develop a scheme that supported its aim for the building’s coworking space to become Platinum Standard WELL accredited, appealed to people’s curiosities and had its foundation in technology. ‘Hospitality was at the heart of this project and we briefed the team to not hold back, we wanted the design to go further than in our previous developments,’ Andrew Cooke, Strategic Director at Bruntwood Works, tells us.
The location of the workspace and its proximity to Manchester Piccadilly train station provided a multitude of opportunities and part of the brief was to create a ‘shop window’ to display Bruntwood Works’ Pioneer proposition on what is one of the main gateways into the city. The work at 111 Piccadilly helped form what are now the six key pillars of the Pioneer scheme, with the integration of the best of amenity, sustainability, technology, art, biophilia and wellbeing. The arrival and journey through the space was key to the success of this project and Bruntwood Works wanted to ensure that there was a variety of spaces on offer, located in the right pockets of space to support all ways of working, wellbeing and facilitate collaboration.
‘The workspace journey starts outside, and we want our buildings to invite people in from the street level,’ Andrew says. ‘We wanted the building to become a destination point and create a ‘welcome’. It didn’t need to say ‘Welcome to Manchester’ – but rather we wanted it to evoke a welcoming feeling for the city approach, which is where the concept for ‘The Gem’ came from. It’s a sculptured feature, which will house art exhibitions and seating space. It’s built from glass and copper panels and incorporates nature, lighting and sculpture. On a sunny day, the patterns and reflections project across the space and it’s a very relaxing area to work from. The furniture is bold and distinctive yet comfortable and inviting.’
Every corner of 111 Piccadilly is designed to create moments that surprise and delight – from the hidden patterns in the materials to the state-of-the-art technology that powers the space. Designs reveal themselves the more you move through the space, creating a subconscious emotional reaction and a range of responses.
‘As with all of our buildings, the application of materials and finishes are always carefully considered and our ambition to become one of the first coworking spaces in Europe to become WELL accredited meant that we had to take this even further to comply with the standard, which challenged both ourselves and our suppliers to source alternative eco materials and products,’ Andrew explains.
The principle of flexible workspace is at the heart of 111. Bruntwood Works wanted to offer spaces within an integrated environment that enable efficiency and productivity through a range of work settings for short, medium and long-term dwell times. When you arrive, The Gem and café area provide a relaxed, informal space to meet colleagues and customers. As you move into the lounge, there’s a mix of hot desks and booths, which provides a more professional, yet still informal setting. The space culminates with a coworking studio and a collection of meeting rooms. The coworking area is designed to be an active space that isn’t too serious or corporate. The desks have timber tops to make them more relaxed, there are huge lamp shades above to offer soft lighting and six of the desks are standing desks (the WELL requirement is 25% but Bruntwood Works opted for 30%). The meeting rooms are packed with technology, from ambient light controls to top spec AV equipment. The largest meeting room has a green biophilia portal, which is largely visible from the outside. It ties in the external balustrade, which is also full of greenery. The idea is to bring the outside in and vice versa.
‘All of the lighting supports our ambitions for WELL and brings more of a hospitality feel compared to the usual bright commercial lighting you’d see in a typical workspace. We wanted to take a different approach to the design, so rather than looking at traditional strip lighting, we wanted to explore how it could draw people through the space and create different atmospheres,’ Andrew reveals.
Lighting is designed to achieve the ‘Circadian Lighting Design’ criteria set in the Well V2 Standards. This is based on designing the interior working areas with a combination of both artificial lighting, with access to daylight, ensuring the uses of the spaces benefit from both qualities of light. This can work towards supporting a natural environment that regulates a 24-hour cycle of sleep, wake, hunger, alertness, hormone release and body temperature to improve customer health and wellbeing.
Digital art is part of the DNA at 111 Piccadilly. ‘We wanted to champion and showcase our commitment to arts and culture by embedding it throughout the building,’ Andrew says. ‘From the outside, you will see a 200ft LED lighting installation, soon to be powered by photovoltaics. Working with StudioTech and light artist Luke Artinstall from Artin Light, it illuminates three sides of the building and is visible across the city centre. Smart tech will help to connect the building with the wider community. We can even update the display in response to live events, connecting the building with the community – such as when we illuminated it in blue in recognition of the NHS’ efforts during the pandemic.’
In reception, you’ll find a digital art display called ‘Footfall’ by local artist, Andrew Small, which reacts with body movements and represents people as they enter and leave the building – bringing a stronger connection to the space.
The hospitality model starts at the café. As you walk up the cascading stairs, past the timber cladding, which has been repurposed from the previous scheme, you’re greeted with bright lighting and a contrasting dark-oak bar, which houses Ancoats Coffee. Bruntwood Works wanted to create a welcoming and inclusive space for customers, colleagues and communities to connect, collaborate and build relationships. The central café encourages social exchanges and a welcoming start to your journey.
How has the design of the interior changed from the original pre-COVID plans to the final execution we see today?
‘We were already designing our buildings for change – the aim for our Pioneer project was to evolve our workspace for a different type of working,’ Andrew tells us. ‘The office and working from home are both key parts of every business’ toolkit and we need to see the office as an opportunity to provide spaces and environments that you can’t replicate at home. You can’t reproduce collaboration and innovation, the serendipitous conversations you have from moving around an office, or the osmosis of learning within a team. We’ve obviously had to make operational changes – ie. reducing the number of seats in our meeting rooms and ensuring social distancing practices are implemented for our customers to work safely in the cafe, lounge and coworking studio.’
‘We recognised that working environments with fresh air helps to support productivity so when air quality is high on everyone’s agenda, the quality of air at 111 Piccadilly, due to the delivery of filtration, air changes and monitors that we have installed as part of our huge technology investment, alongside the augmented biophilia and low emissions from materials we have installed, is excellent.’
The design here gives people choices. Having a range of spaces and amenities means that 111 Piccadilly can offer different working environments for different cognitive needs. It gives people an option to navigate through different spaces to suit their day.
It’s the bringing together the six key pillars of Pioneer that will enable different experiences depending on what someone wants from their working day – whether that’s a casual chat over some locally brewed coffee in the cafe, being inspired by art in The Gem or a quiet space to get your head down to work in the lounge.
111 Piccadilly is Manchester’s ‘smartest building’, with tech playing a fundamental role in shaping the experience here. For example, the next generation concierge greets customers. Digital systems are positioned to solve routine requests, freeing up front of house staff to answer more complex queries and roam freely to provide an enhanced customer experience. Visitors also have access to a multi-functional kiosk, providing a range of updates, from Transport For Greater Manchester timetable information to air quality standards. The space is designed to be one step ahead of the needs of every user.
‘As we focus on building a more sustainable future, active buildings with sensors, metrics and dashboards that can communicate where we can dial down energy usage based on customer demand will be critical in tackling the climate emergency, and will remain just as important as the smart tech revolution gathers momentum,’ Andrew tells us.
Here, Bruntwood Works has installed a ‘central nervous system’ – a smart system that connects the physical space with people, processes and systems to develop insights of how they are used. The building will act as a living lab, and will use sensors and data points to collect and analyse data, to produce insights that will help to influence future developments. Bruntwood Works is even developing a customer app, which will link the technology and data back to the end user as well as potentially giving customers the opportunity to book meeting rooms, access concierge services, sign up for events and order food and beverage from on-site operator, Ancoats Coffee.
So, what else can we expect?
Well, for a start, there’s WELL. This summer, 111 Piccadilly is set to become one of the first coworking spaces in Europe to achieve Platinum Standard WELL certification – while there is also the promise of a new glazed lift and an innovative cycle hub scheme. Sounds well smart.
Photography: Jody Hartley
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