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BT reshapes the future of workplace at new London HQ

The ID:SR-designed London workspace is a radical departure for the telecoms company, eschewing traditional workplace thinking in favour of innovation.

12/09/2022 3 min read

Project Team

  • Client


  • Architect

    Wilkinson Eyre

  • Interior Designer

    ID:SR Sheppard Robson

  • Flooring

    Interface, Milliken, Bolon, Flooring Concepts Ltd, Forbo Flooring Concepts, Tarkett, Altro, Solus Tiles

  • Furniture

    Day 2 Interiors, The Senator Group, Bisley, Boss Design UK, Staverton

  • Surfaces

    HiMacs, Formica, Clarus, Egger, Franke, Bosch, Miele, The Collective Agency, Lintex

  • Lighting

    Reggiani, Lumino, Intralighting, Iguzzini, Durlum, Vode, Kemps Lighting, LEDFLEX, The Light Lab, Future Designs, SAS, Lucent Lighting, Vibia, Flos, Zero, Ubikubi, Foscarini, Muuto, Norman Copenhagen, Luna Klock & Hallgeir

This article first appeared in Mix Interiors Issue 221

Words: Clare Dowdy
Photography: Jack Hobhouse

BT Group’s London HQ has upped sticks from St Paul’s to become the sole tenant of a new 328,000 sq ft, 18-storey building near Aldgate East station. The move is part of the telecoms business’s efforts to radically rethink its estate – something that will see its number of UK offices slashed from more than 300 to around 30.

“Traditionally, their offices were above telephone exchanges and were no longer suitable,” says ID:SR partner, Rob Myers.

ID:SR’s remit with BT ranges from giving advice on building acquisition and due diligence, to detailed design delivery in the key locations (or ‘hubs’) of Bristol, Sheffield and Dundee, which will follow on from London. The process for London started in 2019. “BT wanted the best experience for their staff through wellbeing, inclusive design and technology,” says Myers. The firm’s original design then had a rethink informed by people’s experience of working from home, hence more variety, more digital connectivity and better acoustics.

“The thing that’s changed the most is the configuration of openplan,” says Myers. Cellular offices were ditched in favour of various working and seating environments, plenty of communal space and screens embedded into the furniture for hybrid, mixed presence meetings.

All told, the building can accommodate up to 3000 workers at one time. To achieve this, flexibility is the name of the game, hence the increased storage rooms for furniture.

Fixed work positions no longer dominate, instead there are many floors of mini neighbourhoods for specific teams. Before the pandemic, the design allotted 160 traditional desks to each of these floors. Since consulting with teams on the purpose of coming to the office, ID:SR has rethought that. So, on some floors, there are just 30 desk positions, but more than 300 ‘focus and collaborative’ work points.

Neighbourhood floors are complemented by three ‘connect’ floors for coworking, collaborating and refuelling, at the top floor, middle and level two. “Traditionally, BT buildings were very siloed,” Myers says.

With the interior design, the impression is of a good quality working environment populated by sensible, pleasing (rather than extravagant) furniture and fittings in natural tones with the occasional colour from the corporate palette. That effect is pulled off with Bolon and terrazzo flooring, purple Play Carriage booths from The Senator Group, Materia’s black Boullée poufs, and phone booths from Boss Design.

Staff and visitors arrive at a double-height reception space on the ground floor, which has a public café and retail spaces. ID:SR’s biggest change to Wilkinson Eyre’s base build is apparent here, with the addition of a staircase to encourage physical activity between floors. Meanwhile, the interior designers freed up space and sightlines around the reception area by moving the escalators to the side of the core.

The top ‘connect’ floor has black wood wall panelling, along with natural tones, a terrazzo floor and touches of the BT purple. A white staircase is in metal mesh with timber handrails – materials that suggest no-nonsense engineering rather than opulence. Meanwhile, level 10’s ‘connect’ floor has a zone of bleacher seating for presentations.

The two ‘we space’ floors house bigger meeting rooms, whose glazed doors and walls are covered with a film to give the effect of fluted glass. Like all the floors’ reception desks, these ones pick up on the circle element of BT’s branding, and are in pale wood.

The biggest of the two terraces is on level 15: the wellbeing floor. Here there is a big staff restaurant, with a buffet-style street food layout (hence the trestle benches, Solus’ thin, horizontal glazed tiles behind the tills in the bistro, and Madonna’s Holiday playing over the sound system). Myers sees this as “an active floor that people go to throughout the day, almost like a club.”

The rest are workspace (neighbourhood) floors, like level 11, which accommodates BT’s digital team. The colour scheme is light, and the brand is reflected in the lozenge ceiling lighting and more purple pods. To aid with flexibility and acoustics, some of the walls double as mobile white boards, and felt fins hang from the ceiling. More noise is absorbed by SonaSpray’s rough concrete effect on the exposed soffits. On these floors, ID:SR positioned meeting rooms and other rooms around the core, “because we wanted everyone to experience the views,” says Myers.

BT’s new HQ was already going to be a step change from its old address. But with the workers’ new behaviours and needs taken into account, it’s got the potential to lure people back in more often.

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