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Hawkins\Brown brings maritime influences to Clockwise’s latest outpost

Natural maritime references are rife at Clockwise’s Southampton opening – a project that aims to reinvigorate the city’s co-working offer.

03/11/2022 4 min read
This article first appeared in Mix Interiors Issue 222

Words: Dominic Lutyens
Photography: Ruth Ward

Anchoring the interior of co-working office company Clockwise’s new Southampton location to its context was paramount – the word anchoring being aptly maritime since the context in question is the city’s marine heritage. We’re specifically talking here about Southampton’s coastline and beaches which, some believe, have largely been lost due to their gradual transformation into a commercial port. 

“The project aims to make people experience the colours, shapes and textures on the beach in Southampton and reconnect them with the natural environment,” says Massimo Tepedino of Hawkins Brown, lead architect on the project.

This is being undertaken in two phases: phase one was completed in January this year, phase two is scheduled to be completed in December. The colours chosen for it are predominantly natural – sandy tones, a richer cinnamon shade and soft sage green. 

Mountbatten House is a 1990s, late postmodernist building that stands opposite some wedding-cake Regency houses. Its interior nods to Regency architecture, says Tepedino, although this is more of a “sub-theme”. Fluted surfaces – on a wall in the entrance hall and on several Pillar coffee tables by HK Living – allude to the Neoclassical columns of Regency buildings.

“The building hadn’t been upgraded for a while,” says Tepedino. “Vinyl manifestations [frosted vinyl film] on the windows made the building look unwelcoming.” A new canopy has been added to the façade to make it more approachable. A new outdoor terrace with tables and seating, installed over a lightwell, provides extra space and conceals an unsightly car park. The latter is on the same level as a cycle store, showers and changing rooms. 

Mountbatten House offers a smorgasbord of workplace options for co-workers. “It provides settings – in addition to office spaces – to suit different work styles,” says Tepedino. “There are sofas with tables, armchairs, shared tables, Zoom rooms and tea points [spaces with chairs and tables by kitchenettes equipped with storage, a fridge, dishwasher and microwave]. The redesigned spaces are intended to encourage interaction.” 

Flexibility was another major concern. In the café are several Spade chairs – their backrests are shaped like a spade’s handle, so the chairs can be easily lifted and moved – designed by Faye Toogood. A curtain in the café informally divides the space, providing an area behind it for meetings or workshops – for example, watercolour workshops. 

There are three membership levels at Mountbatten House: a basic one gives access to the café and amenities; a second offers permanent desks and the third private offices accommodating from one to 16 people.

Clockwise has several outposts around the UK and one in Brussels. The Southampton project is owned by property investment firm Castleforge.

“Clockwise doesn’t have a formula repeated at all its locations,” says Tepedino. “It wants all its buildings to respond to their context.” 

Mountbatten House – a mainly T-shaped building with another block attached to the base of the T, as it were – houses co-workers and other tenants. The ground, first and fourth floors are occupied by co-workers. At present, one-third of the occupants are co-workers and two-thirds employees of companies. “The ultimate aim is for the building to be occupied by co-workers if the co-working model succeeds,” says Tepedino. 

He acknowledges that Clockwise’s Southampton outpost – which was already a risky enterprise since it was initiated at the start of the pandemic when no one could predict its outcome – is an experiment. “It’s a way to gauge how successful co-working can be here.” Castleforge undertook market research into existing co-working places in Southampton which revealed there was a dearth of good ones in the area – and suggested there might be a demand for the Clockwise venue.  

The nature-inspired premise of Mountbatten House’s redesign is romantic but the references to nature are abstract not literal. Terrazzo incorporated into the flooring comprises large chunks of green and brown marble and stone redolent of sand, pebbles and the sea – a fresh alternative to the more artificial terrazzo with itsy-bitsy patterns that’s been fashionable for some time but now looks clichéd. The terrazzo here provides accents of colour and subtly demarcates different zones, such as the reception desk and tea points. And limewash-painted walls in neutral shades – forming an uneven, fresco-like finish – enhance the natural quality of the interior. Several rugs from Floor Story feature wavy patterns evocative of sand dunes.  

The project makes liberal use of curves, for example on a bespoke reception desk and arched doorways – a nod to Southampton’s boats. Such large-scale, curved forms bring to mind the playful, pop style of Italian designer Ettore Sottsass. And, as Tepedino acknowledges, these reflect the current vogue in interiors for graceful curves. “Other pieces of furniture as well as light fittings have organic shapes inspired by shapes found on the beach,” he says.  

A glass partition between the café and a meeting room features motifs that he says are “an abstraction of reflections on the sea’s surface”. Several artworks by artist Laurie Maun and murals by Bud Studio feature organic shapes in natural colours.  

That said, there are artificial elements that contrast with the nods to nature. In the café is a plush circular banquette in a marmalade tone that recalls an opulent Edwardian parlour. Suspended ceilings were removed, revealing ducts and services, which add a further stylistic layer – industrial chic. These both contribute towards giving the project’s interiors an eclectic look, rendering the references to Southampton’s natural environment more subtle still.  

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