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Gensler craft a bright and soothing workspace for pladis

With an assortment of settings for all work styles, pladis’ new London HQ – at Chiswick Business Park – celebrates the joy of making, baking and sharing through a carefully crafted space, helping its people return to work in an agile, flexible and personalised way.

07/12/2021 4 min read

pladis’ move to a prime West London location required a workplace to showcase their iconic brands – including McVities, GODIVA and Ülker – helping support them in their vision of bringing ‘happiness to the world with every bite’. Gensler’s design team was challenged to create a future-ready, feelgood space that celebrates the art of baking and captures the joy of sharing.

The second largest biscuit manufacturer in the world, pladis is home to some of the world’s best tasting and most loved snacking brands. Its diverse portfolio of snacks is enjoyed in more than 150 countries and is a staple in billions of homes.

The visioning process for this impressive project used a mix of pladis’ most important ingredient – its people – assembling the whole team to discover fresh ideas. The client embraced the journey, engaging HR to champion wellbeing, and helping Gensler to discover the distinct ‘flavours’ of pladis. Participatory charrettes helped unpack their vision, create goodwill, empower thinking and build strong relationships with all stakeholders.

Designed and delivered during the global pandemic, this experimental project offers an insight into how the future of work could look. The result is a landmark example of agile working, which pladis’ multi-generational workforce has embraced. This isn’t a universal solution, but a custom-created space for pladis’ people to celebrate and flourish in – a space that encourages everyone to create and harvest nourishing ideas and delicious experiences.

Gensler helped guide pladis through a dramatic shift away from traditional work models, listening and collaborating to facilitate the transition. Adding value through its workplace research, data, thought leadership, and expertise – distilled over more than 55 years of office design – Gensler created an assorted ‘biscuit tin’ workplace with something for everyone and moments of happiness provided through different flavours, tastes and textures.

The ‘heart’ space is welcoming, warm and convivial – a bakery-meets-hotel composition – with aromas of baked goods and coffee creating a multi-sensory brand experience. The open kitchen, with rolling pin light installations and ovens for baking and biscuit warming, provides a perfect hospitality setting where the products take centre stage and people can connect. A live digital screen links to the bakeries – celebrating the bakers’ key role in the pladis family and showing the process behind the products.

The different pladis brands are accommodated with a range of customisable spaces. Brand hubs with flexible content and digital screens can be adapted and used by any group, and the ‘Family Room’ provides a large lounge space that teams can take over. Inspired by the leafy location, the space is filled with biophilia and maximises natural light to promote wellbeing. Maternity and wellness rooms form part of this people-led design approach, which prioritises happiness, health and self-care.

We’re told that pladis was previously based in Hayes on the outskirts of London. ‘The new space is in the Chiswick Park complex that is a series of multitenant buildings and amenities in a beautifully landscaped setting,’ Christopher Crawford, Senior Associate at Gensler, tells us. ‘We did help them with due diligence on potential sites and test fitting the options.

‘We worked with the client in a workshop/co-design approach. We spent a lot of time getting to know them and their brands to ensure the space would reflect who they are and what they are about. 

‘Their very visionary CEO wanted the new space to launch them into the innovative and technology enabled work environment. Seeing the space was designed entirely during the year and half lockdown phases of COVID, it was critical we pushed the workplace model into the future of work for a post-COVID workforce desiring hybrid working. The CEO requested we capture the ‘soul’ of what makes pladis, pladis.

‘It was a very clear brief in terms of their aspirations to leap into the future for a dynamic, progressive, diverse and inclusive workforce.

‘We were very inspired by what they do – essentially baking. They bake and make things that bring joy to our lives like biscuits and chocolate. It was important to us that the space felt positive, happy and uplifting.

What does Chris feel makes this project unique?

‘It is one of the few projects designed and delivered during the pandemic to embrace hybrid and agile working,’ he considers. ‘The function of the office changed because of the advancements in working and desires of the modern worker – the one silver lining to the pandemic. In many ways, even calling it an office is a misnomer as it a place for people to come together to meet, collaborate, socialise, mentor and experience pladis’ values, brand and culture.

How important to the scheme was the furniture/finishes selection?

‘Super important, as design is only as good as our ability to deliver a concept in form, lighting, colour and materiality. We also had a ‘no black’ mantra – as most workplace interiors in London look like Darth Vader’s bachelor pad. We wanted the space to be light, open and soothing to the humans experiencing pladis!’

Finally, we ask Chris about his own personal favourite element of the space. ‘It has to be the ‘heart space’ as it really captures baking and community – which are essential to what makes pladis, pladis.’

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