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HLW take inspiration from South Africa at Ninety One’s London HQ

The open and transparent space reflects Ninety One’s global character, with HLW taking influence from the South African light, coastline and landscape, building a palette of colour and materials with a nod to the company’s heritage.

16/06/2021 5 min read

Project Team

  • Client

    Ninety One – Formerly Investec Asset Management

  • Architect & Interior Designer

    HLW International

  • Flooring

    Interface, Domus Group, J + J Flooring, Guiligotti Tiles

  • Furniture Provider

    Showcase Interiors

  • Other suppliers

    RLB, JAC Group, Sandy Brown, Hoare Lea, MiX Consultancy, Twin & Earth

  • Joinery

    Thorpes

With a highly collaborative culture, investment management company, Ninety One, prides itself in setting its business apart from its competitors. The company’s natural, direct, but highly professional approach sets a culture where people are encouraged to be themselves, enabling Ninety One to attract the best talent. This unique approach embodied HLWs design for a sophisticated, dynamic, renewed office.

Ninety One’s new space at 55 Gresham Street, London, comprises four working floors, a client meeting floor, a fully serviced restaurant and terrace to rival, if not surpass many top London restaurants, a ground floor reception and welcome experience, which includes flexible event space, a gym and support space, located within the lower ground floor.

With a vision to create a unique workplace that opens opportunities for staff to interact and entertain and meet clients, partners and customers, there was a directive to provide a level of sophistication with a boutique 5-star hotel feel. Building textural layers of colour and materiality across floors, unexpected detail and design elements create an essence of quality and calm across both staff and client spaces, emphasising an equality and making subtle reference to the company’s South African heritage. Two key elements include a large textural timber wall behind the reception, designed by HLW and mimicking the silhouette of Table Mountain, and a mirrored geometric wall panel, inspired by modern South African architecture and reflecting the London City skyline within a flexible dining area on the 9th floor. There is a warmth to the timbers, fabrics and colours used here, complemented by textured and geometric floor finishes, natural stone and a diverse, high quality and comfortable furniture selection.

The diverse range of meeting space and core work settings reflect how Ninety One now wants to work, whilst giving flexibility for future changes in working styles, which can support a more agile working strategy, as demand requires.

Staff members are encouraged to move between floors via two new staircases. Both dramatic and open in their design, they improve lines of sight and visibility across floors, whilst encouraging healthy movement in the workplace. HLW worked closely with Ninety One’s Head of Workplace, Tahera Hammond, and chef and catering team to create a bespoke restaurant on the top floor, overlooking St Paul’s and the City. Both the space and the food served here are spectacular, featuring daily changing menus, theatre style street food and gourmet cheffing, supported in a modern and made to suit servery, dining and kitchen area, whilst the terrace plays host to BBQs (or Braais, as the South Africans refer to them) and has the ability to open a third of the restaurant façade to really bring the outside in during Summer events.

The success of the whole space is testament to the journey and engagement HLW took throughout the design stages, with excellent support from a focused client team, a dedicated steering committee and an enthusiastic and insightful focus group; we’re told that the journey to developing a space, which brings people back to the office with energy and excitement, in a space that truly captures the businesses vision and aspirations, was made easy with such an inspired and passionate client team.

Environmental impact, wellness and sustainability are very much at the forefront of Ninety One’s business initiatives, both in approach to business and building assets. Sustainable innovations and wellness attributes were embedded into each step of both the design and design process, and the project achieved BREEAM Excellent. The team also targeted Ska Gold to ensure the sustainability and wellness initiative embodied all elements of the design.

Whilst attention was paid to the quality and authenticity of materials, the team made efficient use of materials to reduce material waste, and source sustainable and low carbon footprint products. Over 100 surveys were sent to a variety of furniture and materials manufacturers to find the most sustainable solutions available on the market. Task chairs and some of the existing furniture have been reused to help minimise waste, while services and lighting were designed to meet low energy targets and smart solutions help support efficiency and reduce energy use.

Wellness is further encouraged through the variety of choices and activities that can take place during the day. There is a the studio gym, wellness room, cycle facilities, healthy eating options, access to natural daylight, choice through a variety of work styles and settings in community hubs, different destination points on each floor, to encourage flow up and down the stairs – and a flexible event space enables a wide range of hosted events, previously located off-site. The gym features impressive equipment and a studio space for classes, incorporating specialist lighting that helps create a contrasting dark and moody gym space and a brighter, lighter studio.

The overall result of this scheme is also bright and light; this is a working environment that offers a range of high quality yet understated workspaces for Ninety One’s people to meet and engage in, which also offer a series of unexpected, detailed components to stumble upon and appreciate along their daily journey.

The main internal stair encourages connection and movement between floors and clever stacking adjacencies offer a range of different support destination points on each level, including project space, IT help desk, quiet library space, community hubs and the reprographics centre.

The level 8 stair allows Ninety One to easily move client meetings from boardroom to the rooftop restaurant via a striking connecting spiral staircase that descends to a circular reception desk, which is part of the client business lounge. The welcome experience is enhanced by the flexible, 5-star event space on the ground floor, which goes from an intimate 30-person presentation or team workshop, to a catered for 190-person Town Hall or drinks reception; the space allowing for in-house control, optionality and adaptability for events.

The aspiration here was to create a fundamentally unique workplace that offers Ninety One clients and staff equality of space throughout. The opening of the space aligned with Ninety One’s transformation and launch of new brand and identity, and it was essential that the design supported this but also reflected their unwavering highly personal and collaborative culture.

Ninety One prides itself on setting itself apart from its competitors and this new home supports and enhances its natural, straightforward but highly professional approach, where a culture and its environment encourages people to be themselves, attracting the very best talent.

The wide range of diverse and adaptable space types support an activity based working approach, supported further by different settings, offering choice to find the best spaces to support teams’ needs throughout the day.

The result truly reflects the Ninety One ethos and supports its brand identity and business approach. It is a space where people want to go to meet and work – which does, of course, go a very long way in this current climate. It’s an environment that enhances the daily working lives of the Ninety One people and is so much more than just another office.

Ninety One’s new home sets it apart from the rest. It is a place to work, take clients and partners to, and be immensely proud of.

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