Symons House: 74 designs student living at its finest
London and Scottish Student Housing enlisted award-winning interiors and architecture practice 74 to create a hospitality-inspired student living experience in the heart of Leeds.
To create a bold, team-orientated office space for Alpha FX, Modus Workspace balanced the industrial with the natural, reflecting the punchy and adventurous personality of the client.
Havwoods, Interface Flooring, Quadrant, Ege Carpets, Johnson’s Tiles
Cre8 Joinery, Hay, Carl Hansen, Naughtone, Arper, Allermuir, Workstories, Frovi, Dare Studio, Orangebox, Hem, Sitland, Modus Furniture
Corian, Fenix, Cemento
Kvadrat, 3D Art Factory, Camira, Vtec Group, Crest Leather, Plant Plan, Vantage Spaces
Modus Workspace was tasked by currency risk firm Alpha FX to design its new workspace in Paddington’s Brunel Building. The brief was to create a space that supported employees wellbeing and work/life balance, and reflected the company’s energetic and bold personality.
‘A key aspect of the design was that everything in the space had to feel like it was placed for a reason,’ the Modus design team tells us. The lift lobby features striking symmetry in terms of furniture layout, creating a sense of formality and comfort, and the biophilic elements throughout the office (including a green wall in the tea-point) help to offset the strong industrial elements. Everything balances out, and each design choice has a counterpart that roots it in a harmonious way.
‘We knew instantly that the space couldn’t just be beautiful, it had to fit Alpha’s personality,’ says Modus. ‘By aligning these two elements as well as designing sympathetically to the building, we have been able to elevate our design into a charismatic space that lives and breathes Alpha FX. It’s the feeling we get when we’re in the space that has made it so special for us. Our concept was born from a desire to create a space that would have a tangible impact on the day-to-day lives of the people who occupy it.’
The design process was incredibly collaborative between the Modus design team and Morgan Tillbrook (Alpha FX CEO). ‘Morgan had a clear idea of how he wanted the new space to feel, and with a keen eye for detail, he remained highly involved through the course of the project – every detail and finish was signed off with him, and we produced many iterations and visuals before we settled on the final design,’ Modus tells us.
Morgan’s vision was to create an office that wasn’t just an office, according to Modus. They also wanted to support a healthy way of life – for the team to look forward to coming to work by providing them with spaces that would prioritise their wellbeing.
‘We felt it important to create space that would become a visual representation of the culture, the work ethic and success of Alpha FX. Every day, when the team walk through the doors, they are motivated by the space around them.’
The design team had a deep understanding of who Alpha are, which instilled confidence in Morgan to believe in the design concept the team created for this space. For Modus, it wasn’t only about the design aesthetic, but about creating something that would positively impact the company’s already strong culture and work ethic.
Features such as the Alpha ‘A’ in the Meet & Greet area are visual motivational tools. When monthly sales targets are met, the Big Red Button is hit to light the ‘A’ in Alpha green – a symbol of success and a reminder for the team to always strive for their best. It was also a conscious decision for the office to give back to the team with no private offices – instead the space has been used for the inclusion of a Gym, Barber Shop and Bar.
The team were lucky enough to inherit the high level of finishes within the Brunel Building, itself the result of a longstanding collaboration between Arup, Derwent, Fletcher Priest Architects and contractor Laing O’Rourke. Named after influential Victorian civil engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the building is surrounded by his industrial engineering legacy, including Paddington Station.
Inside, high exposed services ceiling with bright orange RSJ’s that reflected the industrial criss-cross steel to the building façade; concrete panelled core; hardwood timber flooring through the lift lobbies and black framed glazed doors to the entry. ‘It was always our intention to create a space where we dissolved the boundaries between the exterior and interior, bringing them together to become one.’ Modus used the base build elements to inform the finishes, palette and overall style, which led them towards an industrial inspired ‘grown up tech’ style, with the primary palette consisting of hardwood timber flooring, black Crittal glazing, brick slips and raw concrete panelling. ‘Our challenge then was to strike a balance between these bold materials using warm tan leathers, textured pebbled carpet and lush greenery,’ the team comments.
‘We took inspiration from the steel cross gridding of the façade to create the industrial detailing to the tea-point island – always striving to connect the interior to the exterior environment, either in an architectural sense or through a connection to nature.’
The Auditorium was a must-have area for Alpha FX, giving them a space to host company meetings which previously were not possible. To be able to gather everyone into the one space for announcements, celebrations or large meetings gave the team a real sense of togetherness. ‘Collaboration and wellbeing are at the heart of our design. Every space is an opportunity to bring the team together to both enhance their working environment but to also strengthen the culture and relationships.’
‘Our personal favourite part of the space is the Auditorium. From the very beginning, back at pitch stage we knew this was our showstopper! We put a lot of emphasis on the design of this space to be truly innovative,’ says Modus. The studio juxtaposed the angular design of the tiered seating with the sleek lines of the integrated sofas, softening the angles with the oak timber veneer materiality and warm tan leather to the sofas. The green fabric upholstery to the screen surround was an extension of the biophilic elements within the space.
‘This space required a feeling of intimacy to offset the grandeur of the joinery. To address this, we painted the ceiling rafts and brick slips black and introduced wool curtains to provide a block-out solution and assist with increasing the acoustic properties,’ says the team.
This is the only area of the design where there is a different style of carpet, featuring the Human connections range from Interface Flooring. ‘As the name suggests, the design story is about strengthening human connections in a time where we are more connected as a society and, ironically, increasingly less connected with others.’
The base build features were the perfect fit for the concept, providing the opportunity of a design foundation as opposed to starting from a Cat A space. However, working in the Brunel Building in Paddington was both challenging and hugely rewarding for the Modus team. ‘The concrete core that runs through the centre of the building and onto the wings had to be left alone – nothing could be affixed to the concrete,’ the team tells us. This presented several difficulties in creating a design that could fulfil Alpha FX’s vision while respecting the integrity of the building itself – particularly one that included a large, open-plan workspace, with a lift lobby, gym, barbershop, tech room, meeting room, lounge, presentation room, teapoint, bar and dining area. ‘The task was a sizeable one!’
There was an unusually long design development period, due to the timeline on which Level 6 of the Brunel Building would be ready to be handed over to Modus to begin the fit out works. ‘We took full advantage of this time to develop, explore and refine every single detail of the design. We’ve always felt that the collective work and time we were able to dedicate to the project during this period was key to it being the success that it is,’ explains Modus. ‘We worked tirelessly on producing 3D visuals that would become our Bible throughout the construction phase. We had set ourselves extremely high standards on delivering the visuals we had created during design development.’
The design of Alpha FX’s new Paddington office space is a true reflection of the character and personality of the business itself; courageous, daring and highly motivated, with a love for the finer details and a keen sense of its roots; where it came from, and where it’s going.
Major partners for this project
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