Explore the latest projects from the UK’s commercial interiors industry, featuring the best of workspace, hospitality, living and public sectors.

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Mix Revisited: How this London bank HQ is a lesson in futureproofing

In a landscape in which everyone is scaling down, this 2019 project by LOM Architects shows the staying power of scaling up and sweating the assets.

22/02/2024

3 min read

NatWest London Coworking Floor

Photography: Nicholas Worley 

We look back at the concepts that have redefined how we use and design spaces.

When today’s post-pandemic workspaces have flexibility, collaboration and hybrid working facilities baked in, it’s easy to forget that this wasn’t standard practice for every office before 2020. That’s why projects like NatWest’s London HQ – designed by LOM Architecture and Design almost five years ago – are a prime example of futureproofed workplaces that have, for all intents and purposes, ‘aged well’.

Back in 2019, LOM worked alongside Choice, NatWest Group’s workplace programme, to transform a 20-year-old desk-centric building in central London into an engaging and social head office. 250 Bishopsgate, an 11-storey glass and steel building originally designed by EPR in 1998, was chosen as the bank’s future head office when NatWest streamlined their London office portfolio from six major buildings to two.

While the Bishopsgate building might still look like the epitome of corporate finance on the outside, internally it’s clear to see how the retrofit aimed to radically improve the space’s facilities without occupying a larger footprint. New additions included a 300-seat conference centre, a new bank branch, meeting galleries, a hyper-flexible co-working floor, atrium garden, café and more board facilities. “Part of the flexibility comes from the fact that we don’t tether people to desks with PCs and desktop phones,” explained Tim Yendell, Head of Choice & Design at NatWest. “So, every single bit of spare space becomes somewhere to work.”

“We’ve been on this journey for a long time now, I suppose,” Tim continued. “Following the financial crisis, we looked at how we could consolidate our portfolio, something we continue to do. We looked at how we could have our cake and eat it – how do you create a really efficient bit of space but also have some really thoughtful design, and how do you blend the technology so that the user’s experience is as seamless as possible?”

Another major driver behind the project’s success was how LOM combined this intensive use of space with the once emerging and now dominant trends of biophilia, wellbeing and the ‘homeification’ of the workplace. Biophilia was introduced through abundant planting, but also through visual cues reminding employees of the time of day and of natural elements like wind and rain. Each area was given a distinct colour palette and subtly different furniture elements, in hopes of creating a space that felt more in tune with nature as opposed to overly artificial. “We wanted to soften this hard-edged building to give the interiors a very different experience, and really do something for people’s wellbeing,” explained LOM Architects’ Chiara Cantilena. “We wanted the overall feel to be much more domestic – more human and engaging.”

Taking this project as a benchmark for future office developments, this London HQ exemplifies the long-term value of prioritising flexibility and wellbeing from the outset – something we now see as standard practice within workplace design. Agile, laptop-based working inspired by study culture has also shown that it’s here to stay and as a result more companies are following suit and catering to Gen Z demographics entering the workforce. As we look ahead and design tomorrow’s offices, flexibility and sustainability are therefore set to reign supreme, with innovations like modular furniture growing in popularity for the way it enables easier circularity and customisable, futureproof interiors.

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