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WPP invest in the future of campus workspaces

WPP is bringing landmark buildings back to life – and, in doing so, revolutionising the workplace.


5 min read

WPP Milan

WPP Milan

Five years ago, BDG architecture + design (a part of WPP) completed arguably the most innovative (it did win the BCO’s National Award for Innovation that year) workspace in London. Sea Containers in Blackfriars is a flagship scheme of 235,000 sq ft that brought together businesses from Ogilvy & Mather, media agency MEC and gtb, which had previously been located in different sites.

This prominent building on London’s burgeoning Southbank has been reimagined and configured to create a diverse collection of appealing spaces including an amphitheatre, winter garden, restaurant and café; all designed to promote a high level of interaction and communication. Its success largely set the tone for the pioneering real estate strategy to co-locate WPP offices around the world through major retrofit projects, with over 35 projects planned.

Both BDG and its parent company, WPP, are leading this groundbreaking approach to transform the way its circa 200,000 employees are accommodated through evidence-led design that puts culture and business purpose at the core of the workplace.

Several years ago, WPP introduced the concept of cross agency client teams, whereby a client – such as Ford or Unilever – would be served by a single WPP team working across several agencies. This strategic priority is about offering clients a better service through collaborative working, so having all that expertise and talent under one roof makes perfect sense, and it is proving to be a winning formula.

In addition to Sea Containers, BDG has reinvigorated ‘The Garage’ in Lisbon, a former car showroom located on the fast regenerating riverfront of the river Tagus; Rios Rosa, 26, the former telephone exchange (the Telefónica headquarters) on Calle de Ríos Rosas, in the Chamberí neighbourhood of central Madrid; and Amsteldok in Amsterdam – formerly the Rivierstaete building.

The environments we’re creating, with great hospitality areas, great daylight, a variety of settings and space, are about getting people up, moving around and communicating.

Other key locations in the pipeline include Milan, Prague, Paris, as well as Detroit and Santiago even further afield. All of these developments are unique and of a significant size.

WPP companies want to be associated with interesting, thoughtful environments rather than glazed, contemporary buildings. Environmentally too, this is absolutely the right thing – re-use and regeneration.

The satisfaction of breathing new life into an old, neglected building is extremely satisfying, as is the challenge from an architectural and design perspective of working with buildings that do not confirm to institutional standards.

WPP Lisbon

WPP Lisbon

The environments being created here, we’re told, with great hospitality areas, great daylight, a variety of settings and space, are about getting people up, moving around and communicating. This is about how to make buildings work harder for the benefit of the employees. It’s also about maximising net internal area, minimising floor-to-ceiling heights. The Amsterdam building was built in the 60s and Madrid in the 50s – and there was a different perspective on architecture then, of course. In Madrid, for example, the floor to-ceiling heights are 5m across the whole building.

Madrid Exchange

In the very heart of Madrid sits a vast, former telephone exchange, empty for the past 10 years, derelict and gloomy. It has now been transformed from an eyesore to a vibrant hub of activity

The most obtuse change is the façade; the concrete mantle has been reskinned with glass.

The street-facing side looks north so the glass is light and very transparent, and this openness and airiness guides the entire design.

A stunning defined entrance opens into a newly double-height reception, and provides a link – both physically and visually – to one of the building’s previously unused assets, its 3,000 sq m of split-level outdoor space.

These changes have required both a refurbishment of the existing core, and the addition of a new core. The latter has provided the opportunity to add dedicated lifts to the building’s top floors, where another major transformation will take place as it makes space for a 150-seat theatre and conference facilities – a destination both during and outside work hours.

The building represents a huge amount of space, which – since its construction in the 1970s – has never acted as a porous or contributing part of the street or city. This next iteration very much reverses this, inviting the outside world in, visually and physically, while providing a thoughtful and adaptable modern office space. Yet, despite its very contemporary look and functionality, it remains sensitive to its context.


Milan is renowned for many things: the heart of Italian design, often considered bolder and brasher than other European cities but also home to commanding architecture.

The new Milan WPP facility is a transformation of a ceramics factory into a multiple tenant office with a covered street in which to animate it. At either end, its uses will be public – at one, a spacious and open reception, and at the other a restaurant and terrace.

The spatial arrangement does more to make this middle zone active, placing common spaces – conference rooms, a library, project rooms, reprographics – in one building, and all the tenants’ main workspaces in the other, larger building. This creates a need to cross back and forth between them, creating a place to encounter neighbours, or just provide an excuse for a contemplative stroll.

This powerful intervention is nonetheless sensitive to its context. The new internal streetscape, its roof hidden from the outside by the buildings on either side, does nothing to disrupt the area’s historic integrity.

Rose Court

Rose Court

Rose Court

In a prominent position in the heart of London, Rose Court has had no significant upgrade since 1989 and is now badly in need of modernisation. BDG’s design for the refurbishment replaces the existing cladding with a new high-performance brick and glass façade system, which will increase visibility and transparency of the building.


The Amsteldok building brings together 15 WPP agencies, from 11 locations, into a single location. The previously vacant Rivierstaete building (as it was formerly known) has been transformed from a large traditional office building into a 19,000 sq m innovative and creative workplace to support the 1,500 people that work there.


BDG developed a thoughtful design to reinvigorate the 7,130 sq m modernist ‘The Garage’. The former car showroom, located on Lisbon’s fast regenerating riverfront, now accommodates 14 of the group’s companies, that are spread across eight floors, with shared spaces that support the creative activity of WPP. BDG ensured that each of the group’s own spaces within the building were designed within a defined palette, to allow for the personalities of each group company to resonate through their own area.


BDG has also been appointed to design the new campus for WPP in Detroit, which has a target of reaching a ‘Gold’ LEED rating. The historic Marquette Building in downtown Detroit was recently announced as WPP’s latest co-location campus, allowing the company to benefit from and contribute to the ongoing economic and cultural regeneration of the city. The new space, which is expected to open in late 2020, will accommodate up to 1,000 of WPP’s people over 150,000 sq ft across nine floors.

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