These architects believe they’ve found the future of workspace design

London – Modernization is in the air at Gensler’s European headquarters in Moretown, east London. Having signed a 15-year lease on the 35,000-sq-ft building, Gensler decided to make its retrofit an experiment on design and office life over that time period. What qualities does the ideal office include – and how should those qualities be designed?

Global architecture, design and planning firm Gensler boasts over 48 offices across the world. In 2017, the British branch relocated to a temporary office space in the then-named Thomas More Square. Life in transit proved useful: at its interim location, Gensler collected data and prototyped new ways of working among its employees. Both qualitative employee feedback and quantitative workplace data was collected. Gensler’s studies monitored the types of work practised (focused versus collaborative) and where the work was conducted (at workstations versus in meeting rooms, for example).

Above all, Gensler’s research found that its employees value workplace flexibility and agility. Gensler thus partnered with furniture manufacturer Fantoni to create a bespoke collection for the headquarters, pieces that emphasize modularity and flexibility. Having discovered that 80 per cent of its employees work in project teams of two to four people, Gensler organized its workspaces in similarly sized ‘neighbourhoods’ throughout the building. A feature staircase clad in blonde veneer offers employees visual points of connectivity from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. The rest of the Gensler headquarters, with a palette of timber, brick and exposed steel, references the site’s industrial history.

Duncan Swinhoe, co-regional managing principal at Gensler, believes that flexible and adaptive environments are the future of office design. ‘Agile working is a mind-set. It’s about giving people the choice and freedom to pick the best place to work. Space plays a part, but it’s not what matters most – it’s about adopting a new way of thinking and, in turn, adopting new behaviours. The environment, the workspace and the furniture are among the most important enablers for successful agile working.’

Location Thomas More Square, Thomas More St, St Katharine's & Wapping, London E1W 1YW, United Kingdom

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