Align creates the ideal mix for Mendeley in London’s tech city
Workspace specialists Align have completed a 1,860m2 suite of offices that respond to a complex technical brief, at the same time as prioritising the ergonomic needs of the staff of technology company Mendeley.
The offices are located in the landmark AlphaBeta development in Finsbury Square, part of London’s burgeoning Tech City and just across the road from the Google Campus and Amazon’s new European HQ.
Align was commissioned in August 2014 to create a design scheme and worked closely with main contractor Modus to deliver the project.
The client’s brief revolved around enabling staff to work at their optimum level, especially when coding. This meant planning for single working, working in pairs and also in both smaller and larger groups with maximum flexibility and variety, meaning staff can work seated or standing and can collaborate with varying degrees of privacy in sealed-off spaces, semi-private spaces or open meeting areas.
The brief also requested specific areas where consumers could come in to test new software as well as a range of break-out spaces, ranging from the relaxing to the very chilled to offset the intensity of the programming work. A central gathering space was also requested for the whole company to be able to come together in one place.
Part of the brief was to navigate a clear path between end-user needs and expectations and parent company design guidelines.
Visitors first arrive at the third-floor level into a lift lobby area, which is bordered to the right and the left by two sets of glass doors. Two glass walls opposite feature eye-catching, full-height graphic illustrations, which are transparent enough to show the movement of figures the other side, but which also create a degree of privacy for the meeting spaces beyond.
Located between the two glass conference room walls is a nook with a seemingly floating sofa in a bold royal blue velvet, decorated with small M-for-Mendeley cushions, which announce the interesting, fun treatment to come and can be found in red and green, throughout the scheme. The flooring here is a bold, purple Simulo from Bolon, with a variegated texture, which plays off the light. Above the sofa is the first iteration of the Mendeley logo on the back wall, with a thin LED profile light behind an overhead beam to wash light down over the logo and wall.
The main reception space is located through the doors to the left and is centred around a bespoke, 3.2m-long desk, created by Align in white Corian and inspired by the ever-evolving nature of DNA as a motif for the activity taking place in the office.
“We came up with the integrated DNA idea because DNA is at the core of everything within life sciences, Mendeley’s key area of focus and also because its constant spinning and evolutionary nature suggest a company very much on the move,” explains Gurvinder Khurana, director of Align studio.
MAIN WORK ZONES
Behind reception is the first of the three central open-plan work zones. These feature large-format 1.8m-long workstations so that two people can easily work at each if needed, divided by classic privacy and acoustic screens.
“Each bank of six to eight workstations has one station that can be adjusted to standing height,” comments Nigel Tresise, Align director and co-founder. “This has significant positive benefits for posture for those working all day on screens. It’s a workstation design that’s becoming ever more standard in continental Europe, though the trend is at a much earlier stage currently here in the UK. We think it’s something to be encouraged.”
A unique aspect of the zones comes in the use of wallcoverings with both sliding screens and write-on walls that enable Mendeley’s staff to work on coding and scheduling, while continually benefitting from interaction with input from other employees.
To ensure flexibility throughout these zones, staff use laptops to work on whichever desk space is the most convenient for their task. There are no pedestals alongside desks and personal items, and changes of clothes are kept in lockers. Each staff member has his or her personal locker, located in banks around the office.
The Social is the longest single space within the scheme and serves as a ‘Town Hall’ meeting space, as well as a general space for eating, drinking and relaxation. It overlooks the atrium directly via a full-height glass wall and is announced by two fun, bespoke installations by Argent and Sable, made of hand-painted reclaimed timber, edged with fairground-style lighting, which bookend the space with the mantra ‘Eat, Drink, Code’.
A series of Copenhagen tables from Hay furnish the centre of the area, with five different types of chair in various colour-ways. The seeming randomness of this forms part of the non-standard, individual and ‘human’ aspects of the scheme. Over by the glass atrium wall, some taller bar chairs and lamps are interspersed with two domestic-scale units – cupboards from Mint Leaf with front doors made of original matchbox covers.
The units in the kitchen are a Polyrey-laminate Masic, topped with a super-thin Silestone composite worktop. These are very sleek and, when combined with the smoothness of the flooring, contrast well with the slightly rough feel of the imposing timber signage.
The units are interrupted by the building’s structural iron columns, which the designers decided not to box off.
“We very much believe in respecting and celebrating the original structure of the building in all our schemes,” explains Khurana. “The kitchen surfaces are considered and contemporary and much finer than the imposing building structure, but we think the modern and traditional side by side work really well.”
Running along the opposite side of the space are three additional areas which can be used for meetings, relaxation or overspill at lunch-time. The first has a ping-pong table but also chairs so that staff can use the space to meet in if they wish. The middle space is more of a lounge area and contains two further Loved Up high-backed armchairs, as in reception, except in navy this time, while the third is more formal with a meeting table and room for more chairs.
MEETING AND BREAK-OUT SPACES
Further work zones lie beyond The Social, as do a range of meeting and break-out spaces, offering as much variety as possible.
“It was very much part of the brief that each of these spaces, or series of spaces, was non-uniform and had a strong and distinct personality,” comments Khurana.
On the opposite side of the atrium is a series of three closed meeting rooms, which accommodate just two people at one time, called Oxygen, Hydrogen and Nitrogen. The rooms were named and branded by Align, and each features a gigantic, 1.2m-diameter bespoke lampshade from Albion Lighting and an individual wall-graphic in bright colours, on a science theme, commissioned by artist Claudia Stocker. Flooring is a grey version of the Bolon floorcovering, both in the rooms and for the linking corridor.
A fourth room in the series, Carbon, is larger and is specially set-up for video-conferencing. The screen in the room is set against an almost-black wall so that the screen effectively seems to disappear when switched off.
To make the room extra-lively, a mossy, mottled green carpet called Dylab by Shaw Contract has been used, while credenza at the back, from Blue Sun Tree, has a subtle green detail and is a perfect match for the carpet.
Khurana adds: “This is a grown-up scheme, which has been designed to be extremely functional and flexible to enable a work culture that is highly collaborative and where togetherness and sociability are both encouraged and celebrated. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work on, especially within such an exciting new building envelope.”