The corporate/creative gap in workplace design is closing. Here’s how:


Traditionally, if you’re a finance company based in London, you would lease office space in Canary Wharf or at least in the square mile of the city; those working in technology or media industries would head for Clerkenwell, and real estate companies would likely head West. Although we’ve shifted to a new way of working in recent months, there has always habitually been specific areas for certain industries and the lines were clear.

Prior to the recent pandemic, those lines were starting to blur as new industries surfaced and hybrid-sector workplaces such as fin-tech and legal-tech began to ignore the customary geographical confines. Businesses across London were not just re-assessing their locations but also the ways in which they chose, and are still choosing, to work. Taking inspiration from co-working, many landlords transformed large reception areas into communal working space instead of just traditional meet and greet space, meaning that people from a multitude of sectors can be working side by side in workspaces across the city. Finding the right contrast in design to suit these types of changes is key in ensuring all tenants, no matter what industry, will feel comfortable and engaged.  Here’s how the corporate/creative gap in workplace design is closing:

1. Flexibility

Corporate industries such as insurance, finance and legal have traditionally shied away from flexible and agile workspaces, primarily relying on compartmentalised spaces, fixed workstations and cellular working.

However, the demand for innovative workspace within the corporate sector has increased in recent years, with many large firms welcoming a more contemporary office design to help transform the ways in which they are working, sequentially attracting and retaining a different talent demographic.

Wikborg Rein, for example, wanted to maintain a cellular layout as a conventional attribute whilst also introducing various current elements such as breakout space, a community kitchen, and booth seats. These features cater to flexible working while providing a space to eat and socialise, enabling the team to work in the most efficient way and achieve a happy work-life balance.

Since Wikborg Rein’s building, located in 30 Cannon Street, wasn’t initially designed to be cellularised, there were a lot of awkward spaces to make work.

In any given project, floor-planning is more challenging when the space is cellularised as there is a requirement for more space per person and therefore less space to play with.

To ensure the plan was going to work as the Wikborg Rein expected, and to iron out any issues along the way, ThirdWay marked out the entire floor-plan on the office floor in coloured tape and then invited the client’s project team to walk through the space and experience the flow of human traffic in the projected environment.

ThirdWay’s design team used their knowledge and expertise to overcome initial obstacles and created a remarkable space for Wikborg Rein that defied conventional corporate office design.

Law firm Wikborg Rein's corporate office design

2. Technology

Pre-COVID, technology was already undoubtedly driving how we designed interiors, with demand moving towards tech-savvy and contemporary workplaces led by innovative sub-sectors such as proptech. As we continue to increasingly rely on technology to enable us to stay connected wherever we’re working, there’s a new need emerging for significantly smarter buildings.

We’ve seen a growth in the use of advanced technologies in buildings, particularly in spaces that have a high flow of traffic throughout the day such as WC facilities, building receptions and communal areas. Their objective is to not only create alluring spaces for potential occupiers but also safer working environments with an emphasis on occupancy control, improved ventilation and contactless interaction throughout their buildings. 

When insurance institution Lloyds, renowned for being one of the more traditional sectors acknowledged the need to create innovation labs within their headquarters at 1 Lime Street, they anticipated the blurring the lines between traditional insurance and progressive technology. Without the creation of this centre for innovation, they would not attract the new skillsets required for their workforce.

Northridge Law Contemporary Corporate Office Design

3. Form & Function

Many corporates have design identities or guidelines to work with, which is exciting from a creative point of view; it’s a real challenge to design spaces that are different but also fall within a client’s strict parameters.

There are also trends within each speciality, for example, trading firms often wish to balance aspirations of modern design with warmer finishes that nod to their heritage, and law firms generally desire sharp aesthetics without looking too ‘flash’.

Some clients have a mixture of objectives. Wikborg Rein wanted to celebrate their Scandinavian heritage, to create a contemporary workplace which responded to the flexible and tech-led demands of society, while also maintaining the privacy and security necessary in their line of work.

High brief requirements mean the design of corporate space must be extremely functional, but form is often on par. Corporate clients tend to appreciate quality and see the value in superior finishes and detail.

At Wikborg, whilst some more creative elements have been introduced to the space – a feature bookshelf, a hidden door, and bespoke joinery - they are refined and sophisticated, clean and functional. The focus on aesthetic details was as important as the office’s function.

Although corporate spaces will always function differently to creative industries, they might now share the same front door to their office building. Reception and communal spaces require considered design now more than ever to suit a hybrid blend of tenants, focusing on what’s best for the buildings occupants rather than what’s best for their industries.

Get in touch with a member of our team today by emailing or calling 020 7846 0686 for more information.

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