align recently completed the London office of global creative agency Spark44 in the new White Collar Factory development in London's Shoreditch. Located over two stories of the major new office and retail campus on Old Street Roundabout, the design approach for the new Spark44 London office, which is uniquely dedicated to fulfilling creative projects for Jaguar Land Rover, sought to achieve a balance between respect for the new building's proportions and base-build materiality; the specific needs and usage patterns of the agency's London team and the over-riding brand principles of Spark44, including the incorporation of the mantra 'Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Honest' and a high-impact colour palette of red, grey, white and black.
The London office of Spark44 had grown substantially over recent years and needed to move on from an existing, fragmented space, no longer conducive to creativity or collaboration. The new workspace the company envisaged was to have a strong personality, without being either corporate or gimmicky, and would house a variety of different departments with ease. More than most agencies - as Spark44 offers a 360° service both above and below the line - there are a lot of different teams and activities with different needs and focuses. The agency's working emphasis is very much about delivering to deadlines, rather than simply being present at your desk and so the working environment needed to support the team across different locations and environments and stimulate creativity at all times.
"We needed to have a space that could allow us to have 250 people in their office without feeling cramped and crowded," explained Milind Raval, former UK MD of Spark44, who oversaw the project. "The space also needed to reflect our culture and allow for the ability to be very creative with the work that we produce."
"As Spark44 works in close partnership with Jaguar Land Rover at all times, there had to be a sense of shared ownership and belonging in the scheme that reflected that partnership, but without compromising the agency's campaigns and confidentiality," added align Director and Co-founder Gurvinder Khurana. "A large proportion of the front section of the offices leading off in both directions from the reception on Level 11 was therefore designed and space-planned to be accessible to Jaguar Land Rover team members, providing them with not only formal meeting spaces, but also work areas and touch-down benches."
In terms of space-planning, the departmental segmentation was for account management, production, digital, social, HR and IT to be located on the 11th floor, with the Spark44 creative team to be based on the 12th. Additionally, a substantial number of smaller meeting rooms or spaces were required to break up any cellular feel, as well as 'war room' spaces to put up work and discuss internally.
Technology was a key consideration throughout the process, driven from a desire to facilitate and support growth and change within the company over the coming years. In order to create a workspace that would be future-proofed as much as possible, the design solution fully encompassed an agile working philosophy. Although there are 234 desks in the final scheme, a further 96 work-points have been incorporated over both levels to allow for and actively encourage agile working. Wifi is accessible across both floorplates at all times to support this.
On Level 11, a large screen in reception creates an agency feel as soon as visitors exit the lift. The screen is driven from a 90" touchscreen in the 'town hall' Stage area, located within the main working space, running all the presentations shared across the screens in the open-plan area. A 12th floor projector allows for presentations and announcements to be unified throughout the office if required, with the 11th floor always the focus of companywide meetings and presentations.
Because of the global nature of the Spark44 business, a lot of thought was given to AV capability, with all AV equipment integrated into the stepped area created around 'The Stage.' AV and microphones for presentations are wireless, so that staff can just press the ON button and start speaking.
All the meeting rooms are fully cable-managed, reinforcing the feeling of a neat and cable-free environment and there are linked-in touch panels for control of the TV. In the boardroom, sensors pick up on when a folding wall dividing the room into two smaller rooms is open, automatically triggering screen-mirroring in the two spaces. All office areas and the kitchen/ reception are also zoned for playing music. This adds to the overall feeling of a unified office and the music automatically sets a tone when people arrive at reception.
Photography: Gareth Gardner