London-based architects Jump Studios have completed their work on an office extension for media technology company Forward in Camden, north London.
The young company had outgrown their existing premises at Centro 3 and decided to lease additional office spaces in the adjacent Centro 4 building which are both part of the larger Centro buildings business complex on Mandela Street in Camden.
Forward’s aim was to connect the two premises and create a large office spread over two floors which would not only offer ample office space for the rapidly growing businesses but also house additional social functions like a presentation space, music and games rooms, a canteen, additional meeting spaces, cafe and a new, more representative reception.
Furthermore Forward sensed that their existing offices didn’t really reflect the prevailing culture of the company which at heart still feels like a young start-up.
They turned to Jump Studios for help and asked them to come up with ideas that could imbue the new spaces with creative energy and the ‘Forward spirit’ - young, playful, intelligent, unconventional and obsessed with the newest technologies and innovations.
Analysing the specific conditions of the site Jump Studios found a series of large, linearly connected but separate spaces in a former warehouse.
Rather than trying to unify those spaces through one spacial concept they quickly decided to treat each room differently and create a series of different scenarios which would set the mood individually for each area.
Taking references from fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland or computer games like Super Mario the spaces are animated by several interventions which play with notions of scale and introduce surreal moments in the otherwise very functional office environment.
The reception area was moved from the first to the second floor to improve the internal circulation of the building.
Visitors and staff exit a lift into an almost completely red area which feels like a stage set placed in the existing office.
A plush carpet and deeply red wooden wall panels provide a strong contrast to the surrounding open plan office which is visible from the reception. Located adjacent to one side of the reception is a small cafe which acts as both holding area for visitors and informal meeting and break out space for staff.
A linear red carpet walkway leads visitors out of reception through the first office space to a black oversized key hole. Slipping through the key hole one arrives in the new office extension.
The first thing you notice here is a gigantic white staircase with a deep red carpet on its steps. On closer inspection the steps reveal themselves to be upholstered seating pads. The open space in front of the staircase is used for larger presentations with the staircase offering seating for audiences of up to 30 people.
On a daily basis staff use the stairs as break out or meeting space or to watch their colleagues playing ping pong in front of them.
Next to the staircase a floor length, purple velvet curtain curves around a cluster of social rooms behind: sound booth, billiard parlour and computer games room cater for the staffs entertainment during breaks and after hours.
When the curtain is opened up the additional meeting and break out room directly behind is delineated from the rest of the open space through a chequer board floor which contrast with the traditional grey wood panels on its walls.
The rest of the open space behind the cluster of social rooms is occupied by the canteen. Bar and serveries are all clad in purple-grey wood panels which again feel like staged elements in the otherwise industrial warehouse space. Some of the panels are hinged and conceal secret cabinets for food and drinks.
The canteen is open to all staff all day round. At night it turns into a bar for after work drinks and office parties.
An inconspicuous door next to the bar leads into yet another area.
It’s an open plan office occupied by one of the core departments of the whole business.
The main feature of this space is a 12 m long work counter running from the entrance of the space to the exit across the room. The function of this counter is to offer additional hot desking space for up to 10 people on the one hand and shield the open plan office work stations from the adjacent circulation space and enclosed offices and meeting rooms on the other side of the room.
The 12 m long counter is pierced by three grey, stone-like plinths which separate it into two smaller sections and reference traditional outdoor public squares. The two plinths flanking the ends of the desk are crowned by artificial topiary in the same matt, mid-grey stone colour while the central plinth carries a gigantic lobster.
The lobster provides another surreal moment in the office designed as a slightly strange beacon and iconic meeting point in the office landscape. The colour scheme of the whole installation has a comic like feel to it and is a nod to young up and coming artist Murray O’Grady.
The fully glazed offices and meeting rooms behind the plinths carry cartoon like graphic images of a traditional Parisian facade and trees in a park to complete the urban scenery.
Two more meeting rooms in the other two corners of the space have been customized with graphics by graphic artist Luke Embden especially designed for Forward featuring a pattern of hearts for the HR room and a black and white text based graphic for the third meeting room in this area.
The end of this enfilade of rooms marks a smaller uncluttered workspace for up to 12 people. This is where the developers live, they form the core and brain of the company, their space being a kind of commando centre with neutral grey block striped carpets, torch pendant lights, industrial lockers and blackened ceiling.
A small purple sofa provides the only splash of colour here. It offers a cosy place of respite for a chat or to meditate on the streams of data displayed on a matrix of screens on the wall which refer back to the very nature of the work that’s being done here.
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