We had a really enjoyable day’s filming recently down at our latest workplace scheme to complete, the offices for media agency Spark44 in the high-profile Derwent development, the White Collar Factory, on Old Street roundabout in Shoreditch. The project was chosen by the BCFA’s ‘Design Insider Live’ as a case study and align Director and Co-founder Gurvinder Khurana was interviewed explaining our approach to the design, along with the Spark44 MD and a leading client from Jaguar Land Rover. Watch the great little movie that resulted here - http://www.designinsiderlive.com/case-study-film-spark-44-offices-by-align-interior-architecture-design/
What is a cool office? And would you even want one? The BCFA asked Nigel Tresise of align to answer this very question. Here's his answer on the BCFA's 'Design Insider' website - http://www.designinsiderlive.com/what-is-a-cool-office-and-should-we-even-want-one/
Gurvinder Khurana was asked by MIX Interiors magazine to name her highlights from this year's Clerkenwell Design Week. Here's what she had to say....
We ventured to the Old Billingsgate market last Thursday with feelings of both excitement and déjà vu. Having been shortlisted at Mixology before, we have experienced the rollercoaster of emotions that awards nights bring and we were convinced this would be no different. We were up against some seriously big competition across both the Hospitality Interiors and Design Practice of the Year categories we were shortlisted for.
We must have been fairly sceptical of our chances when we submitted our entries as we didn’t think (at that stage) to book a table for the festivities. By the time we found out we were on the short list they were pretty much sold out. Lesson number 1 - trust your ability!
We did manage to secure some seats but not a whole table, so we had to leave two of the newest team members behind, which was a real shame. No chance of that next year. We shall be booking early!
When the time for our first award came up (Hospitality Interiors) I was purposefully playing down our chances to our team as well as to the other lovely guests our table from NaughtOne and Spacelab. I must have been doing such a good job I didn't actually hear the announcement and had to be prodded by Stephenie next to me to get focussed! It was majorly surreal making our way to the stage and, my God, that award weighs a bloody ton - a great doorstop in the making I think!
A very big thank you must go to our co-collaborators on the project - Studio Juice and Dick Bird. It was a fantastic team effort and we are so proud of the completed work.
After the obligatory photos and a mumbled interview with some strange people in the bar, we were just about to take a well-earned comfort break when we realised that DPOTY was the next one up. If the competition in Hospitality was stiff the other companies in this category were legendary. There were, unfortunately, no David and Goliath moments here though as TP Bennett romped home on the back of that small, insignificant bit of work they've just finished with UBS 😂😂 Well done guys!
We’re delighted to announce that we have been awarded our third company award! We are winners of the ‘Excellence in Interior Design Services’ award at the Corporate LiveWire ‘Architecture Awards 2017’. Last year we were ‘Best in Workplace Interior Design’ at the same awards and in 2015 we won the ‘Best Small Studio’ Award at the London Design Awards 2015. This is such great news for a small company like ours. Of course, we’re always delighted to win awards for our design work on individual projects, but it’s good to be recognized too in our mission to do and be something different as a company. We are currently also shortlisted as ‘Design Practice of the Year’ at the Mixology Awards 2017, which take place later this month.
Gurvinder Khurana’s definition of creativity for the BCFA (about to hold the first BCFA Open at the Truman Brewery at the end of this month) is proving a hot favourite, with lots of re-posts on Twitter and the quote being used as the sign-off for the BCFA’s blog piece on creativity too - http://www.designinsiderlive.com/what-does-creativity-mean-to-you/
We've had an amazing start to 2017, with new clients, new projects starting and a growing team to support them. January, saw Charlotte Soulat, a junior designer from France, join us on a permanent basis and then at the start of March, Liz Hughes has joined us as a senior designer from JLL. Welcome to the team, its going to be a great year!
So the curse of 2016 is behind us and we start fresh again in 2017, and what a start we have! Straight out of the blocks with a new expansion project for Macquarie Bank in Reading, a new private equity client on the books too and our Turkish restaurant project in Berkhamsted starting on site this week.
The site in High Street Berkhamsted was stripped out in December in preparation for the fit out phase and as you can see from the photo below, we have a great blank space to start with. Check out the project page to see more details and work in progress as the construction phase gets under way.
What better way to end the year than with some seasonal glitter and glitz? We were delighted to be named winners for the second year in a row this month at The London Design Awards 2016, with our workplace scheme for Mendeley being given the Silver Award for Corporate Interior Design. Our thanks to the award organisers Design100 and to everyone at the client team at Mendeley and Elsevier, as well as to our own talented team here at align.
We’re delighted to be part of the festivities surrounding the 25th birthday of FX Magazine this year, both as guests at the annual awards bash and also being asked to contribute a quote on what FX means to us for the magazine’s celebratory 25th anniversary issue. Here’s what Gurvinder had to say:
With the vast majority of our projects, the fit out process or relocation cycle tends to be measured in months not years. With Flat Iron Square though, we've been involved for over four years and how things have changed in that time - when we started looking at the arches, we were still basking join the glory of the 2012 London Olympics!
The journey has been a fascinating one, starting with original ideas around a music venue and supporting spaces (ironic bearing in mind where we've ended up!). Network Rail decided to take the arches back at the end of the original lease, carry out a base build refurbishment scheme and resolve historic issues with some of the listed buildings on the site. While that project was underway, with our client Benj Scrimgeour, we started looking at various uses for different arches, including (at various times over the next two years), a dance school, rehearsal spaces for West End shows, a bakery school, large single occupier restaurants and now the eclectic mix of artisan kitchens, fixed restaurants and the entertainment venue Omeara London.
We've completed our first out-of-the-ground new building (the courtyard block at Omeara), we've acoustically isolated the venue from the railway overhead, completed numerous planning applications and the great thing is that unlike the majority of our corporate projects, Joe Public gets to see and experience the spaces - truly wonderful!
Our ‘high-tech and human’ office interiors scheme for Mendeley – an academic knowledge-sharing company snapped up by publishing giants Elsevier early in its lifespan – has been a hit all over the world, with coverage in Dubai, Hong Kong, the UK, China and the USA and more still to come from Germany and Pakistan. Two magazines even made the project on their front cover – here’s ‘The Social’ space on the front of publishing title ‘The Bookseller’ in the UK and a ‘working wall’ detail on the front of ‘Modern Decoration Magazine’ from China.
Nigel and Gurvinder, founders and directors of align, were interviewed on camera recently by Design 100, the organisers of the London Design Awards, about the BrandOpus project and their GOLD award win at the 2015 London Design Awards.
Here’s the interview, where both talk about different aspects of the project and the teamwork and vision that made it such a great success -
One of the highlights of this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week for the team was a lively seminar/audience Q&A on ‘Colour in the Office’ by Gary Wheeler of WHEELERKÄNIK.
Gary talked about how the use of colour by designers and architects is taught to start with, but quickly becomes inherent – a mix of intuition; the client’s brand needs or aesthetics; what we’re taught by the outside world (particularly via branding and advertising) and our own project experience.
Brands use colour to signal and delineate and Gary brought up the example of Selfridges, who have no yellow in the store design at all. Everyone’s association comes from the store identity – and those fabulous yellow carrier bags.
Gary also talked about how blue is used by 90% of all banks to suggest trust and stability, making that a perfect norm to rebel against, as Santander did with its red branding, in order to stand out from the crowd. One audience member noted that since London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ had changed from being sponsored by Barclays to Santander, however, she found the sight of the red-branded bikes en masse somehow more dangerous-looking and aggressive.
Colour definitions and adjacencies came next and how colour can be monochromatic, complementary, analogous, triadic or split-complementary - and the importance of climate and light in terms of how colour can change and interact with its surroundings. The location of colour can also change its effect; a hot colour on a feature wall is quite different to on a ceiling, when it could take on a heavy, oppressive feel.
We’re now in an era where the use of warm colour is dominant in office schemes and we discussed why that might be, concluding that the vibrancy, urgency and even masculine aggression associated with a warm colour palette can be a typical reaction to times of economic recession and austerity.
The use of colour in healthcare centres and the prison system was a fascinating spin-off conversation. Apparently, someone having a crisis with violent overtones can be soothed by a 20-minute immersion in a lilac-pink environment, although longer than that is counter-productive. We shall have to bear that in mind!
We've been looking back over 2015 which was quite a year for the team gear at align. We started looking forward to the Mendeley project at Alphabeta and this dominated the early part of the year, along with completing the new home for Child Poverty Action Group.
As part of our re-branding strategy developed in 2014, we had identified the need to push the visibility of the practice through effective PR. We were joined in May by our PR guru Caroline who has been instrumental in subsequent months in helping us reposition the practice.
We were fortunate enough to have our BrandOpus project shortlisted at the Mix Interiors awards in the summer and the team had a fantastic night at the party - but came home empty handed (we was robbed guvnor!) The press interest in this project has been nothing less than extraordinary with coverage on a truly global scale. You can now read about it in Spain, India, China, Pakistan, USA to name but a few.
One exciting project which has been running through the whole year has been the arches down in Southwark. This leisure and hospitality project will be finally on site for us during 2016 but has evolved in the last 12 months into a really significant development including 3 restaurants, a bar and live music venue.
Finally, the year really finished on a high with our three awards in three days at the start of December, including two for BrandOpus. It was all a bit surreal at times, particularly shooting the video message of thanks for the awards ceremony in China! Being awarded best small practice at the London Design Awards was also very special as it reflects all the hard work the team has put in over the months.
I think we are all looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that 2016 will throw at us and I can't wait to see where we might be by the end of the year. Bring it on!
So we've had our traditional rain-soaked August bank holiday, the kids are back at school and all of a sudden you think, great! where did that summer thing disappear to? Those balmy long June summer evenings are but a distant memory but on the work front, September is upon us and we have a raft of new projects kicking off. These will be great for keeping us busy now the long winter evenings are just around the corner, and it's also a great opportunity to showcase the "before" spaces that our clients have given us to work with.
It's not much to look at yet, but....#1
We are working with a London-based B2B tech marketing company Kingpin for their new home close to silicon roundabout. We are looking to bring natural light down into the lower ground floor with fire rated glazed floors and clever staircase design. Watch this space for more news shortly.
It's not much to look at yet, but...#2
We are working with project managers Interactive Space on this project in Welwyn Garden City for an aerospace client who have acquired 20,000 sqft of (as you can see) clean Cat A space for their imminent relocation. We are looking to start on site at the end of September.
It's not much to look at yet, but...#3
We are working with the London Borough of Bexley to create cool co-working spaces within the Thames Innovation Centre. It won't look anything like this once we've finished!
After a few months of design development and discussions with the local planners in Lewisham, our scheme for the annex extension of this house on the edge of Blackheath has progressed into planning. We have incorporated an intensive green roof with various zones including areas of turf, wild flower mat and deeper shrubbery.
It was great this weekend to be invited up to Birmingham to celebrate the completion of phase 1 of our residential project in Harborne. Our clients invited the complete team, so we had a chance to have a beer with the contractors who have delivered this lovely project, and see the new rear extension at night.
One of the main features of the external lighting scheme is the LED blade of light running around the edge of the roof canopy. Virtually invisible, this provides a dramatic wash of light down the rendered facade and provides illumination to the patio area.
Recently we were writing our submission for the Mixology 2015 Design Awards and reviewing the project we completed last year for Brand Opus. When we first started on the project we had the luxury of time on our side and we spent a lot of that time thinking about flow. Making sure the organisation was laid out in the most optimum way was even more important due to the fragmented nature of the site, but once resolved, it seemed extremely natural. There was a great post on LinkedIn this week discussing the lack of time to think these days, and I suppose this really resonates with us in the context of the BO project.
Fast forward to 2015 and we've been working on a residential project in Birmingham which had similar problems. We were presented with an existing house which had already been the subject of expansion and with a further rear extension being planned, there was an opportunity to review how the entire ground floor might work. We were on tight budget and being very mindful of our client's cash, we started looking at a variety of different options on how to make the flow feel natural. The more we looked, the more we came to realise that by moving a guest bathroom 575mm we could connect the spaces in a very dynamic way and link the front and back of the house.
It worked on paper, and whilst not in the original scope, our client was open enough to investigate a little more to evaluate the feasibility. Pretty much everything was against us in site. Drainage running the wrong way, load bearing walls to remove and problematic ventilation routes all conspired to make this scheme look too complex and invariably too expensive. Yet, the more we looked at it, the more sense it made and that went for the client too. The one small step became one giant leap of faith as the demolition started and after the normal hiccups on site, our client is now boasting he has (probably) the most expensive toilet in Birmingham, but as we all now, it's not about cost it's about value and this has delivered a lot!
As a little added feature, we included a brilliant Artemide linear LED lighting solution which links all four walls and the ceiling - amazing!
Back in 2008 we helped Monica Pastor create the Little Gym at Westfield. The project was really challenging and pushed the boundaries of how the franchise concept could be delivered, within the confines of the retail experience that is Westfield at Shepherd's Bush. Everyone involved was really please with the result, but the proof of the pudding as they say...
Well, six years on and this Little Gym doesn't seem so little any more and is now the best performing operation in Europe and third placed globally - an amazing story indeed and we're extremely proud to have been part of it.
The next chapter in this successful collaboration is hopefully about to start as we're evaluating a potential new site in Chelsea for them...fingers crossed!