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!
We have been appointed to help the leading corporate writing and brand language consultancy with the expansion of their offices on Borough High Street. After a lengthy period of evaluation on whether to stay or relocate completely, we have now started to look at how the business might occupy the additional space they have taken. The phased refurbishment is due to start later this year... Watch this space for more news.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Child Poverty Action Group and we've been helping the charity with their new home, just north of Old Street in London. The Interactive Space construction team are on site and the new offices will be handed over at the end of February. Tonight we are off to the House of Lords for a reception celebrating the work of the charity over the last half a century...more pics to follow!
We start on site today with Reed Elsevier at the Alphabeta building in London. Modus are the main contractor for us and we are looking forward to the next 12 weeks of joy and happiness as the works progress.
Okay, so it's already February but in the age of 40 being the new 30, surely this still constitutes the new year? We've had a manic first few weeks of 2015, hence an absence of activity on the site, but we would like to take this opportunity to say best wishes for the year ahead to all our friends. We have a good feeling about this year so fingers crossed!
Nigel & Gurvinder
We've started looking at an amazing space down in Southwark which we're looking to configure as a private members club, restaurant, music venue and event space. The 15,000 sqft site occupies a collection of railway arches and Victorian cottages facing Flat Iron Square and has previously hosted a variety of ventures from smokey jazz club through to legendary club Starskey & Hutch.
This 21st century makeover is preceded by some necessary infrastructure works by Network Rail which are now on site and due to be completed spring 2015. Up until the recent demolition the arches were a rabbit warren of dark and dismal spaces with one arch hosting its own long standing residents from the spirit world. It seems they might have departed though, once the JCBs turned up on site!
So, we've had a very busy time on site over the last two weeks with the Domus floor tiles being laid, closely followed by the friendly German kitchen fitters from Poggenpohl starting their install too. The high level services are all moving forward and Artemide have supplied some beautifully discreet LED lighting solutions. Decorations start at the end of the month, so all looking good for completion around Christmas.
This article originally appeared on Nigel's blog back in July 2013 whilst Brand Opus was still on the drawing board...the end results shown in our project gallery speak for themselves.
Back in October 2011, we were introduced to a small branding agency who were successful, growing rapidly and looking to move into a new office space. Fast forward to summer 2013 and we are closing in on starting construction on what has been a very challenging and unusual project.
It is rare in the commercial fit out market to have projects which run into years and a lot of our work is completed in a few short months, but the journey with Brand Opus at Central Cross has been unusual in many ways. We first looked at some elemental space requirements and mapped those against a number of different studio combinations within the site which used to be TV studios behind Tottenham Court Road. It was a very fragmented floor space and we utilised some 3D modelling techniques to help our clients understand how the spaces linked together, but then came the tricky part. We felt that by making some small but significant changes to the building we could make it work better for our client but also add some drama to the people working or visiting. The big question for us was how would the developer react?
Derwent London are renowned for commissioning fantastic buildings with high quality materials and great attention to detail and we were seriously nervous about seen to be putting our oar in where it might not be wanted! How wrong we were….the developer team including Derwent, ORMS architects and Arup quickly established a design workshop format whereby we could all input ideas and formulate proposals which worked for our client as the end user but also satisfied the developer’s objectives of delivering quality and value.
The nature of the process has alleviated costly modifications later on down the line and reduced fit-out time for our contractor. So far we have re-orientated the main entrance, sliced a large opening in the slab connecting ground and lower ground, added a dramatic sweeping staircase and improved connectivity between studios. The finished space will be a sensational place to work and will be testament to the power of collaboration.
We have been working with CPAG for nearly two years now on their (now) imminent relocation to a new building near Old Street. Last week saw the major milestone of lease completion and we are now working with Interactive Space on the final details of the fit out. As well as offering a new home to the charity, the facilities being provided will act as a revenue stream with seminar and meeting spaces being available for hire. Occupation is planned for early 2015.
We are watertight at last on site, which is a real bonus bearing in mind the weather I had to face on the way up the M1 last night! Suitably dried out this morning it's now screed time and the site is starting to resemble something like the final scheme. All the various areas are visible in their final configuration and once the floor is screeded, the team are starting on the ceilings next week.