How location and skyline create a style when designing a work space

To set the scene - the ‘main stage’ of the surface design show on Wednesday 10th February, was taken over for the Pechekuche evening – a name derived from the Japanese term for the sound of ‘chit chat’, which seems very appropriate as nine architects/designers each with a presentation of 20 slides, had 20 seconds to talk about each slide. This you might think sounds simple – it would appear that it isn’t, but does make for an informative and light hearted presentation that throughout was engaging and fun to be a part of. The 20 second time limit made the presentations punchy and left little room for an audience to get distracted elsewhere.

Between the nine influential architects & designers that the front row of this event comprised of, there seemed to be an energetic balance of competition, humility and comradery in that they all grasped and conveyed the understanding that design and architecture is all about the people and the end user, after all, without them, a building or an interior is merely a body without the heart.

The main focus for several of the speakers was designing buildings heavily inclusive of planting, trees and gardens – creating focal points and stimulating exterior spaces as well as interior, with the approach to the building being just as important as the impact once inside. This then paired with light manipulation and creating atriums and open spaces to draw through natural light from any angle or corner of a building, recognising that this is one of the vital ingredients to ensure almost any end user will enjoy the building and environment they are in.

A very simple and yet interesting point made was that one of the initial thoughts an architect has when looking at a concept is how the building will look against the skyline and surrounding buildings, and for an exterior this may seem fairly obvious. This point got me thinking, many clients choose their office space based on the location, nearby amenities, employee commute radius, available square footage and their client office locations. If they are lucky enough to find an office with a view, whether that be from the west end spanning over to the city with relatively low level buildings surrounding or in the heart of the city with glass skyscrapers on the doorstep – views are always in the brief of an interior to be taken advantage of, whatever they are, to be used as the ‘wow factor’.

So using this simple theory, how can this be applied to interiors of spaces, when working with great views and surrounding buildings….how can we enhance an interior to complement what is beyond the building, against the skyline?

In my opinion, the answer to this question can be seen in the recent trends of office spaces in different areas of London, Soho for example with lower urban style buildings having the raw, red brick agency feel with touches of London street life like graffiti walls and thriving collaboration, or the city style of sleek lines, glass and gloss finishes to mimic the prestige of the building and the reflective nature of the surroundings drawing light through, or even moving east in to Shoreditch seeing a more edgy but natural style with the juxtaposition of light, warm natural woods and fresh whites against graphite greys, black and the cold metal and concrete of the building & mechanics, drawing from the skyline with train lines and warehouses in direct view….there are so many different views of London and different aspects to take advantage of within an interior.

Each location in London seems to have a trend and a specific company type that can be found, although this is shifting slightly due to rent increases and space availability, I believe it is more so the shift in how certain companies want to be viewed, to establish further the above point, with hedge funds and financial firms now wanting to move in the same direction as a tech start up or fashion agency to draw in a different client base while maintaining their existing...which means the location and the interior design must strike this perfect balance of new and fresh with consistent and classic and so companies choose office locations to give a specific impression, and the interior design of this office would ideally bring the outside, in. Utilising the style of the desired location and indeed the skyline backdrop to encapsulate the experience of the end user, employee or client alike.

One of the slide shows focussed on the design of The Shard and the level of detail that went in to the exterior of this building, for the end result to be almost skeletal in nature and adaptable against the skyline. To say that several types of glass were tested is a huge understatement, it was incredibly important for the correct glass to be chosen as the building was to seem as if it were adapting to the surroundings from different angles and different times of the day and so it rarely looks the same twice. To an undetailed eye the building might seem, to take a hint from its name, just like a shard of glass, however if looked at in a little more detail or photographed even from the same position, at the same time, daily, it will show a completely different aspect of the building and how it adapts like a chameleon against the sky…..once again encouraging my thoughts that an interior could also be adaptable to its surroundings, so a daily user is almost surprised by it and a less frequent user such as a client, experiences something new each visit.

The space itself is likely the first place to start to achieve this adaptability, for example a reception space with large meeting rooms that can open out and be one large event space or collaboration zone, or utilising lighting to change the mood of a space from a bright and fresh morning feel encouraging employees as they come in to work, or a boost of energy and colour in the afternoon through to a dimmed down evening style with bright colour features for that Friday feeling, layer on top of this finishes that reflect these adaptable styles (much like the glass of the shard) like a white reception desk, simple and stylish consistently, but that also enhances the lighting adapting as well as not being too heavy so when the space is opened out the desk works with each individual rooms finishes when they are directly adjacent as well as it does when they are closed……the same can be said for seating areas, desk spaces and collaboration zones, not just for the client facing areas.

With the aforementioned rent increases and meticulous thought process behind finding that one specific new office space/location – each tiny detail of the interior should amplify the experience and the company brand. So it would seem that from a very simple theory of ‘how will something look against a skyline’ an interior can also be developed and not just an exterior – if we harness the style of the location and scenery beyond the building as well as the adaptability of those surroundings, a lasting impression can be the main focal point.