Bluebottle have delivered an innovative and modern workplace for Atomico, designed with wellbeing at forefront.
London-based architecture and design studio Bluebottle undertook an ambitious refurbishment for the new London office of venture capital firm Atomico.
The founder of Atomico, Niklas Zennström, was seeking a new London home to accommodate his company’s mission and vision to invest in game-changing enterprises. Housed within The Gaslight, a unique Art Deco building on Rathbone Street, London W1, three floors and a mezzanine level were transformed into an office environment with high aspirations for longevity and wellbeing.
We chatted to Bluebottle about their clear and functional design solution for this workplace scheme.
Where did the conversation with Atomico begin and what was their brief?
The conversation started in the autumn of 2019 pre pandemic, Atomico was looking for a new London home where they could realise their mission and vision as a company within a physical space.
Coming from a single storey office that had long been outgrown, part of the brief was making sure the company culture was retained and promoted. As well as providing an innovative and modern workspace for staff and founders, the design needed to be collaborative, multi-functional and inclusive, and rank highly in sustainability, occupant comfort and wellbeing, and acoustics.
Tell us about some of the new design features and how they support wellbeing in a work environment?
The flow and planning of the building were a major key to its success. Creating a central vertical link throughout enhanced the sense of openness and transparency at the heart of the building.
One of the constraints of the existing building was the low ceiling height of the first floor, and by opening a large proportion of the first-floor slab we increased the sense of space.
Natural light was a quality that we wanted to enhance. Although the ground floor has large windows facing the street, there is no natural light to the rear part of the floor. The large opening from ground floor to first allows any light from the first floor to permeate to the ground floor and as a result improves this space.
The whole of the ground floor was designed as a multifunctional and generous space where both Atomico staff, founders and guests can meet and work. It was an integral part of the design to cultivate Atomico’s culture. The amenities, such as a fully functional catering kitchen with a large dining area, enables the use of the building to host external and internal events and provide a space where people gather daily for breakfast and lunches.
Each floor has its own tea point and benefit from a roof terrace that was furnished. We included a good size multipurpose wellness room on the 3rd floor. Biophilia was a key factor and was planned from early concept stages; it has been integrated within bespoke planters as well as freestanding pots throughout all floors.
Opening the centre of the building created acoustic issues, working with an acoustician we modelled the space with a high level of acoustic material integrated to each area such as Baswa phon acoustic plaster, acoustic wall panels, ceiling rafts and a sound-masking system to give a sense of acoustic separation and privacy throughout the office and enable concentration.
Can you talk about the use of materials throughout?
Being natural and hand crafted was the emphasis of the material selection. A warm palette of timbers, fabrics and stone create a calm and inviting environment. The design intentionally avoids the bright blue lights and harsh corporate materials to curate an agreeable and homely atmosphere.
Throughout the building we used a Dinesen solid oak floor, Clayworks plaster on the walls, Moroccan handmade Zellige tiles and wool carpets/rugs. In addition to the selection of the materials, we also adapted existing products to create features, we worked with the manufacturer of standard partition system to create a feature wall running from the Ground floor to the 3rd with acoustic fabric panels, glass and veneer inserts.
How did you tackle issues surrounding sustainability?
We worked closely with a professional team to understand the best sustainable approach and technology integration. The project targeted and achieved Net Zero Carbon in line with the UK Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon framework definition. Max Fordham, the sustainability consultant, used a data-driven approach to assess the effectiveness of different technologies for the office lease period (10 years) Many innovative technologies and building systems were discounted as they couldn’t pay back their energy cost within lifespan of the project. The project includes smart building controls, detailed management of the commissioning of the building systems and use of phase-change material to provide thermal mass for passive cooling.
Both finishes and furniture were chosen for their Circular Economy value, such as solid wood floors, desks made of componentry that can be adapted and reused, acoustic panels that can be reupholstered and components reused, and the feature lighting and furniture pieces were sourced vintage items.
What was the most challenging part about this project?
Creating a bespoke project of this nature required a highly tailored design with several challenging aspects. We undertook an extensive programme of structural works to vertically connect all floors via a visual and physical link throughout the space.
Inclusivity is a core value of Atomico’s, and adapting an old factory building was not straight forward and required further alterations. Additional accessible connections including ramp access and a new platform lift between the Ground and first floor was added.
How would you describe this project in three words?
Humancentric, longevity, connectivity.