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A walled garden 18 storeys above Canary Wharf

11th July 2012
Luke Connoley

Medieval castles had their drawbridges, palaces have their triumphal arches, and suburban terraces have their garden gates and porches; making a statement at an entrance has always been important, it’s human nature. Many office buildings have large atria for much the same reason, yet the lift lobbies on each floor are as much an entranceway – and to some extent more so – to a workplace, yet for the most part they are dull. Monochrome walls and monochrome floor interrupted only by the metallic lift doors. Does this need to be so? I would argue not. It is both relatively cheap to bring a sense of energy to a life lobby – with decals of images or branding – and important to inspire employees as they enter their place of work. It sets the tone for the rest of the floor.

Credit Suisse in Cabot Square, Canary Wharf have been piloting new ways of working on one of their floors, as part of which they have done just that – created a lively and energising lobby which echoes the theme of the floor’s design with images of London icons. These images and other London icons are visually repeated and manifested physically throughout the floor, including two London telephone boxes with both Bakelite and VoIP phones inside. The new ways of working floor which Credit Suisse has created is an impressive space for 250 employees, with a variety of zones nestled in amongst each other differentiated by elements of design which show instinctively what mood and activities each caters for.

Credit Suisse Garden Canary WharfThere are lounge zones for small ad hoc meetings (complete with great coffee machines), quiet zones for concentrated individual work, project zones for intense collaboration, bookable and non-bookable meeting rooms, individual soundproof pods for conducting teleconferences and other confidential work in, drop-in pods for those 15 minute gaps between meetings, as well as ‘traditional’ open desk zones.

Two spatial innovations I was particularly impressed by were the ‘garden’ zones and the ‘view seats’. The garden zones had individual workspaces nestled in amongst a variety of plants. The zones were partially enclosed, creating an incredible impression of being in a walled garden, albeit 18 floors up and with great views over London. I know which zone I would head to each morning. The view seats are also an interesting idea – though not practical for every office space – these are individual seats with a small table looking directly out over London, allowing employees to drop-in for some creative thinking, for five minutes away from the buzz of the rest of the floor, or just to eat their sandwiches with a view to look at.

There are some great innovations in the technology throughout the floor, alongside the elements which are necessary for new ways of working – universal laptops and pervasive WiFi access. The power source of each of the ‘desks’ have several plug sockets but also include USB power sockets, making the charging of phones, tablets and headsets far easier. The individual lockers (the only 1:1 ratio on the floor!) are locked and released by an electronic PIN mechanism, avoiding the need for padlocks. Finally, there is a ‘laptop hotel’, a room where employees can leave their laptops in secure drawers plugged into power and the network, allowing them to access the network remotely through their laptops.

The floor is part of a global programme currently in three locations – Singapore (200 users), Zurich (2,700 users) and London (250 users). I look forward to seeing the long term results of the programme as it is rolled out even more widely across Credit Suisse offices globally. The results from pilots have been very positive with a large majority of users preferring this new style of working.

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