Ben Adams Architects championed the concept of a ‘shoffice’, combining retail with the workplace
In its original submission, Ben Adams Architects questioned why employees, if they have the technological ability to work anywhere, would choose to work in an office. From this idea the practice worked to create a space where staff would actually want to work, its mantra being: ‘Work anywhere, work together, work here.’
At the charrette, the team presented a design that included fast Wi-Fi connectivity, a rooftop garden, a high walkway and even an inﬁnity pool. In particular, the team developed its original ‘shoffice’ concept of blending retail with the workplace. This replaced the traditional reception area with a line of pop-up shops accessible from both the street and the offices within, to create an ‘animated space’ where tenants could mix. Julia Hamson, associate director at Ben Adams Architects, said the thinking was to step away from those offices built like ‘little sterile boxes’.
At roof level, the practice worked to create a ’zen’ atmosphere, providing a tranquil and tree-lined retreat from the hubbub of Piccadilly Circus. The space, with some ‘pockets’ reserved for tenants and others for the public, would be accessible by lifts to the top.
The design preserved the building’s historic features while improving its energy efficiency and avoiding unnecessary demolition. ‘We’ve really rejected the idea of any large move, any grand architectural statement,’ explained Patrick Hammond, associate at Ben Adams Architects. ‘It’s a series of tweaks to maximise what’s there. The character of the area is really key and it’s about what these small interventions can do that can aggravate something transformative for the area.’
And while judge Robert Davis questioned from experience whether retail units accessible from the front and back would work in practice, the AJ’s Paul Finch praised the ﬂexibility of the design in allowing for further storeys to be built on top if needed. Judge Despina Katsikakis welcomed the team’s concept of breaking down barriers. ‘You’re creating activities that are blurring working, retail, living – experiencing space at the ground plane and at the roof plane,’ she said. ‘Changing the whole nature [of work].’
Ben Adams Architects Q+A
Team: Yuho Sakai, architectural assistant; Jonathan Crosthwaite, architectural assistant; Julia Hamson, associate director; Patrick Hammond, associate
Where did you begin with your Future Office concept?
We looked at emerging trends that we’re experiencing as a practice and combined these with topics that we have been researching. A group of around five then extrapolated this data and came up with our concept.
What did you learn as a practice?
Balance of communicating ideas simply.
What was it like to work without a computer?
The difficulty lay not in producing information, but not having information and resources at our fingertips – for example, being able to quickly print a drawing to scale.
What was the best part of the day?
Seeing the range of ideas and talking to people about them. This was easier to facilitate as there was no direct winner on the day.
What would you have done differently?
We would have presented in a more diagrammatic form. Instead of getting bogged down in the realism of the case-study building, we would have produced one or two large-scale drawings that illustrated our points.
What best describes your team’s approach: feverish scribbling, or slow and steady?
Both! Slow and steady until lunch then feverishly scribbling from about 2pm.
Would you do it again – and why?
Yes, reverting from a wide-reaching concept to a narrower, realistic client was a good progression, which made for a rewarding outcome.
Do you have any regrets?
Our drawings weren’t high-impact enough, and didn’t show our concept’s full potential.
Do you have any good tales from the day?
We really enjoyed the unexpected pun-based names that Paul Finch gave to each of the schemes.