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Future Office charrette: Emrys Architects

Future office opener
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Emrys Architects proposed a co-working space with no landlord or tenant, where work is about seeing other people and being seen

For its shortlisted entry, Emrys Architects evolved the idea of having a Crown Club – an interactive online community managed by The Crown Estate, whose members could book a space in one of its buildings to work for an hour, a day or a month. 

During the charrette, the practice built on this co-working concept and applied it to the Clydesdale Bank building, which would serve as the headquarters. ‘As part of the club, everyone shares the space; there is no landlord, there is no tenant, it’s all one,’ said Matt Blackden, associate at Emrys Architects. ‘Work is becoming much more about being seen and seeing people. It’s about being there in amongst it and sharing those ideas with each other.’

The team said that the benefit of having this system was its high-density; it allowed for 100 per cent occupation and used every space in the building. 

Crownestatecharette 399

Crownestatecharette 399

Looking at the Clydesdale Bank building specifically, the team was inspired by the existing Jermyn Street Theatre in the basement, which has been active since the 1990s. As well as relocating the theatre to the roof, Emrys presented a concept of ‘work as performance’, for which the team proposed drilling an atrium through the building to create individual workspaces designed with a ‘Hitchcock and Rear Window’ approach – its occupiers would have a view across several floorplates. ‘Everyone is visible,’ explained Catriona Jones, project architect at Emrys Architects. ‘While you’re working you are basically the stage. In every part of the office you see what everyone else is doing.’

The judges were interested in the team’s proposal for the Crown Club, with Jon Allgood asking about how exactly the space would be leased. Meanwhile, Paul Finch observed the interaction between the theatre on the roof and the metaphorical one within the building. ‘There is an informal spectacle in the office space and a formal one in the theatre space at the top of the roof,’ he remarked.

Emrys Architects Q+A 

Crownestatecharette 29

Crownestatecharette 29

Team: Catriona Jones, project architect;  Glyn Emrys, director; Matt Blackden, associate;  Javier Cazenave, architectural assistant

Where did you begin with your Future Office concept?
Ours evolved from an initial charrette with everyone in our office. The competition entry was based around co-working and the formation of the Crown Club membership. The main concepts for our approach to the Clydesdale Bank building were: work as a performance; creating a ‘work stage’ within the building; relocating the existing theatre to the roof; and carving an atrium to allow light through the building. 

What did you learn as a practice from the charrette?
New and more creative approaches to office design; having to think and produce ideas in a tight time frame; working quickly and efficiently to produce a presentable proposal; the joy of not having to use a computer to present a design; working as a team and relying on each member to do their bit.

What was it like to work without a computer?

What would you have done differently?
One always wishes for more time! If we’d had this we would have spent longer bringing the ideas to life and probably focused a little more on the verbal presentation.

What best describes your team’s approach: feverish scribbling or slow and steady?
Slow and steady rising to feverish scribbling! 

Do you have any regrets?
No, we really like our scheme

Do you have any good tales from the day?
No tales per se, but just to say we very much enjoyed the event; the AJ and Crown Estate set it up so that it became a forum for sharing rather than a competition. The social evening the night before was a great way to break the ice. 

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