As Populous merges with interior design and architecture practice Jump Studios, AJ deputy editor Will Hurst sat down with Populous senior principal Nick Reynolds and director and co-founder of Jump Studios Simon Jordan
How long has the merger been in the offing?
Simon Jordan (SJ): ‘The two of us first met in 2003. We’ve shared clients and met on a number of occasions and it became pretty clear we shared similar philosophies.’
Nick Reynolds (NR): ‘We worked on the O2 Arena together and the Blue Room at the Emirates Stadium. O2 was becoming a 3D rather than a 2D brand so it became about a physical expression of what they now call [O2] Priority’.
SJ: ‘We were both independently engaged by O2 so we were kind of brought together.’
Tell us about Jump Studios
SJ: ‘We’ve never been bigger than 10 people so we’re kind of boutique. I’m a creative strategist and my partner Shaun is an architect who has worked with Ron Arad and in theatre design. We are now nine strong.’
Why are you merging but also trying to work somewhat independently?
SJ: There is a strength in both firms but we think there is a space between the two of us and this coming together allows us to leverage that. We don’t want to be absorbed into Populous however or vice versa.’
NR: ‘Within Populous we have Populous Activate which is our brand-focused division. We increasingly wanted to look not just at sports arenas but at the spaces within them. Jump is bringing a very cultured approach towards retail and work space developments.
‘Activate looks very much at hospitality and that represents a large proportion of our work. It’s designing for a multitude of clients so, for example, we’re designing a ‘canvas’ for the stadium owner and within that, spaces for key partners.
SJ: ‘We try to step away from the building and the architecture and think about the [client] organisation. Its culture, its behaviour, its values, its purpose and think about how we can bring an expression of that through physical space.’
NR: ‘We are really creating destinations that have a mixed character and can attract people to arenas on non-event days. Barcelona football club has a very large Nike store in their stadium so we see [the merger] as an evolution of our business that responds to clients’ needs and wants.’
We’ve seen the US tech giants such as Apple and Google commission leading architects to re-think their own office developments. Are you seeking to move into the office or workspace sector?
SJ: ‘We think there aren’t really rules about workspace but only conventions and we are looking beyond those conventions. I do think there are some interesting things we could bring from Populous into the workspace realm.’
NR: ‘We can deliver projects at an enormous scale and can also bring to bear our relationships with brands. It’s about getting the most smart people in the room rather than targeting specific sectors. What we are saying is that sectors are evolving and our clients want more than a stadium. As the clients’ expectations evolve, as a company we need to meet those requirements.’
So Jump Studios is becoming a division of Populous?
NR: ‘Jump is becoming a Populous studio, a Populous company…but they will be based out of their office with the same staff. There will be strategic projects where we work together to jointly develop ideas and concepts. The intention is that we start working organically on projects. Simon and Shaun will become principals and will sit on a Jump Studios board with three individuals from Populous.’
SJ: ‘It is kind of business-as-usual but by coming together, we have multiplied opportunities and will be able to do so much more.’