Argent is celebrating the return to its King’s Cross HQ after an extensive refurbishment project that facilitates its shift to dynamic working.
Design Insider filmed Interior Designers Basha-Franklin about the materiality of this project as part of our Instagram Event which took place on the 6th & 7th July 2022.
The result of the 18-month process is a radical redistribution of the existing 14,000 sq ft space, including a 30% reduction in traditional desks but an overall increase in the total number of places to work. The changes also provide additional collaborative spaces and areas for support and wellbeing.
Argent’s refurbishment at 4 Stable Street in King’s Cross, where neighbours include Google, Facebook, Astra Zeneca, Nike and Universal Music, comes at a time when Covid restrictions have been lifted and a general return to the office is underway.
The lockdown in March 2020 was a catalyst for the business to completely rethink the way it used its space to meet changing working patterns and a growing headcount, which includes many new team members working on the Argent Related projects at Brent Cross Town, Tottenham Hale and a new build-to-rent development in King’s Cross.
Following extensive collaboration and consultation with both staff and industry experts, the newly adopted Dynamic Working model gives greater choice to employees regarding where and when to work and the ability to better balance the needs of the business with the personal needs of the individual. This element of individual choice and control is central to a renewed focus on wellbeing that the new facilities support.
Of similar importance when developing the project was a focus on sustainability, particularly the extensive re-use of existing materials and the careful specification of new ones.
The offices, which are arranged over two floors, come with expanded communal areas including new coffee bars, a vibrant co-work space and a comfortable informal space to recharge and refresh. There is a flexible ‘scrum’ space that can be utilised for company-wide meetings and events and tech-enabled state-of-the-art meeting and focus rooms that allow for hybrid ways of operating.
In June 2020, Argent commissioned Cushman & Wakefield to devise a workplace strategy which analysed employees needs and occupier trends, as well as statistical data to determine the best way to use the space. The team was led by Nicola Gillen, Head of Total Workplace EMEA, who specialises in the relationship between design, people, behaviour and the built environment and is widely recognised within the industry as a leading authority on workplace strategy.
Nicola Gillen said: “Argent was one of the first companies in the early days of the pandemic to ask the really difficult questions around what Covid-19 meant for physical place, at a time when the virtual world was becoming ubiquitous and there was rising uncertainty around the future of offices.
“The consultation shone a spotlight on the fact that employees wanted to come back to the physical office, but they also wanted to have the choice of when and how they used the space. Making this a reality for employees became a key part of the strategy. To do this, we identified four personas and developed different working environments for each. This meant we suddenly needed less fixed desk and screen space and more flexible workplace features, such as touchdown points and quiet booths.”
The workplace strategy formed the basis of a design brief, which went out to tender in October 2020 and was won by interior designers, Basha-Franklin in January 2021.
Nick Searl, Joint Managing Partner of Argent and Partner at Argent Related said: “Working with Cushman & Wakefield to try to understand the changing needs of our staff and our business during those first few months of the pandemic gave us real insight into some of the challenges and opportunities we faced. This exercise quickly became less about design and more about how best to use our space to realise a new way of working, one that better represents our culture, ethos and values. This was really important because after being at 4 Stable Street for 9 years, we wanted to make sure it was fit for purpose as we continue to grow the business in this amazing place we call home.”
Robert Evans, Joint Managing Partner of Argent and Partner of Argent Related, added: “Now that we’ve been in for a few weeks, the feedback we’re getting is incredibly positive. What was becoming a slightly cramped, and at times siloed environment, has become a space for collaboration and innovation, where teams share knowledge and ideas and can get to know each other again after so long apart.
“Our huge thanks go to Cushman & Wakefield and Basha Franklin, who between them have helped create such a dynamic working environment for us. This exercise has highlighted just how important physical space is for people to work from as evidenced by our employees’ very obvious desire to be working from the new office.”
Nicola Osborn, Creative Director at Basha-Franklin, who was also part of the design team that created the first iteration of 4 Stable Street back in 2012, commented: “I’ve been a part of the Stable Street project since its inception and in that time, I’ve seen a complete evolution of the business and the way it has used the space. What was originally designed to accommodate both the Argent business and the King’s Cross marketing suite, has been adapted to ensure a sustainable long-term home for Argent and Argent Related, so it was vital that the design was a true embodiment of the company’s culture.
“Unsurprisingly, sustainability and wellbeing sat at the heart of this project, so we were able to think much more radically and really push the boundaries of materiality and comfort for the modern office. We re-used and re-purposed around 80% of the original materials so now as you walk round the space, you can catch a glimpse of a floor finish that has been repurposed and reimagined and ’waste product’ that’s been turned into beautiful timber terrazzo communal tables.
“The personas were also insightful for the design process and invaluable in creating diverse settings across the workspace and empowering choice for everyone.”
All new materials were sourced using a recycle, re-use, re-purposed ethos and are inherently high performing, providing a comfortable, smart, high quality and healthy work environment. Specification governance achieved minimal to no VOC’s throughout the space, including substrates and final finish. The buildability incorporates end of use strategies, flexibility of use and future adaptability.
The historical exposed brickwork inspired the material and colour pallet in a contemporary nod to the building’s industrial heritage and Argent’s longstanding relationship with the property. The design team incorporated biophilic design strategies, opening up views to natural light, adding light refraction through the space and layering texture, creating a fresh, open and bright space. Natural materials and colours balanced with indoor plants throughout the design helps create a connection to nature, further supporting the wellbeing of the users.
Argent also wanted to create a space that was welcoming to those from outside the organisation, whether that was for meetings with the team or by providing somewhere for visitors to work from. To achieve this, the first floor was re-configured to allow the open-plan reception area to merge with a vibrant display area and touchdown space for guests, complete with a hi-tech coffee bar.
The greatly enhanced new office benefits from being located in one of the most connected areas of London with vibrant restaurants, shops, events, arts and culture. The area also delivers on the increasingly important wellbeing and sustainability needs of employers and employees. 40% of the 67-acre King’s Cross Estate is devoted to open spaces including squares, parks and gardens. The King’s Cross Estate also achieved carbon neutrality in 2021.