An Agile Future for Arup’s Head Office

Monday, April 1st, 2019

DMA’s re-fresh of Arup Group’s Fitzroy Street office is well underway. The project brief from our client, Arup, required us to deliver a flexible and efficient working environment, encouraging agile working, cross-team collaboration and regular innovation across the six floors of this important building.

Agile and flexible working isn’t a new concept, but to successfully implement it for the benefit of employers and employees alike, the design of the office space is crucial. Many building-user studies support the concept for improved employee wellbeing and productivity, but there are also cost benefits to explore. Studies have found that desks are only in use for around 75% at any one time, and with the high costs associated in maintaining a building (especially in central London), it is vital that space, desks and the entire structure work hard.

DMA won the competitive tender in September 2016 to act as Architect & Lead Designer RIBA Stages 1 – 5. We immediately understood that collaboration would be at the heart of this project, working with some 1,500 people across 24 departments.

Our collaborative, digitally coordinated approach meant we could rapidly explore and attract feedback from stakeholders to identify the optimum layout through our 3D models, helping to reach a consensus across the groups for the best way forward. It was also helpful in dealing with the phased approach to refresh the space, as the occupation of Arup staff is maintained throughout the project. We were also able to keep a detailed picture of furniture and desks and where they would be as we work on each third of a floor at a time. An important step was to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the existing circulation routes within the building. This allowed us to replan to encourage a more balanced and fully accessible use of space and flow of (human) traffic.

Based on current design thinking about the beneficial productivity impact of varied and tailored workspaces, we created four distinct task-based collaboration zones across the floorplate, replicated on each of the six floors for ease of recognition by, and comfort to, users.

  • The Market Square is a large working area with flexibility in the way it is used. It can host large presentations and events as well as smaller teams working at digital workstations. These include large tables fitted with data points to ensure that physically printed drawings can be reviewed alongside digital whiteboards, maximising participation by offering different communication methods.
  • The Central Drop-in is an informal working environment for staff and visitors with a combination of digital workstations and booths to facilitate group workshops.
  • The Quiet Collaboration Space provides smaller pockets to enable concentrated independent working.
  • Flexible Workstations are arranged in continuous runs to facilitate team re-organisation. Each section acts as ‘one big desk’ for comfortable, open-plan, collaborative working.

Each area is delineated with different lighting, acoustic treatments, furnishings, colours and finishes. For example, in the quiet collaboration spaces, there are reduced light levels that are supplemented by desk task lighting to create a more relaxing environment for independent learning.

As well as creating appealing interiors that set the right tone for the spaces and Arup’s culture and values, we’ve been rigorous in the selection of the finishes and materials to make sure that they will be highly durable and still look fresh in the future.

With three of the six floors complete, creating an agile working environment for Arup has been a thoroughly rewarding experience. Our understanding of the design priorities and best practices to make the most of high-value office space and encourage well-being amongst staff should enable Arup to continue collaborating and innovating for years to come.

For the animated model, see here.