Six Of The World’s Most Stylish Offices
The workplaces where design is as important as business
The Refuge Tonneau, Cassina, Italy. Photograph courtesy of Patricia Urquiola Studio
Workplace design has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, and we’ve written about the impact a great office space can have on worker wellbeing, productivity and health before. But in the rush to innovate, some employers have created infantilising neon-hued playpens with plastic slides and beanbags galore. This is a mistake. Outstanding offices should borrow more from the design codes of luxury hospitality and retail rather than kooky youth centres, and this often means showing restraint rather than piling on the gimmicks. Yes, they should be places where you can have fun, but they also need to facilitate serious business. Here, we select six of the best, which manage to deliver great design with professionalism.
Vitsœ, Royal Leamington Spa, UK
Photograph by Mr Dirk Lindner, courtesy of Vitsoe
The British furniture manufacturer Vitsœ has always set its stock against rampant consumerism. Founded in 1959, the company operates with a motto of “living better with less” and famously shut up shop on Black Friday to protest against what it called the “insanity” of discount culture. It’s only fitting, then, that its freshly minted headquarters in Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire is a restrained space of beech wood, light and air. “Natural materials, natural lighting and natural ventilation were critical to restore a connection between the building’s users and the world around them,” says managing director Mr Mark Adams. Enrolling yacht designer Mr Martin Francis to work with Vitsœ’s in-house design team on the project lent the space a sleek functionality that has translated the brand ethos into a physical space.
Gucci, Milan, Italy
Photograph by Mr Andrea Martiradonna, courtesy of Piuarch
The renovation of this Caproni aeroplane factory was a labour of love for Italian architects Piuarch, even before Gucci climbed on board. “Caproni did not just build aeroplanes here,” says Mr Francesco Fresa, founding partner of Piuarch. “He created a small city.” This restoration of tree-lined squares, communal gardens and hangar-like workspaces caught Gucci’s eye and now the old plant has become a multifunctional headquarters for the luxury brand, combining exhibition space with showrooms, recreation areas and offices. Just as Mr Giovanni Caproni laid down a blueprint in 1915 for his vision of a modern working community, the new Gucci offices blend work, culture and leisure into one urban complex. The vaulted aircraft hangers now host runway shows and conferences, while the shed-style roof connects the indoor and outdoor space and floods the interiors with natural light.
Airbnb, San Francisco, US
Photograph courtesy of Airbnb
Airbnb built its brand on the concept of belonging, but when you’re a tech giant that spans 190 countries and 34,000 cities, creating that sense of connection between your staff and consumers is easier said than done. Airbnb’s response comes in the form of an in-house Environments team that is responsible for overseeing all office design. Instead of being isolated in a campus-style setup like Facebook or Google, the new San Francisco headquarters is in the heart of the city in a renovated industrial building rather than a specially commissioned starchitect statement piece. Each floor of the HQ takes design cues from different Airbnb host cities, from Buenos Aires to Kyoto, while meeting rooms recreate actual individual host listings. “We believe communicating who we are comes not from the application of our logo, but from something much more experiential,” says Mr Aaron Taylor Harvey, executive creative director of the Environments team.
Bloomberg, London, UK
Photograph by Mr Nigel Young, courtesy of Foster + Partners
Any casual observer of London’s skyline will have noticed one overwhelming trend in the 21st century – translucent towers sculpted from steel and glass. The new Bloomberg headquarters in the heart of the City bucks this trend and claims to be the most significant stone building erected in the capital for more than a century. And what a stone it is – 9,600 tonnes of golden Derbyshire sandstone stand as an edifice against the uncertain times that London finds itself in. No wonder London mayor Mr Sadiq Khan often cites the project as a vote of confidence in the city’s future. A sweeping ramp acts as the centerpiece of the 3.2-acre site, which garnered the highest ever BREEAM sustainability rating, and the development even has a Roman temple to the god Mithras preserved in its foundations. Old London and new brought together in one space.
Cassina, Meda, Italy
Photograph by Mr Stefano De Monte, courtesy of Cassina
Located in the furniture manufacturing heartland of Brianza in northern Italy, the 1940s headquarters of design brand Cassina is a classic example of the casa bottega (home workshop). Traditionally, the compound provided living spaces for the Cassina family as well as design and production studios. Some longstanding employees remember Mr Umberto Cassina’s wife hanging out the washing in the main stairwell. For its 90th anniversary last year, the brand’s polymath art director Ms Patricia Urquiola wanted to harness this history while updating it for a 21st-century business. As you’d expect from a designer of her standing, the details are impeccable, with Le Corbusier sofas, Mr Piero Lissoni tables and even a recreation of a futuristic, cylindrical recreation space designed by Ms Charlotte Perriand and Mr Pierre Jeanneret in 1938.
Tom Dixon, London, UK
Photograph by Mr Peer Lindgreen, courtesy of Tom Dixon
British designer Tom Dixon became the latest brand to move into the buzzing King’s Cross Granary Square redevelopment earlier this year, joining Google, LVMH and Central Saint Martins in the area. “It was time to try something new,” says Mr Tom Dixon, who had been based in Ladbroke Grove in west London. “I see the building as being the beginning of an adventure rather than a fait accompli. I see it evolving very quickly. I want to open it up even more, to open up our design, prototyping and interiors processes.” As a step towards this, alongside offices, the space has a shop, restaurant and workshop. The latter is key because it means Mr Dixon can start manufacturing in the heart of London again, something the brand has not been able to do since its early days. This integrated approach shows that new office spaces can be transformative for a brand and business, as well as the day-to-day operations of a company.