When most architectural practices sit down to design an office space, the first questions to be asked are: How many offices are needed? What will the configuration of work spaces look like? Where will we place communal areas? What amenities need to be included? How many teams are there, and how do they work together?
While these questions are important to Cox Architecture, it is not the first answer they demanded of themselves when designing Box Office. Instead, their defining question was: How do we want to create?
If the final concept is anything to go by, the answer they came up with was, imaginatively. Collaboration is at the core of the client’s practice, and this cross-disciplinary work ethic led to a workplace with many cross-overs.
The central hurdle that the architects encountered was the need to balance two juxtaposing requirements: the need to create functional and specialised spaces for specific disciplines, and the need to foster a sense of common space capable of accommodating mixed needs.
The client’s previous offices were spread across four levels, meaning the potential for interaction between teams was extremely limited. This is not the case in Cox’s interpretation of Box Office. The single entrance to Box Office ushers staff straight into the thick of things, where they will encounter people from all teams and workspaces.
“Set within the practice’s professional library, the entrance opens directly to the core hospitality and social spaces, giving staff and visitors an appreciation of the full office space from this single vantage point,” says Cox in a design statement.
Even once staff have moved past this communal entrance, one gets the sense that each area of Box Office can be seen from every other area. Gaps in upper-level floor plates allow visibility to the floors below, while a hollowed-out core – dedicated to communal activities – acts as a glue that binds together all of the offices on a single floor. It is this central space, according to Cox, which best represents the architects’ ambition for the Box Office project.
“The ethos underpinning the project is best represented [by] the creation of a central ‘events space’ for key activity,” reads a design statement. “Located in the centre of the plan, this open yet partially obscured space was created by cutting a large void in the upper floor and folding the new floor plate down to the lower level in a series of tiered platforms.
“This open ‘box’ creates an internal connection between floors and reflects the intention to promote curiosity and increase the opportunity for staff to come together.
“Informal seating options dot the perimeter of the events space, which can be used for smaller meetings or by staff seeking a more secluded zone in which to complete a task.”
The remainder of the floorplan is marked with flexible “nooks and crannies” that bridge social and professional functions. This variety of multi-use spaces gives staff the freedom to choose where, and how, and with whom, they work. As well as delivering flexibility, this plan also works to reduce noise and congestion in designated office areas, as not all staff will be fixed in a given section at any one time.
Despite the myriad activities that are facilitated by this comprehensive and multi-faceted floorplan, there is still a sense of cohesion thanks to a minimalistic material palette. Wood, glass, and matte-black metallic accents form the foundation of the lightly conceived interior.
“A feature of the project is the creation of a wide variety of settings in a relatively modest floor space,” says Cox. “[This is] in order to present individuals with options about where – and how – they work or socialise within the new workplace.
“[While] staff are assigned an allocated workplace, there has already been much greater physical movement by individuals choosing to relocate according to need or preference across the course of a day or a working week.
“By creating this plethora of nooks and crannies that offer a variety of work and social settings, there has been a marked impact on the two, open-plan ‘formal’ work zones located at the rear of the floor on both levels. With staff able to relocate and exercise choice over their place across either floor, the open-plan work desks – where a majority of the architects are situated – are much less frenetic for the absence of competing demands and distracting activity.
“Whether it’s the ‘public’ library at the entrance, the beating heart of the tiered ‘events space’ or the thread of creative enterprise tying it all together, it is obvious that this is an environment focused on the act of creation and is exactly what the practice set out to achieve.”