When we think about the kind of offices we would like to work in, an open-plan space with timber, colour, plants and a casual vibe – not unlike Frank Gehry’s Facebook HQ – usually springs to mind.

“Our goal was to create the perfect engineering space for our teams to work together,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced during the first release of the Facebook HQ images.

“To do this, we designed the largest open floor plan in the world — a single room that fits thousands of people. There are lots of small spaces where people can work together, and it's easy for people to move around and collaborate with anyone here.”

But how do you design a space that would accommodate and bring together some of the best-known record labels in the music industry, as well as attract a broad roster of music stars and legendary artists?

For Woods Bagot, this question was posed by Warner Music UK, which recently consolidated its London operations from across six buildings to just three, including a new HQ building, in a phased construction program.

The HQ Music House, completed in January this year, features a design approach that aligns with Warner Music’s property strategy of allowing the key functions of the business to operate more efficiently, and within close proximity of one another.

Seeking to express the brand and identity of each label, whilst still making a clear statement that the Wrights Lane building is the company’s London headquarters, the architects exposed ceilings, retained and stained black the timber floors, and subdued the lighting levels. The black-painted window frames are surrounded by a distinctive deep green finish running along the perimeter of each floor.

No floor plate of the tenancy is of a similar configuration, with each floor communicating the unique brand identity of each label. This provides “the impetus for some innovative and unique uses to ensure the space delivered the efficiencies required not only to house 500 staff but also to allow flexibility for future expansion”.

“Continuity of the design language—which creates a feeling closer to a club space than a typical office—links all floors of the building. This was achieved through a combination of new and reclaimed furniture and finishes, providing a variety of lounge style settings for staff and guests, as well as in the treatment of the façade window frames and walls,” says Emma Smith, Senior Interior Designer at Woods Bagot.

Bringing the staff and people together is the atrium, which is seen as the vibrant hub at the heart of the building. In this lively space all the furniture, apart from a fixed counter bar, is modular, and can be removed or repositioned at any time to suit the needs of the space, whether it is hosting a dinner party, town hall gatherings, or live gigs.

The same concept continues on to the reception area, where small live gigs also take place. Here, the glass façade is activated, allowing occupants to look out and passers-by to peer in, effectively giving Warner Music UK a shop window in Kensington.

Project details

Location: London, UK

Completion date: January 2015

Client: Warner Music UK

Collaborative Partners: Capita Property and Infrastructure (Project Manager), Capita Property and Infrastructure (Quantity Surveyor), Medland Metropolis (M&E Engineer), Overbury (Contractor), Dovetail (Furniture Dealer), Merit Office Installations (Move Manager)

Design Team: Emma Smith, Natasha Bonugli, Greta Kriovaite, Nicholas Byok, Chris Columbus, Lisa Humphries, Davinder Ranu, Phoebe Settle

Images: Gareth Gardner Photography & Journalism