Feature

Draftfcb: Under one roof

The striking new Draftfcb offices on one floor of 80 Victoria Street are designed to reflect the agency's mould-breaking philosophy.

Draftfcb's new offices are on one floor of the stunning new glass building at Cardinal Place in the heart of Westminster. Through the agency's transparent walls there are 360-degree views of London, with glimpses of Big Ben, the BT Tower and the London Eye. Inside, the open plan has been given its own personality, keeping the light and space, but containing a certain warmth and charm.

"It's clean and it's clear, as well as being warm and inviting," Howard Draft, Draftfcb's chairman and chief executive, says. "There are windows all around the outside, no walls, no partitions. Everything being open makes it an open community."

People from different disciplines have been purposely mixed in with each other to break down barriers between departments and disciplines. "The design is built around the fact that there are no lines: no above the line, below the line; no online or off-line," Draft says.

"That's what we're about right now. The whole point is that you can't tell any more where marketing communications is coming from."

The interior was designed by Larry Berger from the acclaimed international company TPG Architecture. Having worked on previous projects with the agency in the US and Europe, Berger was well placed to create the London agency look as a prototype for other agencies in the group.

"The space was to have a contemporary, forward-thinking image, yet still have warmth," Berger says. "We wanted it to be unique, but not dated."

The agency reception is both impressive and welcoming, with a full view of Westminster Cathedral forming a backdrop to the modern coffee bar. The receptionists Michelle Jefferson and Sharon Morris have spent 40 years in ad industry receptions between them. The new Draftfcb tops their list: "People keep saying that the offices are very spacious and very light, a much nicer environment to work in. And having the cafe in reception makes a lovely welcome to the clients as they walk through the door."

"We built our first coffee bar in the Chicago office more than ten years ago and it quickly became the social centre of the office," the regional president for Europe and the Middle East, David Florence, says. "We experienced the same thing with every coffee bar that we added."

A new feature in London and a favourite that Florence shares with Draft and Berger is a series of diner-style booths at a central point in the agency. Used on a first-come, first-served basis, they have swiftly become a popular rendezvous for status meetings, briefings and informal client meetings. "I suspect that this will become an element that appears in future projects," Florence says.

The booths are one answer to Draftfcb's brief to Berger to create plenty of inspiring communal space and meeting rooms. As well as the larger boardroom-style meeting room, there is the agency's unique multiscreen Smart Wall room for working with brand data and two "Rumble" rooms with soft seating and padded pinboard walls, ready to be covered with thoughts/work/ideas over the course of days of concentrated thinking. Other rooms have walls that are magnetic or can work as white boards.

There are also plenty of areas with comfy chairs around coffee tables for informal meetings, as well as the agency "Den" - a social area in the middle of the agency, complete with pool table, kitchen and big TV screen.

Creating this welcoming environment for staff and clients in a matter of weeks was a challenge. The move was accomplished by a tight team, which included the Draftfcb global real estate department and key people from the previous agency sites, with the managing partner Stephen Guy taking board responsibility for the project. On Monday 18 June, the whole agency moved in en masse, with everything in place, down to the last technical detail.

Concern for the environment has been built in to the new offices, which were partly chosen because of the attention paid to how people get to work. There are dozens of underground parking spaces for cyclists, together with shower and locker facilities. Other green initiatives include the re-use of furniture from other offices and the installation of a water filter in the kitchen to clamp down on plastic water bottles. The use of printers has been limited by issuing personal codes and there are numerous recycling points.

The shape of the agency has been designed to develop and take on more character. The organic shape of blonde wood walls throughout the space allows for decoration with inspirational work. The backdrop has already been used to display the agency's Gallery of Good - a unique collection of recent cause-related advertising from different agencies across the world, brought together by Draftfcb in partnership with Act Responsible.

The London office sets a standard for the development of other Draftfcb offices around the world. It is a carefully crafted mix of elements that will reflect an international homogeneity for the agency, but that also give it a local feel.

According to Guy: "Berger and his team were very good at understanding the needs of a London agency as well as a Draftfcb agency. He calculated our personality and made us feel we had a bit of London here."

Berger singles it out as his favourite project that he's worked on for the group so far. "I love the space, and am proud to have been part of the process. I feel that we overcame all of the constraints that all projects present. We met Draftfcb's goals and created a beautiful office."

It's an office that will be seeing a lot of Howard Draft in the near future. He says: "With Draft and FCB coming together, we're one of the larger agencies in London ... It's a hub for the region and we need to be powerful here.

"I think we need to make a statement, so that when clients walk through the door they think, 'Whoa! There are a lot of people in here', and an open environment like this does just that."

- Draftfcb's new offices occupy one whole floor of Cardinal Place, the new glass landmark in SW1. The transparent walls lend themselves to breaking down barriers across disciplines, with planners sitting with the creatives, alongside the digital team and account management mixed with data strategists. The reception sets the tone, 2with its blonde wood and white and off-white decoration. Westminster Cathedral provides the views, with the agency coffee bar welcoming staff and clients.

- The employees work in 38,000 square feet of space, divided by a minimum of partitions and the building's structural features, including a glass atrium. A favourite feature is the diner-style booths with red leather banquettes, table, adjustable lighting and wireless technology. While the interior, designed by the architect Larry Berger, has a clean and clear look, staff are encouraged to personalise the space.

- Inspiring communal spaces and meeting areas are dotted all round the agency, with glazed rooms and open-plan offices punctuated by coffee tables and designer chairs. The central gathering point for staffers is the Den, which features a plasma TV screen, together with the pool table and table football, set off by a funky red velvet, gilt-edged chaise lounge. With kitchen facilities and seating at one end, and complimentary bowls of fruit to keep agency vitamin C levels up, it's used 24/7.

- The interior was transformed in a matter of weeks, beginning in March, when staff were invited to see the empty shell before work started on the transformation. It was finished and ready for everyone to move in on Monday 18 June, down to the last detail. The cafe in the agency reception is a Draftfcb hallmark. It's a friendly place to hang out, but it's also important that all the money that employees pay to the fully trained barista goes to a children's charity.

Topics