On the creative floor - BBH New York

An office's energy and attitude should reflect the city that it's in, Bartle Bogle Hegarty US's John Patroulis believes.

On the creative floor - BBH New York

I’ve always felt the physical structure of an agency should do two things: reflect the city it lives in, and reflect the intention of the work being done there.

Let’s start with that last one, the intention bit. It is true of all work spaces, really. A barbershop, a restaurant, a kitchen, a cathedral or a boxing gym – you should know what you’re in from the minute you enter.

Advertising agencies are no different. Walk into a place that looks pristinely designed to death, without a thing out of place, and you are probably in for some work that won’t have much life to it. Walk into one that feels like an insurance company and I’m guessing you are in for some very safe, very boring work (which ain’t so very safe any more, by the way). Walk into... ah, you get it. You’re clever people.

Well, since creativity is at the centre of everything we do and everything we believe in, everything about our office is meant to feed, inspire and facilitate that.

And it’s not just the layout – a generally open-plan approach (with themed work spaces to get away and work in), no separate "management" area and a mixing and overlap of departments – but it’s about the details too. The walls and pillars are covered with hand-painted work by various artists, rotating exhibitions by photographers and illustrators hang in the corridors and experimental short films play on a giant screen in the lobby. And, most importantly, the work we are creating is always up on the walls, at every stage of development. So we surround ourselves in the very thing we are about – the work – which has the nice side benefit of creating fewer meetings, more access, spontaneous conversation and the best minds on the work, because everything is out for anyone to see it and make it better.

Now, for that first bit, about the office needing to reflect the city it’s in. If you walk into an agency in Los Angeles, you want to feel like you are in LA – the structure, the vibe, the people, the neighbourhood, the art on the walls. The same goes whether you are in Austin, Texas or Toledo, Ohio. It’s one of the things you have to offer a client, the talent and energy and attitude of the place you exist in. Well, we exist in the most exciting, creatively alive, always half-crumbling, constantly rebuilding city in the world. And the minute you walk into our place, there is no getting around the fact that we are a downtown New York agency. That’s because, no matter where you are in the agency, there is no getting around the views.

There is no better skyline in the world than New York’s, and we’re on the 19th floor with sweeping views over Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, bridges and rivers. Those views are generally accessible everywhere you step – with occasional dramatic effects: after the "miracle on the Hudson", people stood at the window to watch the empty plane being towed down the river and, more recently, we had stellar views of the Space Shuttle Enterprise flying in on top of a NASA 747. In particular, our café area (where people talk, meet or review work) has the benefit of the most mesmerising view: straight north towards Midtown and beyond. It makes for some pretty great sunsets, with thunderstorms and occasional fireworks displays too.

Our overall approach to the space itself – beautiful but unfinished, loosely organised but with a rawness that
allows for new life to spring up – covers both our intention for the work and New York City itself. It’s what brings the energy to the streets below, and we like to think it is one of the things that allows it to flourish in our office.

John Patroulis is the chief creative officer of Bartle Bogle Hegarty US