Previously, people tended to go outside the office to places that were more "inspirational" to do their work. More often than not, they would end up in cafes near the office. That led us to think: why can’t we create an equally comfortable and inspiring environment here? That’s when we came up with a vision we termed "food for thought". It’s a creative space that stimulates and feeds the mind. Instead of sending people to cafes, bars or restaurants, the office would be redesigned to bring the stimulation to them.
The reception desk contains a "showcase" compartment that brings to mind a cafeteria service counter. The objects displayed inside won’t necessarily be food. The idea is to keep staff and visitors entertained and informed, so the display changes regularly. Right now, there are fake cakes and pastries as pie charts of statistics about China.
Complementing the showcase is a bookcase of trophies that stretches across the entire back wall, with tables, benches, circular cafe tables and postmodern chairs – these reinforce the relaxed, eclectic cafe ambience. The large reception area doubles as a "town hall" meeting area or party area. It’s a casual space for people to get together.
The four meeting rooms are dressed as private dining rooms, differentiated by the wall fabric and furnishing. Each is named after sumptuous ingredients, such as "Black Truffle", "Wild Honey" and "Green Olive". The work area is open-plan, with staff seated at long, dining table-like bench workstations made of Chinese oak.
The final verdict on JWT Shanghai’s space belongs to the people who use it every day – and, by their measure, the renovation has succeeded both functionally and as a catalyst for inspiration. An account manager told me that he walked in with a client once and they remarked that it was a space belonging to an agency that was enjoying itself.
Yang Yeo is the North Asia executive creative director and China chairman at JWT