Ogilvy & Mather

Ogilvy & Mather in London, England by Buschow Henley, 2001

The following text and images are by London, England's Buschow Henley for their design of Ogilvy & Mather's offices in London's Canary Wharf.

Ogilvy & Mather moved from central London to Canary Wharf in 1991 at the start of the economic downturn in the UK. Each department was allowed to stake their individual claim for space creating an ad-hoc layout on the largest single office floors in Europe. The result was highly segregated departments connected by a series of disorienting circulation routes which left staff inclined to stay put rather than venture into 'alien' territory.

Initially, we undertook a three month research study for Ogilvy which, resulted in a universal desire to challenge the status quo of departmental division, and change instead to client focused teams. A study into deep plan space was carried out to resolve the unique problems of dealing with 'football pitch-sized' floorplates.

From the outset we agreed a number of rules that the scheme (and the client) would follow. These include no offices on the perimeter walls (to maximize daylight deep into the building) and radial circulation (simple, and similar on both floors to ensure movement around the building is straightforward). The plan is therefore developed as a simple diagrammatic progression from core to perimeter consisting of enclosed spaces (offices/meeting rooms), circulation, storage/services (reprographics/vending/etc.) and finally open plan work spaces at the perimeter adjacent to the windows. Into this framework are dropped a number of memorable spaces which, break up any potential monotony without reducing flexibility of the work areas. These new centers of meaning include brand areas, creative spaces and a double height resource gallery which bisects the building connecting diverse groups within the working community. The resource gallery provides working booths, private areas, TV viewing 'rooms' and lounges.

The main area of change is in the newly created double-height reception gallery, which incorporates the boardroom and bar over a bridge spanning between the two. Directly in front is the cafe. A mezzanine has been created to ease the route between 10th and 9th floor leading down to the (30 foot-long) bar. The completion of the processional route is the 32 person-boardroom which, is formed by a suspended plaster shroud wrapped in glass. This two-story room, chapel-like in scale, frames a view of the entry-bridge above.

Much of the construction is metal stud frame, clad in plasterboard, decorated matte white, with glazing housed in an aluminum system. A series of Reglit amoeboid constructions inhabit, without blocking out the light, the open-plan space around the perimeter The reception and resource galleries are designed in contrast. The first is light, the second dark, the first colored by (red) pigment, the second by a multiplicity of colored light reflected in the hard metal and graphic surfaces.

Considerable work was carried out to the mechanical installation to service the new layouts. In addition, the existing system was supplemented with a bespoke 'smoking' mechanical system in the communal areas; this was separate from the main supply and extract system. The design for this was based on a low-level low velocity supply, which reduces the amount of contamination spilling to other parts of the open plan area. This involved considerable co-ordination of the services especially where structural voids were created in the slab. Almost 5,000 sq. ft. of space on the 10th floor was removed.

To make the project financially viable it was paramount that Ogilvy were in residence for the duration of the works. The project was constructed in five phases; each lasting between 8 and 12 weeks with Ogilvy employees being relocated between each phase to keep disruption to a minimum.