We’re enjoying that rarest of things; a sunny day in 2012 in England. We’ve headed out to west London’s Chiswick Park – and we can’t help but think that this could be the blueprint for how and where people should work in the 21st century.
With water serenely flowing through the park, there are ‘workers’ catching a few rays in deckchairs and on giant beanbags, enjoying a Starbucks with colleagues and clients and even
taking a Bradley Wiggins-inspired cycle through its winding lanes. This looks like a community. Furthermore, this looks like a community that understands and addresses work/life balance.
Speaking of work/life balance, we really should put a temporary halt to our own sun worshipping, and make our way over to our meeting with one of the newest members of the Chiswick Park community – premium fashion jewellery brand, Swarovski.
Swarovski (UK) has recently moved to Building 4 here in Chiswick, and even if there wasn’t impressive wayfinding throughout the site, we’d have soon found what we were looking for. A spectacular, snaking crystal chandelier gleams through the glazed front of Building 4 at first floor level. We’ve clearly arrived.
Indeed, the ‘WOW factor’ is only multiplied as you entre the new Swarovski space. Bright, brilliant and nigh-on flawless – if ever there was a reception space that perfectly reflects a brand…
We are met by Swarovski’s Hayley Quinn, who is only too happy to give us a guided tour of the space. As we begin, we ask Hayley to tell us about the origins of the company’s relocation.
‘We were working from two separate buildings located next to each other in Salfords, Surrey – not far from Gatwick Airport,’ she explains. ‘The lease on the primary building was expiring in March of 2013. The business had also outgrown that building, almost from the time we moved in. For about the last four years, we’d been working on a number of options of what we wanted our long-term vision to be in terms of location.
To read the full article from Mix Interiors September 2012 issue click the icon below
‘We were based in what I suppose you’d call a large industrial park, which was functional but which failed to do anything for the brand. It was right for us 15 years ago, but was completely wrong for the brand today.
‘We recognised that, when we made this decision, we would have to also take our brand aspirations into account as well as the needs of the business.
‘So there were two things: the first was the practical suitability of the location, the second was the statement we wanted to make and how we represented our brand – and it was those two aspects combined which really drove the project.
‘There was a real desire to create a workplace that would not only convey the contemporary essence of the brand, but also embrace staff within those same brand values. The Surrey location left us far away from the ‘pulse’ of the brand’s target market – and from fresh professional talent – found in London and other major urban centres. The office’s cellularised layout did little to
encourage communication and idea-sharing between staff members – and indeed militated against staff participation in a brand which now prized creative thinking, vitality and passion.
‘We took a very unemotional and pragmatic approach. We actually started out with a telephone book and Google, and we mapped every premium jewellery and textile brand’s location within the UK – about 50 of them altogether. We found that every single one of them was in or near London, with the vast majority being based in the west of London. This made it very clear for us. If we were to set the business up from scratch, this is where we would be locating ourselves.
‘It is quite a commitment for those who’ve come with us – and we did try very hard to bring as many people with us as we possibly could; we introduced a flexible working policy, for example. We managed the process very carefully, and I think it’s been a real win/win for everybody.’
Hayley and the Swarovski team then spent considerable time and effort visiting prospective sites in this part of the capital – with the not inconsiderable assistance of M Moser – in order to get a definite feel for what they wanted and what they didn’t want for their new home.
‘For example,’ Hayley reveals, ‘we went to one beautiful office in London which was in a fantastic building, but they’d chosen to put all their enclosed offices around the outside of the floor. People who were actually in the office five days a week had no natural sunlight – it was like they were
working in a coal mine. After seeing that, we knew we didn’t want our people working that way.
‘In terms of our own criteria, we wanted it to be on one floor, we wanted a natural movement of people and information around the office. We didn’t want a corner for this department and a corner for that department – we didn’t want any sense of segregation. It was all about collaboration and openness and information sharing. We also wanted it to be an environment that
people would want to be in. We wanted people to want to come to work.
‘That was our starting point. But it was overlaid with the fact that we’re a crystal brand, and the office had to reflect that.’
Rewinding a little, we ask Hayley about the appointment of M Moser. ‘Basically we went through a normal selection process of trying to find a company that understood what we were trying to achieve,’ Hayley recalls. ‘We had a very clear vision of what we needed the office to achieve. We didn’t know how to realise that vision, but we knew what we wanted. We were very clear about being able to give M Moser a brief, and what we appreciated about Emily (West) at Moser was that she was very scrupulous about delivering on the brief. Emily and I did work quite closely, and
there were times when I would ask for something and she would say ‘Hmmm well, perhaps this might be a better idea’. She really made the effort to understand where we were coming from, but she also didn’t shy away from telling us when we were asking for something that wouldn’t work.
Basically, Emily really understood what we wanted to achieve.’
As we walk through the beautiful (and it really is a beautiful space) reception we are once again transfixed by the incredible crystal chandelier. ‘We have these in our stores as well, so they feel like a very normal, integral part of the brand for me,' Hayley explains. ‘The minute I walked into
the space when it was a bare shell, I could visualise what the reception would look like, and the finished reception is exactly as I imagined it. This is the only property we walked into that I immediately thought ‘Yes – this is it’. It just felt right.
‘I am very proud of how the design manages to deliver on all the functional requirements – right down to details like the location of small fittings. The attention to detail really shines through when you’re using the office. Everything just works naturally.
‘I feel the office has also been successful from the staff point of view. The café area is especially important in this respect. Without going overboard on cost, we’ve been able to create the exact environment we envisioned. ‘This space has made an instant difference – literally, as soon as we walked in on the first day. Some of our people were actually in tears. You probably can’t
appreciate why unless you experienced the environment we were coming from. On a global level, it was like we were a joke because we had the worst offices in the world. Now we have one of the best. I have people from other Swarovski offices basically queuing up to come and have a look.
‘On a personal level, I feel this office is my statement of where this brand will go, and it will continue to make a statement long after I’m gone. I feel we’ve made a radical statement about where the brand is going – it’s a contribution to the brand, and I feel incredibly proud of it. All our
employees now understand who we are and where we’re going, and it’s become a great place to work. We’re no longer struggling to employ new people – people want to work here. We’ve become an employer of choice. ‘
All those things we wanted to achieve on a people level – motivation, collaboration, energy levels, understanding of what the brand is really about – have become so much easier. ‘
The park itself also makes a huge difference – as does looking out over that plaza. There’s a real buzz and energy here, and I think we’re able to absorb that energy into the building.’
There are so many things to take in as you walk through the new Swarovski home; the detailing here is exceptional, with clever graphics and Swarovski crystal branding sparkling throughout. The aforementioned cafeteria is bright, contemporary and welcoming, and offers fantastic views across the park. On the other side of the floor, the boardroom features an amazing glazed elliptical table, high quality finishes and advanced technology. It is clear that every inch of this space has been carefully considered.
As we admire the generous, bright and buzzy open plan office space (complete with Knoll’s fantastic Generation chair throughout) for one last time, Hayley feels it only right to praise the work of the design team here. ‘
Moser were great – even through the more difficult moments in the process,’ she recognises. ‘They handled things with a great degree of integrity, and it reinforced the strength of the relationship we have with Moser. There were points where they could justifiably have thrown up their hands and walked away, but they didn’t. I think Moser should also be proud of the way they
collaborated with us.’
We started with something rare, and we’ll end with another rarity; we don’t really want to go back to central London just yet!
Client • Swarovski UK
Interior Design • M Moser www.mmoser.com
Vinyl Manifestations • Sequel Signs (design by MMA)
Systems Furniture • Ergonom www.ergonom.com
Task Seating • Knoll www.knoll.com
Carpet • J+J Invision www.jj-invision.com
Vinyl Flooring • 2tec2 www.2tec2.com
Loose Furniture • Tacchini www.tacchini.it
Fritz Hansen www.fritzhansen.com
Walter Knoll www.walterknoll.de
Gallotti & Radice www.galottiradice.it
Globe Zero 4 www.globezero4.dk
Tiles • Grestec www.grestec.co.uk