New interiors agency Ekho Studio has created a healthier, more comfortable and productive workspace in a central London location for AstraZeneca UK. This successful project, is not only designed to foster wellbeing, the design team hopes it will nurture an easy and informal atmosphere which will in turn foster chance collaborations and facilitate productivity.
The new workspace at AstraZeneca UK’s head office is spread across two floors and over 21,000 sq ft of number 2 Pancras Square, King’s Cross – currently London’s fastest-growing district – and located between the two great railway stations of King’s Cross and St Pancras International. The lively Pancras Square development also houses Google’s new HQ and offices for tech and music giants YouTube and Universal Music, whilst the retail and hospitality developments of Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard lie directly to the north, just beyond the Regent’s Canal.
The new scheme has been created in addition to the 15,000 sq ft the principal company occupies in the same building, having moved there in 2019. The new space will be home to staff from AstraZeneca UK, which was previously located in Luton and includes teams across medical, marketing, digital, communications, finance and HR functions, supporting the UK’s biopharmaceutical and oncology business teams.
Ekho Studio is new interiors agency formed by Founding Partners Sarah Dodsworth and Rachel Withey after 20 years’ experience at practices such as BDP, HKW, 5Plus, 74 and SpaceInvader (where Sarah was Creative Director and Rachel Associate Director). The firm has just celebrated its first year in business – were commissioned to create the new scheme.
“Creating a sense of aspiration”
“The overarching ethos for the new space was to create a healthier, more comfortable and productive workspace” Sarah Dodsworth commented, “and to balance the needs of a supremely functional workplace, whilst creating a sense of aspiration. We worked on the scheme throughout the pandemic as we moved this branch of the company from their former Luton offices to an entirely new way of working in central London.”
AstraZeneca UK will use its new King’s Cross HQ to drive collaboration and innovation further.
The move reflects AstraZeneca UK’s renewed ambition to drive collaboration and innovation both internally and externally, with its relocation to London’s new ‘Knowledge Quarter’ bringing them closer to their broad network of healthcare partners to work in ambitious, purpose-led partnerships.
The new workplace needed to house more than 200 employees at 156 workstation desks, with agile work-from-home (WFH) options taken on board, as well as the provision of a variety of non-workstation spaces, from informal collaboration and breakaway settings to an on-site restaurant and an external terrace space. The new scheme also had to incorporate a reception area, a variety of VC-enabled meeting rooms, plus dedicated washrooms and shower facilities.
The overarching ethos for the new space was to create a healthier, more comfortable and productive workspace – Sarah Dodsworth.
“We had a number of very thorough and penetrating workshop sessions with the client team in the early stages of the project” Sarah Dodsworth explained, “helping to build the brief on the most solid foundations. Given the lack of face-to-face possibilities for much of that time, we also helped lead a very interactive series of consultations with the full team on spatial priorities and design directions, so that we also knew decisions were based on grass roots contributions of what team members would need from their space on an everyday basis, as well as the over-arching values the designs needed to respond to.”
The results of the workshop sessions ended in a list of ten ‘non-negotiables’ for the new workspace:
1. Health and wellbeing
2. Dynamic and inspiring
3. Inclusive and relaxed
4. Digital tech
5. Honest and authentic
6. Reflecting AstraZeneca values
10. Enabling people to work better together
Biophilia & sustainability
The scheme also needed to be biophilic, flexible and highly-energy-efficient, creating a space that would nurture an easy and informal atmosphere which in turn would foster serendipitous collaborations, with work and social behaviours are no longer siloed and instead mixing together naturally.
“The successful integration of technology was also a major piece of the brief” Sarah Dodsworth added. “This is a client who really does invest in making technology work for its people, rather than paying lip service to the latest products and trends. Every single meeting room is VC-enabled, for example, whilst the ‘plug and play’ transitional areas between tea points and desking zones all feature Microsoft Surface Hub technology, using screens on wheeled stands, which make these areas properly effective as idea-sharing spaces. Several screens can also easily be brought together for Town Halls if required. In the quiet rooms and booth areas, tech controls – so often a barrier to a good design solution – are integrated discreetly into sideboards, which means people can relax in a comfy armchair and still take part in a Teams or Zoom meeting.”
This is a client who really does invest in making technology work for its people, rather than paying lip service to the latest products and trends – Sarah Dodsworth
The new workplace successfully nurtures an easy and informal atmosphere which will in turn foster chance collaborations – just as the brief requested – redefining how AstraZeneca UK works and engages with the outside world. Optimum energy efficiency was also achieved, with the project receiving a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
“Sarah and her Ekho Studio team delivered a design that has met and exceeded the expectation of the AstraZeneca UK team” James Larkin, Director, Facilities Management at AstraZeneca commented. “The Ekho Studio team worked hard to translate a variety of sometimes conflicting requirements into a coherent and ambitious design package that is not only visually stunning but also works efficiently as an office space both operationally and from a user perspective.”
About Ekho Studio
Ekho Studio is a creative consultancy set up by Founding Partners Sarah Dodsworth and Rachel Withey in 2021. The company is a fresh force in design, looking to shape how people live, work and play for the better, based on the belief that design can completely transform people’s lives and environments, as well as influencing productivity and wellbeing, through good practice, research and innovation.
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