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How the 'pop-up' retail concept can be applied to workplace design

TechHub, a rapidly expanding London co-working space geared towards tech start-u
TechHub, a rapidly expanding London co-working space geared towards tech start-ups, approached Gensler’s design team with an exciting challenge: They needed their new offices to be operational in just 90 days. Gensler’s design team responded with a solution that combines pop-up thinking with raw urban character to yield an energetic yet functional montage of exposed concrete, plywood and glass. Image © Rueben Derrick, Gensler
July 17, 2014

“Pop-up” has rapidly become one of the most pervasive design trends in recent years. It’s about engaging customers where they least expect it. It’s about surprise, wit and the freedom of being temporary. At some level it calls back to our childhoods where our imaginations, given a few essentials queues, could transform any space into a place of wonder… at least for a little while. This trend has given us pop-up shops, pop-up restaurants, but can it be applied to the professional work environment?

As Gensler’s London design team recently found out, it certainly can. And for some clients, this type of thinking is a better design solution than more traditional workplace approaches. This is what happened when Techhub met Gensler and pop-up met workplace.

TechHub, a rapidly expanding London co-working space geared towards tech start-ups, approached Gensler’s design team with an exciting challenge. The lease at their original site was expiring, and they had taken a lease on a building overlooking the famous Old Street roundabout. But it needed a little more than just a lick of paint. The budget was small and the time frame tight. They needed it to be operational in just 90 days.

Gensler’s design team responded with a solution that combines pop-up thinking with raw urban character to yield an energetic yet functional montage of exposed concrete, plywood and glass. And our office’s brand design team contributed a bold and playful environmental graphics program throughout the space.

Environmental graphics are critical ingredients in pop-up design; they provide a rich and engaging brand expression that can quickly and affordably be applied through the space.

A visitor’s first experience of TechHub begins at street level. Colourful lighting placed in the second floor windows creates brand identification and impact. It is visible from the nearby Underground station and the Old Street roundabout. This effectively creates a 60 meter wide ‘sign’ using a dozen common fluorescent light fixtures.

Reception signage was realized in exposed yellow neon. Neon was chosen for its energetic feel but also for its wonderful ambiguity: is it a sign for a Kebab shop or is it the work of Tracey Emin?

 

 

The main spine of the working space is organized through the use of colorful graphics that are both identification for the team suites and a mode of wayfinding within the space.

Additional graphics reinforced start-up culture through the use of bold key phrases, references to computer programming syntax and icons of “pure joy” (a gigantic cheeseburger for example.)

The program was completed within the project’s deadline and budget. The result is a clear demonstration of how pop-up design thinking dovetails with the energetic and dynamic nature of TechHub’s start-up culture. It is a case study in the how environmental graphics can rapidly and affordably transform a space. In their own words, TechHub is now a “Cocoon of Awesomeness.”

About the Author
Wesley Meyer has more than 10 years of experience as a specialist in wayfinding strategy and environmental graphic design. You can contact him at wesley_meyer@gensler.com.

         
 
 

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