Workplaces of the Future

At Hollaway Studio, we are working on several key workplace projects and recreational leisure facilities. The new HQ of Brompton, the UK's largest bicycle manufacturer, is one of them, exploring the question; what is the workplace of the future?

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Guy Hollaway

is the Principal Partner at Hollaway Studio

This building isn’t just a factory; it’s their new global headquarters. The first build phase will house 1500 people, of which 250 are on the factory floor producing circa 200,000 E-bikes per year. The remaining 1250 staff are on the office floor, a flexible workspace with a hot-desking system. These office-based jobs consist of sales, promotion, PR, management, engineering and design; all constituent parts of working for a truly global manufacturer on one floor. Here, we have created a new term, blending the blue- and white-collar worker to create a job role for the ‘new collar’, where the creator is also its maker, someone who understands that engineering and manufacturing is a truly creative process.

The building is circled by a publicly-accessible cycleway, which weaves in and out of the building, providing both expansive views of the site and multisensory experiences of the factory processes along the route. It’s not just a factory; it will be about creating a community of workers and integrating the town. The factory will merge the public and private domains of the industry by permitting the public to view not only how Brompton bikes are manufactured but to reveal and educate how the industry works – a rarity in such settings and something that will position it firmly within the community. This reinforces Brompton’s desire to be a part of the sustainable change within our cities and town centres, encouraging the narrative that runs through people’s lives, with the bicycle not only becoming a primary form of transport but also a transparent process from idea to realisation.

With sustainable travel at the forefront of their core values, working for Brompton carries the unsaid expectation of cycling or walking from one place to another. As such, Brompton’s location was key. Set within 100 acres of wetland parkland, the HQ is a five-minute cycle and a 10-minute walk from Ashford International rail station, which offers a 37-minute journey to London, King’s Cross and connections to other leading cycling cities such as Amsterdam and Paris. This enables Brompton’s ambitions of continuing to transform the way that people move not only within cities but between them around the world.

Challenging the traditional perception of manufacturing, Hollaway Studio has designed the factory to work in harmony with and become part of its natural surroundings. Sustainability will be at the heart of the carbon-neutral facility utilising natural light and air flows and harnessing the power of the site’s wind and sun exposure to contribute to energy demands. Positioned 2.2m above the wetlands, the building appears to float as it coexists with the wetlands below, allowing water levels to rise and fall throughout the year. This is aided by a reinforced floorplate, supported by foundation piles, which also serve to draw heat from the ground. The footprint of the building and the impact on the surrounding wetland has been kept to a minimum by housing the event spaces, museum, canteen and terrace upon the roof.

Just like a Brompton bike, the factory will be built to last, with construction methods examined, embodied carbon explored and materials responsibly sourced to ensure the site can enable future adaptation and be resilient to the changing climate. Through its design, Hollaway Studio highlights the possibility of making the industry clean and giving back to nature.

The workplace is no longer constrained by geography. Big businesses can now be located outside of the capital, drawing workers from urban and suburban environments without a lengthy commute. Brompton is proof that the workplace can be in a landscaped setting but also close to high-speed train links, with opportunities for sustainable modes of transport.

The future workplace needs to be sustainable and stand the test of time. The more innovative and fit for purpose it is, the longer the building will last. If we can innovate through architecture, we can make our workplaces thrive. This means embracing the latest tech solutions and creating ‘Zoom zones’ and meeting pods for shared Teams meetings and virtual reality experiences. Flexible spaces, forming amphitheatres or conference rooms, where moments of serendipity are more frequent.

Mental and physical wellness is paramount in the workplace, creating green spaces but also recreational spaces for yoga, exercise and healthy food options. These activities help to bring a community together, encouraging office socials playing five-a-side football or paddle ball, now the largest growing racket sport.

The future workplace is a social space, flexible enough to evolve alongside smart technologies and to create spaces that comprise the best of both worlds, accommodating flexible home working for concentrated work and a meeting place for inspiring and sharing ideas.

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