In 2004, J. Walter Thompson set about re-branding itself with a new name–JWT–and a focus on “storytelling” rather than “messaging.” (We covered that process in a cover story here.) The refocusing might sound like ad-man mumbo jumbo, but one concrete step they took was gutting their offices, and redesigning the space with the goal of projecting that new ethos.
To pull it off, JWT tapped Clive Wilkinson Architects, who worked with DEGW, a work-space consultancy, and HOK, who executed the design. The goal was to open the office up, so as to facilitate collaboration. That meant no private offices in the new, 250,000-square-foot plan, and a range of meeting spaces amenable to all sorts of interactions–from formal client meetings to ad hoc clowning around. Meanwhile, the storytelling motif was echoed in famous opening lines from books, which were laser cut into surfaces around the office.
The entire space, which houses 900 workers, is organized around a “tree trunk”–that is, a central atrium, off of which branch various “tents,” which are sound-proof rooms with fabric walls. The stairs that surround the atrium lead to “neighborhoods” occupied by various departments; landmarks in the form of distinctively colored meeting rooms help with wayfinding. The mezzanine is painted yellow, to match the taxis zooming by the windows looking out onto the Grand Central overpass. Adjacent, there’s a bar/cafe.
Fancy stuff, but what’s it actually mean? For one thing, as the nature of work has moved away from individual production and towards networked creativity, offices have adjusted in response. One outcome: Workspaces that look like living rooms, and work that resembles nothing so much as hanging out with your friends.