Coca Cola launches new headquarters in UK

Coca Cola has recently revealed its new headquarters in London, designed by MoreySmith to reflect its global image

The international soft-drink supplier Coca Cola has recently relocated its European headquarters from Hammersmith, England to Central London. Designed by MoreySmith, the new headquarters has seen 5,574m2 stripped back to its core, exposing the building’s raw original form.

Located on Wimpole Street, Central London, the new office has been moved to a 1920s purpose built office block and can now house nearly 300 employees from across Europe.

Set over four floors, the new headquarters is an impressively massive space that consists of a roof terrace, cafe, meeting rooms and an open plan office space that contains hot desk facilities.

The building is a grand example of Edwardian baroque architecture, completed in 1912 by John Belcher. It was initially the home of Royal Society of Medicine. More recently though, a contemporary extension was added to the rear of the building creating a juxtaposition in the architectural set up of the structure.

MoreySmith had to ensure that the interior would be able to mesh well with the exterior and continue this evolution of styles.

Andrew McCann, creative director, MoreySmith says: “It’s quite an interesting building, because the front is a period building. There’s a historic front section to the building and a later edition to the rear and there’s a very defined break architecturally between those two.

There’s a change in the levels on the floors and its very obvious the separation between the old building and the extension to the rear. So that was a key point to the building.”

In addition to working with the existing structure, Coca Cola hoped to work out a new office plan that would coincide with its business changes to better serve the European market. While the interior celebrates the company’s heritage, it also refrains from being aggressive in its Coca Cola branding.

“What we have had to do is understand Coca Cola’s brand and get to know it,” says McCann. “One of the key things is that the company is inherently an American brand, but in our eyes it’s global. This is the European headquarters, so while we do have to have elements of American heritage, we also have to relate the interior to Coca Cola’s other companies. It couldn’t be overbearing with Coca Cola.”

As McCann and the team reached into the vast archive from Atlanta, where the Coca Cola’s heritage communications department is located, they were able to choose which images they would place on the walls.

The department sent a vast selection to the designers and they would pick and choose which images went best with the overall design. Among these images are ones of young families and individuals enjoying their company, the outdoors and of course their soft drinks. The design team chose a select range of retro images that charmingly honour the company’s rich presence in American pop culture.

While MoreySmith wanted to give proper credit to Coca Cola’s origins, it also ensured the headquarters’ undeniable connection to its European environment.

It is, after all, the European hub where the company’s employees from all over the continent can gather and touchdown. Among the images referencing the company’s American history are also symbols alluding to different European countries.

McCann says: “One of the key things was it was based in Hammersmith and I think there was a business decision to move their European headquarters to be more central within London. Coca Cola was in Hammersmith for about 15 years and it wanted to bring its working environment up to date and look at new ways of working.

The company did a number of internal strategies of how its business was going to change and how it wanted the space to be. So the key driver was business. Coca Cola was also looking for a space that people, when they walked in, knew it was European but also recognised the Coca Cola history and heritage.

“Coca Cola also wanted a space that people were inspired to work in. It asked for a ‘happiness house’…it wanted a happy environment to start with.”

And that’s exactly what MoreySmith delivered. The designers created a space that is uplifting and joyful. As the images posted on the wall refer to individuals in times of enjoyment, the materials used are earthy and the colour palette is bright.

McCann explains: “We used quite a lot of reclaimed materials, so there’s a lot of reclaimed timber floorings and walls. We wanted that earthy feel, so when we’re talking about a happiness house and the wellbeing of its staff, we approached it as in what would you like in your home? So there are a lot of warm materials for the floors and walls, while we also used brick.

The idea was when you walk through the main reception, what you see is meant to [evoke] an original wall of the old building that looked like an old warehouse brick wall with the traditional sign painted. That runs through two stories. There’s also exposed concrete and soffits…it’s very honest material.”

Upon walking in, visitors and staff are welcomed by a giant brick entrance lit up by an art installation suspended from the ceiling. The space spans four floors, while an open layout allows for connectivity and transparency among the staff. A staircase connects the floors together, while a wall made of backlit bottles runs through the entire office space and can display images and different colours.

The lighting piece in the entrance was created by Stuart Haygarth, who was commissioned by Coca Cola to add local flavour to the interior. Meant to evoke many ice cubes suspended together, the art piece features over 30,000 acrylic pieces hung on ultra-fine wires and illuminated by LEDs.

The feature wall made of back-lit glass bottles is a fully functioning LED screen. McCann explains: “What we didn’t want to do is have a very obvious thing that occurs in many offices, which is putting television screens on walls.

We wanted to do something more interesting and eye-catching and unusual. It can display images, different colours and have full animation—but it will be pixilated because it’s shining through the end of a glass bottle. So it’s more of an art installation in its approach, but also a contemporary high-technology element. It links all the floors together.”

MoreySmith delivered a space that allows the staff to move very easily throughout the building, creating an environment for positive team spirit. The varying break out spaces provide a sense of community, while the rich legacy of the company rings loudly throughout.

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