18 Feet & Rising is both daring and different and this attitude needed to be reflected in the design of its London office. Naturally, they chose Bolon.
Right from its inception back in 2010, the 18 Feet & Rising team wanted to do things differently. Conceived by a trio of maverick London advertising executives, this bold new agency would be deploying a development process called ‘prototyping’, “borrow ing more from the engineering philosophy of iterative testing than the overblown, powerpoint heavy, strategic approaches of most agencies,” explain its radical founders. The leftfield strategy would work, too. In its first two years, 18 Feet & Rising moved fast, winning contracts for Freeview, Selfridges, Lovefilm and Virgin Media. But there was no deeppocketed founding client to fund the ambitious startup. With fresh creativity and new ways of thinking to the fore, every new contract would have to be won in open com petition against some of the best agency brains in the industry.
So, when the team took the lease on a building in central London, a tight budget and the notion of a youthful and unique working environment that would engender fresh ideas and enthrall clients, were major considerations for the architects.
The agency’s new HQ in Clipstone Street, W1, was a large space for a relatively small amount of employees. “It needed to be a fast and inexpensive yet original solution,” says Chris RomerLee of Studio Octopi architects. “Within five years the agency may outgrow the unit and, there fore, whilst they were there, it needed to reflect their creative approach to the industry.”
Inspired by four buzz words given to them by the 18 Feet & Rising board – emergence, vortex, action and illusion – concepts for the design came quickly. “It was theatrical surprising and whim sical,” continues Chris, who proposed, amongst other things, a dark but decorative tunnel for the middle of the office. “The unit is very well lit from all the perimeter windows which meant that the design could play with perception. It was essential to make the agency look bigger than it was, so the desks we designed were arranged on a curve... almost as a cog.”
The floor plan of the building and the ample natural light serving it meant that the famously light-sensitive Bolon weave could be exploited. “We laid Bolon as parquet planks, twisting their way around the cog.” With the guidance of London-based Flooring Concepts, a Bolon partner, the architects were able to get Bolon tiles cut into plankshapes to form a parqueteffect area. For other areas (besides the aforementioned tunnel and boardroom) the tiles were alternately quarterturned providing an attractive ‘blocky’ contrast. “With the light falling across the unit, the results were outstanding and so much more powerful than we had initially predicted. In the boardroom we wanted a more punchy but understated response. With Bolon’s ‘Limited’ collection we achieved that effect.
” All through the build, the architect’s desire was to take simple, straightforward materials and push them into something truly special, providing the client with an exceptional and original environment in which it could win work and deliver exemplary results. Bolon played a key-role working in parallel with the stained plywood material for the office partitioning, with the colour and finish of the wood referenced in the flooring. Why Bolon? Studio Octopi staff had already visited the factory in Ulrichehamn, Sweden and were immediately won over, entranced particularly by Bolon’s state-of-the-art weaving machines.
“We like that it’s a flooring made like a tailored garment,” says Chris RomerLee. “On the back of our visit we specified Graphic Screen for a Saatchi & Saatchi project.” For architects working on commercial and office projects, vinyl, rubber or lino floorings seem to offer less creativity, and are less contemporary or in line with current trends. “More traditional flooring options seem very formulaic and laden with references to their predominant use. Lino is very institutional while rubber stirs memories of service corridors in factories. We’ve now worked on five advertising agencies and each time we’ve presented Bolon amongst other floorings, each agency has gone with Bolon, for its originality and cooperation”.
Giulio Cappellini is one of Bolon’s first Designer Friends and the collaboration had its start in 2008 when Giulio was asked to furnish the entrance hall of the Stockholm Furniture Fair.
How’s business? Things have been pretty tough for the design world since 2008. Are you feeling positive about 2013, so far?
“The geographical spread of the design business is shifting. Italy and old Europe are suffering (except the Scandinavian countries!) but fortunately there are new areas such as middle East and East India that are growing rapidly. The timetable for penetration in these countries is long and slow but they are new alternatives for the future. So, I’m cautiously optimistic for 2013.”
From a design point of view, do you think the financial crash has had any positive affects on the way we view the world and spend our money?
“Absolutely! Today people spend more cautiously and carefully consider the right quality/price ratio. In the 21st century we need to be making serious quality products, that are useful and effective, that are long-lasting… without losing our creativity of course.”
This is an outtake from Projects We Love 2013. Read the full interview by downloading the magazine below.