West End wellness

The Crown Estate’s first coworking venture, off London’s Regent Street, offers a nurturing environment for small businesses in a refurbished building which is also the first Well-accredited project of its kind. James Parker reports

new coworking space completed in London’s West End is the fifth dedicated flexible office project that architects Barr Gazetas have designed. It is also the first coworking space in the country to be certified under the Well Standard, increasingly popular for rating office employee wellness, the project receiving Gold certification. Situated on the edge of Mayfair, the refurbished office building sits in the U-shaped side street that graced the cover of David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust,’ and which is now Regent Street’s food and drink quarter, populated by bars and restaurants. The Grade II listed building once housed a historic cinema (the ‘New Gallery Kinema’, before being adapted for various use including most recently, offices, and it has now been fully refurbished as a hotspot for the ‘megatrend’ that is coworking. The project sees client The Crown Estate moving from its traditional role of landlord of a wide range accommodation across London and the UK, to providing fully fitted-out flexible office space which ‘members’ – i.e. people seeking office space – subscribe to, rather than lease. It enters a busy and powerfully-marketed


field, with the likes of WeWork, The Office Group and LABS all providing competitively desirable coworking space. Particularly suitable to small start-ups wanting absolute flexibility as they grow, coworking offices are increasingly being adopted by larger firms (a 30-strong company now occupies space at One Heddon Street).

The project offers some distinct USPs in this space however. The whole emphasis


within this well-appointed new scheme is on a more relaxed, hospitality-oriented approach to workspace, where kitchens, planting and ping-pong tables are as common a sight as desks.

Managing director at Barr Gazetas Jon Eaglesham told ADF that this fed into the refurbishment’s success on the IWBI (International Well Building Institute’s) criteria, but he was somewhat shocked to find it was the only UK coworking project yet to be registered under the Well Standard, given the promises of wellness- oriented, worker-friendly environments inherent to coworking’s ethos. “It’s sort of outrageous really – you’d think the story behind coworking is all about the occupier – it’s the best space for you, it’s flexible, but actually until now, none of it has been reviewed for how good being inside the workspace is.”

The Crown Estate had already plunged fully into the world of Well certification, with its HQ at nearby St James’s Market in London becoming the first office in Europe to receive Well Platinum, in 2018. According to Eaglesham, this illustrates how the client avoids a “bolt-on” approach to sustainability and wellness: “They’re not decided late, they’re always part of the brief, and actually it makes it much easier for the design team, and is cost effective.”


Eaglesham says that the brief from the Crown Estate was “non-prescriptive.” Barr Gazetas, who have worked for them on several other schemes, spent three months optioneering ways the outdated office building could be made more flexible. Eaglesham praises the client for how they


Situated on the edge of Mayfair, the refurbished office building sits in the U-shaped side street that graced the cover of David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’

All images © Philip Vile

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