The global marketing communications agency’s Shanghai office is designed by M Moser to stimulate and feed the mind.
As a major global marketing communications agency, JWT is all about generating creative ideas and their work culture is accordingly one of fluid, spontaneous and open expressions – things the company’s redesigned 1,680sqm Shanghai office specifically aims to encourage.
“On a practical level, the old office had 120-degee office system furniture with partitions, which stopped people from communicating with each other. It compelled you to sit down and stay put. For a creative agency like us, that can be very limiting,” says Yang Yeo, chief creative officer at JWT Shanghai.
“We were also finding that our people tended to go outside to do their work, to places that were more inspirational. More often than not they would end up in cafes near the office.”
The firm then decided that instead of having their staff head to cafes, they would bring the cafe to them. Their vision, after much deliberation, was a concept they termed ‘food for thought’.
M Moser Associates, which has already worked with JWT on several office renovation projects in China over the past 15 years, was once again enlisted for the task, and a phased scheme was implemented to ensure that the office could still operate even while renovations were underway.
Taking centrestage in the revitalised office is an expanded bamboo-floored reception zone that serves as a near-literal expression of the ‘food for thought’ concept. The reception desk, which is inspired by a cafeteria service counter, provides the initial clue.
“The objects displayed inside won’t necessarily be food. The idea is to keep staff and visitors entertained and informed at the same time, so the display will change regularly,” says Yang, explaining that while there could be fake food displayed, there could just as easily be pie charts or artworks.
Above, the exposed ceiling lends industrial flavor to the space whilst maximising headroom. Below, the seating arrangement, which includes groupings of picnic-like tables and benches and circular cafe tables paired with ornate chairs, reinforces the relaxed, eclectic cafe vibe.
“Most of this space is dual- or multi-function,” says Yang. “Previously it was just a reception area, but what we have now is a large reception area that doubles as a ‘town hall’ meeting area or party area. It’s a very casual and natural space for people to get together.”
The reception flows directly into the office’s work area, the transition marked only with a change from bamboo to carpet flooring, and the presence of 5 enclosed meeting, conference and manager spaces.
The work area itself is team-centric and open, with staff seated at long, dining table-like bench workstations made of Chinese oak. Interspersed between each pair of benches is a parallel cabinet unit. Yang explains the significance of the arrangement: “The benches cater to our operational structure, which is based on teams of up to 15 people each. But we didn’t want too many teams occupying a single large space, so we interposed cabinets between them to provide a bit of privacy.”
The final verdict ultimately comes from the people who see and use the space. Yang recalls: “ I walked in with a client once, and they remarked that it was a space belonging to an agency that was enjoying itself.”
M Moser Associates