The Economist’s former home in St James’s, Central London, played a significant part of the newspaper’s identity. It was a home where exceptional thinking and collective learning were the norm. Deep relationships were cultivated. It was a meaningful place.
Designed in, and for, a previous era, journalists worked in small, two-person offices that prevented teams from working in a modern, collaborative manner. After more than half a century, the newspaper decided a change was needed.
Our brief was to design for purpose. We had to ensure the newspaper’s distinct culture was preserved and then to capitalise on its richness to create a transformational workplace fit for today and for the future.
The result is a vibrant, progressive, and collegiate environment where people thrive at work. The space captures and revives The Economist’s unique culture to create a palpable sense of belonging in a modern environment in which relationships will be forged and new memories created.
Preserving the newspaper’s culture was central to key design decisions throughout the process. We embarked on an immersive shadowing process from the outset, which helped us understand the paper’s rhythm through the flow of its weekly production cycle. The knowledge we acquired during this process formed the foundation of our planning strategy and influenced the range and allocation of office space, shifting from individuals to teams.
All users have access to sit-to-stand desks, discouraging sedentary behaviour. Ergonomically designed review areas encourage standing meetings. Alternative work settings have been strategically located across the floor to encourage activity and movement. All tea points have direct access to an external terrace with views of Victoria Embankment Gardens and the River Thames.
Occupancy changes throughout the week and is dictated by the flow of the publication. Workstations are fully connected to the network to support free address, with workers able to set up anywhere on the floor with full access to Wi-Fi.
We wanted to create a visitors’ journey through The Economist that showcased the newspaper’s inner workings and heritage. Digital screens showcase content from the paper’s online platform and work in progress on key areas of the floor. Efficient layout review spaces combined with technology seamlessly integrated into all areas create a high degree of flexibility, empowering individuals and teams to work in a variety of alternative work settings suitable for the task at hand and reinforcing a culture of sharing and collaboration.
A central street-like space runs right through the building and is home to the teams responsible for the physical output of the newspaper. At its heart, the Reading Room plays a critical function where the newspaper would, traditionally, undergo its final edits before being sent to print. The street is flanked by a multi-functional space, a communal reading area and a radio studio. A flexible dining room with direct access to the terrace supports the traditional Wednesday staff lunch, celebrating the collegiate nature of the newspaper.