“I truly believe that the creative industries are what makes London great,” says Helen Arvanitakis, director of London’s first purpose-built workspace for creatives, Design District. “They’re a significant part of the country’s economy, and they don’t often occupy space designed specifically for them.” Whereas Helen’s latest project, Bureau, “is all about supporting that talent.”
Set to open this September, Bureau is a newly designed members club for creatives within the heart of the Design District, based in Greenwich, London. In general, the Design District is built with the aim of creating an ecosystem to support creatives, “a place that would be permanent and affordable while giving its community access to genuinely useful facilities,” as Helen describes. “Bureau sits at the heart of that.”
Described as a hub for the district, Bureau utilises the successful qualities of familiar models, such as co-working spaces and members’ clubs, “but redesigning them specifically to meet the needs of creatives”. The Design District brought together a group of eight pioneering architects to create its landscape, two of which, Architecture 00 and HNNA, designed the buildings to house Bureau. Each architectural practice was purposefully commissioned to work in silos, unaware of their peers’ designs. In turn, the eclectic mix is driven by creatives own wants and needs for a working environment, creating “designed spaces they themselves would like to work in, and by extension providing many of the things creatives seek out: spaciousness, high ceilings, natural light, and access to outdoor areas,” points out Helen.
HNNA for example – which has worked with Design District broadly for a number of years – is a practice which “really understands the importance of building to a human scale” – a quality evident in its Bureau space “filled with beautiful nooks and niches,” the director describes. Architecture 00 on the other hand takes an alternative approach, creating a building where circulation lies on its exterior, “encased in a steel mesh that does away with the need for a typical balustrade creating big open spaces on each floor plate,” says Helen. “The outdoor circulation also creates brilliant social spaces.”
Interior design is then provided by Roz Barr, an architect commissioned as Helen “knew [they] would bring plenty of expertise to the challenge of designing spaces for both focus and collaboration”. As Roz herself adds, Bureau is by design as “a place of optimism” a quality Helen highlights in Bureau’s colour and material choices “that are both confident and highly sympathetic to the needs of creatives.”
In terms of the offering, Bureau has a structured tier system for prospective members. As Helen highlights, London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, “and the creative industries are really feeling the squeeze from a lack of appropriate workspace at affordable rates.” In turn, she continues, “typically, creatives work in spaces with cheaper rent (which represents the lower charging rates creatives command, than say financial or legal industries) and typically that lower rent represents a worse quality environment. The Design District is all about halting this, and Bureau in particular.”
As a result, Bureau’s membership begins at £80 per month and, following the challenges posed by the pandemic, the first 12 months rent on all spaces is just £5 per sqft. Both of these decisions have been made in line with Design District’s belief that “the creative industries are so important to the UK economy, why shouldn’t they have fantastic space at a price that is appropriate to their earnings?” Bureau also notes that the hub will support creatives in a multitude of ways, from an events programme that will not only inspire but offer help on business essentials from tax to employment law. Wide facilities at Bureau are also designed with creatives in mind, including access to workshops, recording studios and 3D printers, as well as moments for collaboration. “The great thing about having a members club just for creatives is that the next time a member needs, say, a copywriter or photographer, chances are they’ll be sitting across the room from them,” adds Helen, noting that there will also be a comprehensive online directory for members too.
Open from the 1 September, Helen also offers a rundown of how a day at Bureau may begin. To start, if you’re likely to be travelling in by tube (or bike – or even boat!) you reach the building pretty much immediately when entering Greenwich. “I guess the first point of call will be coffee for a lot of people,” says Helen, who recommends picking one up from Design District’s own canteen – a “beautiful transparent food hall” or from Bureau’s own restaurant space. Making your way over to a workspace, there are plenty of options to choose from dependent on membership type. First, there are casual options for Lounge members, specific interchangeable workspaces for Hot Desk members, or specific areas for a Fixed Desk membership (ideal for duos or small teams), and larger areas for those with a Serviced Studio membership (for larger teams).
To break up the day there are also plenty of areas to explore, from Bureau’s own restaurant with “tech-free lunches” to meet other members, or you could head out to the Design District’s very own elevated riverside park, The Tide. Then as the working day winds up there’s always the option to pop into an event, or invite your collaborators or friends down to Bureau before heading home. “There’s plenty of other happenings in the wider District and around the peninsula too,” adds Helen, “there will always be something on.”
To find out more details about Bureau’s opening and facilities head here.
Set to open in September 2021, Bureau is a new enterprise hub, workspace and creative-membership club based across two of the 16 cutting-edge architect-designed buildings that form Design District on Greenwich Peninsula.