Banking doesn't mean boring

We designed the ultimate mixed-use office, with highly secured trading areas, activity-based working spaces, breakout areas and even a New York-inspired loft bar. What better way to work and play?

20 Gracechurch St, London

25,000 sq ft

12 weeks


The brief

One of the biggest banks in South Africa, First Rand needed to move to a smaller space to cut wastage and bring its workforce together. We designed an office space that fulfilled their need to host clients for corporate banking events, while also providing a space for staff to unwind. The look is modern and contemporary, with glass and dark wood accentuated by bright lines and key furniture pieces.

It was important to maximize the design so that natural light could flor across the floor plate. This brings with it a host of wellbeing benefits that FirstRand was keen to ensure staff were exposed to the right doses of natural light throughout the day; whether that be from their workstations or meeting rooms.

First impressions

The reception space features casual seating then immediately opens onto a bright tea point and activity-based working area, allowing staff to pop in, grab some refreshments and kick-off a casual meeting. This flexible area can then change use depending on the time of day and any functions. There’s a stocked bar that can be the focal point for team drinks, a customised pool table or the area can be set as a café space or theatre seating setup for larger company presentations.

Maximising space

When creating a dynamic workplace in a smaller floorplate, we use furniture to transform the space and provide areas for collaboration and concentration. To avoid too many bulky meeting rooms, since FirstRand had a rather open plan layout, we used high-backed sofas to provide versatile meeting spaces for staff. The high-backs provide visual and acoustic privacy, perfect for non-confidential discussions. These can be equipped with tables and AV equipment, creating truly versatile mixed usage meeting spaces.

A truly mixed-use space

Being FirstRand’s global subsidiary, the London office houses multiple disciplines; from trading to legal, compliance and product teams, each requiring varying levels of privacy. To boost the privacy of one of their key teams, we installed a quarantined data area, large enough to house six desks for this highly sensitive team. The space features frosted glass to one side for added data security from staff using the adjacent kitchen and tea point.

We designed the lower ground floor to be a real staff retreat, where they could host team socials, and unwind at lunch or after work over some ping pong or pool. Natural finishes were used extensively to give this loft-style retreat a sense of warmth; with deep wood panelling on the walls and ceiling, and exposed brick to reflect the chic New York vibe.

After moving into their new space in 2013, we then undertook a refresh with more floors adapting FirstRand’s new ways of working in 2017. All in all, staff have loved the new spaces providing a revitalised workspace. We were even recommended to fit out FirstRand’s sister company's office in Cardiff.

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