HLW recently completed a relocation and interior fit out project for Willis Towers Watson (WTW), moving them into the Elm Park Development in Dublin Bay which had been vacant for many years previously. The aim of the project was to create a vibrant base for 350 Willis Towers Watson employees, providing them with a multiplicity of work settings, a new suite of client meeting rooms, and statement employee town hall that maximised the Dublin waterside views.
The resulting design aesthetic takes its markers from the city of Dublin, subtly incorporating maps and geographical features across the six floors of the building. Each area was designed around a specific city district. The Winter Garden restaurant, for example, is based on the communal spirit of Phoenix Park. The 7 client meeting suites take inspiration from the topography of the city’s squares, and the workspaces keep everything connected much like their point of reference: the roads and the rivers of the city.
The entire scheme was created with Dublin at its heart to encourage a connection between the city and the WTW employees. The WTW branding was also subtly incorporated throughout the building and the internal space organised to maximise the views across the sea.
There were a series of requirements that the design needed to meet. In order to maximise space and support a more open way of working, individual offices were removed and replaced with open plan desking – this also provided scope for WTW to increase their staff numbers and maximise opportunities for future growth. Agile working areas with team tables were also implemented to ensure that there were spaces for staff to collaborate in more informal settings. These areas for group working were incorporated to alleviate demand on the client suite meeting rooms, ensuring that they remain available for formal, external meetings that take place there on a regular basis.
As the building was on the CBD fringe, it was imperative that high quality staff facilities were integrated into the design promoting staff satisfaction and reducing any inconvenience that working out of the city centre might have caused.
HLW ensured that as well as creating an exciting cafeteria space for employees to relax in, there were also amenities such as showers and locker rooms available to support an active lifestyle and help individuals make the most of their new proximity to Dublin Bay.
It was essential that the client suite was striking yet professional, with integrated technology throughout. Each room was designed around the ‘finger print’ of a particular square in Dublin. Which, in turn, were abstracted to create intricate patterns on the ceiling, lighting, and glass manifestations. To enable further flexibility, the board room was designed with a folding wall to accommodate both full board meetings as well as being able to be divided into two smaller meeting rooms when appropriate.
The large 4th floor atrium, which was a highly underutilised space, was repurposed and transformed into a dynamic communal space coined the ‘The Martello’. This change of use brought about some key technical and logistical challenges for the design team; one in particular was negotiating the building’s sustainable climate control system that used the double skin façade to ventilate the site. The team placed many items closer to the building’s core, limited all services to underneath the floor (with the exception of the lighting), and ensured the careful placement of walls in order to maintain the requirements that the space needed to carry out this sustainable system of ventilation.
HLW worked in collaboration with the local Dublin practice Henry J Lyons, who acted as delivery partner. HJL were chosen for their previous experience working on a similar building within the Elm Park development, which given its technical complexities, ensured that the design team benefited from key knowledge and lessons learned. Co-ordination and communication were paramount to the success of the project. HLW had daily dialogue with the onsite team, both virtually and face to face, to ensure that everyone in the wider team were on the same page at all times.
Shelley Quinn was the lead designer on the project, her advice for anyone who is thinking of running a European project from London is to keep communication open and fluid, if a question arises – pick up the phone and ask and encourage others in the wider team to do the same to you. When you visit the site, ensure that you are highly prepared, with questions and information lined up and ready to address to specific team members. Also make sure that you do in-person presentations as well as virtual ones, this way you can ensure that exact requirements have been understood and implemented. You can fit a lot into one day on site if you co-ordinate things thoughtfully, it is so important to meet all of the consultant, contractor and subcontractor teams in person as they may have specifics that need to be incorporated into the design, for example meeting with the catering consultant to learn exactly what they need in the kitchen.