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Case Study: Whybrow’s wayfinding scheme for Bloomberg Europe HQ in London

Internal entrance area image (Bloomberg European HQ, London)

Project Name: Bloomberg European HQ, London

Client: Foster + Partners

Sector: Offices and estates

Location: The City, London (UK)

Role: Wayfinding design, signage prototyping and quality benchmarking, implementation management.

The Brief: In December 2010, to meet the needs of their growing number of employees and represent their company’s culture, values and ambitions, Bloomberg embarked on the construction of a new European headquarters, in the heart of the City of London. Conceived by founder Mike Bloomberg, in collaboration with leading architect Lord Norman Foster of Foster + Partners, the new building – located between the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral – is sympathetic to its surrounding environment. It is also an exemplar of sustainable design, with a BREEAM outstanding rating.

Occupying a full city block, the 3.2-acre site comprises two buildings united by bridges that span over a pedestrian arcade that reinstates Watling Street, an ancient Roman road that ran through the site. Whybrow was brought in by Foster + Partners in 2015 to work with them and graphic design agency Studio Fernando Gutiérrez. Their brief was to develop a wayfinding scheme for this new, ground-breaking project.

Outcome: From the founding vision to the delivery detail, Bloomberg’s European HQ is a story of commitment. “A staggering commitment to design quality,” was the verdict of the Architects Journal judging panel, recognising Bloomberg as ‘Client of the Year 2018’. The building went on to win the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize.

Selected by Foster + Partners, Whybrow was charged with solving the challenge of making this open, flowing building legible to the 4000 people who would use it. Bloomberg’s business ethos is about cooperation and collaboration. The whole building is designed to encourage serendipitous meetings and support collaboration with what the architect describes as “organic clusters of desks and spaces.” These are clusters of up to 800 work stations. The wayfinding needed to help people, who are very often first time or irregular users of the building (arriving from Bloomberg offices world-wide), to find their desk, particularly when they are unlikely to be met and guided to their destination.

Whybrow’s solution was inspired by New York, fitting for a company founded in and so much part of the Bloomberg brand, with the desk areas envisaged as city blocks. The architectural features – the central spiral ramp, the materials used in themed spaces and artworks all function as visual markers for people to orient themselves by, just as they’d use landmarks in New York City.

Whybrow’s response is  a navigational grid system marked out by six avenues – from A through to F. Just like in a city you find your avenue and then follow the sequence of streets until you get to your destination. Because it’s a familiar navigation convention, signage can be kept to a minimum. The grid is depicted on prominent screens as people exit the lifts in a clear and timely way, to enable first time visitors to create a mental map. Whybrow worked with graphic designers Studio Fernando Gutierréz to deliver ‘visually quiet’ signs that are beautiful, effective and fit the design integrity of the project.

Whybrow’s contribution to the building has been described as: “A master-class in reductive signage…clean and elegant.”

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