Oktra is London’s leading office design and build company with over 21 years’ experience. They create bespoke workplace solutions for their clients and are committed to the quality and seamless delivery of every project. With an impressive body of work and clientele including WeWork, Jamie Oliver, and M&C Saatchi, they thrive on pushing the boundaries of innovative and forward-thinking design. Oktra believe that the workplace is the building block to every organisation’s success.
Senior designer, David Bishop, shares the details of one of Oktra’s recent ventures – the full office design and fit-out of an iconic converted warehouse in central London.
Consumer finance providers NewDay appointed office design company Oktra to create a bold and modern 30,000 square-foot workspace in a magnificent Victorian building.
The grade II listed structure, commonly known as the Midland Goods Shed, dates back to the 1850s. Originally, it served as a temporary passenger terminal whilst King’s Cross Station was being built and during the late part of the 19th century, for handling and storing perishable goods. Overtime the ‘Goods Shed’ fell into disrepair and in 2010 property developers, Argent, restored and converted the building, putting it back on the map within the fashionable and newly developed King’s Cross area.
In 2016, NewDay made plans to relocate their London team to a larger office within the Midland Goods Shed. Oktra secured the NewDay project in a competitive pitch, selected on the basis of their strong reputation and creative design proposals.
NewDay required a design that maximised space to promote collaboration and encourage co-working. With this type of project, there was a great deal of scope for originality and creativity. It was a rare and exciting opportunity for Oktra and they were thrilled to be on-board.
David Bishop, a Senior Designer for Oktra who worked on the NewDay project, describes his first impression of the building:
“It was an amazing, multi-level space of impressive volume. It had a raw and almost ‘cathedral like’ feeling to it. As an industrial building steeped in history, it was sensitively restored by the architect to form a shell, juxtaposing modern and traditional engineering solutions.”
There is a very rustic and deeply industrial feel to the Midland Goods Shed, with original cast iron structures and brickwork dating back to the mid 18th century on display. The ground and mezzanine floors are situated within the ‘East Handyside canopy’, with original period iron trusses snaking along a curved elevation 6 meters above ground floor level, offering impressive multi-level views. The external curved elevation includes slot and fan lights to allow natural daylight into the space. The first floor offers a whole new surprise, with 6 metre ceiling height at the apex and minimal modern steelwork to intensify the expanse of volume in the building. This vast space benefits from internal winter gardens and slot lights within the roof to allow natural daylight to penetrate.
Chiefly, the Oktra designers set out to improve office workability by creating an exciting space that could be experienced from different areas and perspectives. Their vision was to form a modern design whilst retaining the building’s original features, placing subtle contemporary insertions to retain the key characteristics of the existing architecture.
“People. Transition. Architecture. These words formulated our aims and objectives for the project. To connect the site together we created a flexible and multi-functional landscape that flows and undulates to offer surprise and intrigue,” says David.
Over the course of the 22-week design project, the team coordinated a complex services scheme to facilitate the remarkable fit-out.
At ground-floor level, the coffee shop and reception flow through to a large communal meeting area and collaboration lounge. The key piece of architecture comes in the form of the compositional meeting pods cantilevered dramatically over the cafe area. Finished in two opposing textures, a rustic blackened plaster and a white high polish, they create contrast with the existing building fabric and leave a striking impression on anyone who enters the space.
“Our team strived to enhance creativity and productivity in the office. We provided NewDay with 75% more meeting space through clever structural space planning. The space includes 300 fixed workstations, open plan desking and several meeting pods over an expansive café area.”
The project’s most remarkable feature is a floating 60m long mezzanine suspended over an acoustic floor – a complex piece of engineering completely independent of the existing building fabric. This involved lengthy coordination of services from the team alongside a series of structural gymnastics within the raised floor.
To ensure that the design was in-keeping with the original industrial aesthetic of the building, Oktra added rail tracks and various green areas formed of trees and shrubbery. As a subtle nod to the company brand colour, a 160-meter-long curving purple LED ceiling light was installed, forming a visual link between the upper and ground floors and connecting the spaces together. The remaining finishes throughout are unbranded (apart from flashes in WC areas), and are fairly neutral, forming a timeless textural backdrop.
Oktra further connected the different elements within the space with a circulation staircase covered by a grassy knoll. The feature mirrors the existing winter garden on the first floor and functions as a meeting space, allowing it to be experienced under, over or through. The designers also planted 225 daisies on the knoll as a quirky finishing touch.
Oktra provide an in-depth aftercare process for all of their design projects and have returned on several occasions to see how the space is functioning. NewDay are delighted with the final outcome. The workspace transforms from day to evening; with natural light rippling through, creating exquisite views and a remarkable working environment for the NewDay team.