a new home for entrepreneurs, makers and creators
Grimshaw has designed and delivered the fit-out for a new innovation centre at the Here East campus, located within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. Following a swift 12-month design and build programme, Plexal opened in June this year as the venue for the launch of London Tech Week, firmly supported by the capital’s Mayor, Sadiq Kahn.
With a total floor plate of 68,000 sq ft, Plexal is one of the largest innovation centres in Europe and is designed to suit the needs of a range of entrepreneurs and start-ups, facilitating technological innovation, business ideation, product development and entrepreneurship training.
Conceived and brought to life together with Plexal CEO Claire Cockerton, Grimshaw’s design emulates the urban streetscape and the resulting layout includes public and private spaces, streets, squares and civic areas. Spaces are designed to intersect and weave together contributing to a sense of community, and each zone has a distinct identity within the various quarters.
To provide Plexal with a unique identity and theme there is a level of standardisation of elements throughout the space, including furniture, lighting, and structural features. This uniform ‘base layer’ is easily customised by occupants to arrange their work areas into a bespoke arrangement.
The innovation centre is divided into a ground and first floor layout where a street mezzanine structure allows open-plan workstation areas to sit above the ground floor’s private offices. Other office spaces are formed using a high-performance ‘kit-of-parts’ Tecno partition system, which can be reconfigured to accommodate expanding and contracting businesses, or to set up new work areas.
A main ‘high street’ runs through the centre of the building, linking workspaces to civic areas on upper/lower and east/west axes, reflective of a city planning grid. The wider layout offers a range of quiet and social areas including Legacy Place which is a contemplative place to work; while Monument Square is the bustling entrance for visitors, incorporating high-top flexible hot-desking spaces, a café zone and a 5m high green wall with screens streaming business data.
At the heart of the hub is Plexal Park; a 200-seat capacity, multi-purpose events space with a busy programme throughout the year that’s designed to facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas between Plexal innovators and visitors from a variety of industries.
Contributing to the wellbeing of Plexal innovators, the centre includes ample community spaces, green areas with indoor planting, and casual environments to wind down or work in a more relaxed atmosphere. Lighting can be programmed to match natural circadian rhythms, and private phone booths dotted along the high street provide respite from the hustle and bustle.
Grimshaw Partner, Jolyon Brewis, said: “Co-working spaces are rapidly becoming the home for start-up companies as well as the more established businesses that want to collaborate with them. In designing Plexal, we wanted to avoid the cliches of this building type and offer a space that is flexible, long-lasting and has an authenticity that provides an enjoyable home for serious innovation.”
Plexal CEO Claire Cockerton said: “As well as delivering a beautiful, flexible and functional office space for businesses, Plexal is committed to providing an environment for our services team to drive the innovation agenda across our whole client base. Plexal provides technology innovation services to big business, facilitating the imagination, prototyping, commercialisation and culture training needed to address the 4th industrial revolution. Our Makers’ Yard, executive boardrooms, indoor Plexal Park and events stage are critical and distinct places, enabling business innovation and acceleration to flourish. We’re proud to build upon urban design principles and the insights from the world’s best incubator spaces to provide an inspirational space dedicated to the entrepreneurial process.”
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