Deals in the City of London were historically brokered in coffee shops, when market intelligence was shared through networks of people talking to each other. In an increasingly mobile world, business happens in Shoreditch House or the lobby of The Standard, as well as remotely from holiday homes and rural retreats.

Justin Nicholls

Justin Nicholls

This new world needs a fresh approach to the function of offices. Just as rows of cubicles made way for open-plan working in the 1970s, new research by tenant platform Equiem and law firm Fladgate shows that occupiers are seeking comfortable environments in which to interact and collaborate as an appealing alternative to their computer screens.

An innovative recent approach is 6 Babmaes Street, designed for The Crown Estate by Fathom Architects. Recognising that many of their St James’s office customers wanted amenity space but didn’t necessarily have the means to create it, the estate’s team set out to establish a standalone hub for shared social, collaborative and wellness activities.

As part of a strategy to repurpose existing buildings, they identified a redundant three-storey 1970s building, just off Jermyn Street. The team approached Fathom to imaginatively recycle the structure, extending its lifespan and creating space for their customers to connect and recharge. The result is a workspace positively designed for interaction and wellbeing.

13_No 6 Babmaes Street_Fathom (c) James Balston for Fathom Architects_screen

Social workspace designed by Fathom


So, what are the essential components? Flexible spaces – such as a wellness studio that doubles as an events venue – allow for activities from morning to night. Human comfort is essential, with furnishings, acoustics and lighting giving a domestic feel to put people at ease, as is a mixture of open social spaces and quiet, intimate areas. Natural light, connections with nature and access to outside space – including a roof terrace creating a habitat for local wildlife – have a positive effect on mental and physical health.

Importantly, having a shared hub has begun to create a network and sense of community among The Crown Estate’s St James’s customers, the value of which is only just starting to be seen.

Justin Nicholls is director at Fathom Architects