We talk with Miriam Modolell Saladirgas and Miquel Àngel Julià Hierro about corporate offices
Grup Idea has carried out the design and architectural and engineering work for bank offices and corporate offices of major companies such as Banc Sabadell, Bank Degroof Petercam, Sharp, RACC, Compo Expert or the Swarovski headquarters in Barcelona. After 25 years of experience, it has carried out more than 2,100 corporate office projects at a national and international level. We spoke to Miriam Modolell Saladrigas, Senior Architect and Project Director; and with Miquel Àngel Julià Hierro, concept architect for brands and Director of Strategy and Design at Grup Idea, about company´s methodology, Design and Management work and the latest trends in corporate architecture.
INTERDISCIPLINARY WORK AND THE SEARCH FOR EFFICIENCY
- Grup Idea is an international company specialized in imagining, designing and building spaces that reflect and integrate the value of brands. Since the company was founded 25 years ago, we have carried out projects for various sectors, including corporate offices. What is Grup Idea’s work methodology?
MMS: Working at Grup Idea is mainly a team effort. The company is composed of professionals from various technical fields who work together and with a continuous exchange of knowledge, so that the projects of the spaces we design incorporate solutions to all aspects: design, construction, environmental aspects, comfort, lighting, technology, etc. Our job as project managers is precisely to make this integration possible between professionals and project teams. We are also the point of contact with the client at any time.
MAJH: As Miriam says, the key to our method is transdisciplinary teamwork. The know-how of each Grup Idea technician and our partners, with different training and experience, allows for complementarity and the realisation of successful projects.
Because designing is not the same as managing the design or designing the construction, but all three phases must be well aligned and connected, whether it is Grup Idea or our construction company Abessis that carries out the design, technical development or construction or the whole value chain. This for example would be the case of the new corporate headquarters of Bank Degroof Petercam.
- What do clients appreciate most about your work?
MMS: Clients appreciate our professionalism and perform the work efficiently, that is, with optimal results in quality, time and cost. Efficiency generates satisfaction and satisfaction is what remains in the client´s memory.
MAJH: In addition to efficiency, they also appreciate that at all times we place them and the user of the spaces we create at the center of the project. The key is actively listening to their needs and being available at all times. At this point, and going back to the phases of the project, the strategy phase prior to design is very important, since it is there where reflection and joint analysis work with the client leads to a successful end result.
“It is not the same to design as to manage design or build design, but the three phases must be well aligned, whether we are only in charge of design, management or construction or the entire value chain in a project”
DESIGN OF SPACES IN CORPORATE OFFICES
- Corporate offices are no longer the placewhere you go to work, but a place where you want to show your brand image, optimise work and give priority to the comfort of workers. How is it possible to generate these sensations through the design of spaces?
MMS: MMS: Today, dynamism and variability are increasingly part of our modus vivendi. Spaces need to reflect these different ways of managing relationships, states and needs. They must therefore be dynamic at all levels. The aim of the designer is to create spaces that reflect sensations and adapt to continuous change, remembering that society and space go together and that we need to understand the first in order to design the second.
MAJH: As Miriam says, dynamism and variability make the spaces we design and create come alive. Corporate offices have become a place to meet and share ideas and projects, a flexible and hybrid space that must be combined over time with other work spaces such as home working. Comfort and feel are the key to efficient and productive work, wherever it takes place.
For example, in Sharp’s corporate offices in Cornellà, the use of the space as an agora allows the different departments of the company to interact. The space itself functions as a blank canvas to transmit the brand’s values, history and purpose, both internally and to visitors, through branding applications. So we don’t just design spaces, we also create brand experiences through them.
In addition, our work does not end on the day of delivery. Spaces must be easily adaptable and, thanks to the discipline of Facility Management, we guarantee the improvement, sustainability and conservation of buildings, a key aspect that we have already discussed at an event organised by the Facility Management working group of the Col-legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (COAC).
“Spaces must reflect the different ways of managing relationships, states and needs. Generating spaces that adapt to continuous changes is the designer’s target and this is achieved by remembering that society and space go together”
- Grup Idea has developed the implementation projects for dozens of offices for Banc Sabadell in Spain and Project Management work, in addition to the corporate headquarters of Banc Sabadell in Paris or London. How do you carry out a project of these characteristics abroad?
MAJH: In the internationalization of Banc Sabadell’s corporate offices, we managed to carry out the entire value chain, from design to construction, of several of its corporate headquarters in cities such as Paris, London or Mexico City. In these cases, the different needs of the client and the usability of the space lead us to define totally different designs depending on the geographical situation and the culture of the place. In all of them, the projects have been led by our creative team from Barcelona in collaboration with an international team to integrate the regulations and ways of doing the places where they were to be implemented.
MMS: Exactly. In practical terms, the development of corporate headquarters abroad is carried out using the same principles that we have already discussed. The big difference is that interdisciplinary ability and teamwork must be squared. For this reason, collaboration with technicians from the country is fundamental, that is why at Grup Idea we seek to work with good collaborators wherever we work and form the ‘global team’ that Miquel Àngel speaks of.
- We have talked about the design of corporate offices, how has the world of design related to bank offices evolved?
MMS: Banks are fleeing from the classic bank image that has characterized them for years. Design is the tool that allows them to differentiate themselves and they tend more and more to generate spaces closer to the image of retail with exhibition and sale spaces. They are designed as an experience for the client, offering spaces for comfort, rest and conversation.
MAJH: In this sense, I would like to recall an opinion article by Lluis Saiz that appeared in Expansión in 2010, “The bank as a store.” Already at that time we predicted the necessary transformation of banking agencies understood as an administrative space in what they are today, an important piece within the Retail offer, a dynamic and versatile space where to express the value of the brand.
“Design is the tool that allows bank branches to differentiate themselves and generate spaces closer to the image of retail with exhibition and sale spaces”
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF TELEWORKING AND NEW TRENDS IN WORKPLACE
- What are the main trends that you think will develop in the corporate office sector over the next few years?
MMS: Corporate office spaces are becoming more dynamic and adaptable to different circumstances and needs. They are no longer static and fixed, flexibility is perhaps the concept that will shape corporate office design in the future.
MAJH: Also concepts like Coworking or Coliving make more sense now than ever. Not only our clients, but ourselves at Grup Idea, now that we are celebrating our 25th anniversary, we are in the process of transforming our workspaces, understood as both physical and digital spaces. The trend is to seek maximum flexibility, ease of transformation of spaces and hybridization of uses. Current office buildings will eventually be transformed and combined with other typological uses.
We can no longer talk about office buildings, residential buildings, hotels, retail or healthcare facilities. They will all have to be transformed and hybridised because society demands it of us. The pandemic has shown us this in an accelerated way, as our houses have become homes, offices, schools, hospitals… and even retail spaces thanks to digital tools.
- What are your next projects?
MAJH:We are still working with Banc Sabadell on new assignments for this year. On the other hand, with Abessis, we are working on various projects, from design to construction, in which retail spaces and work spaces are combined. For example, some 20 years later, we are redeveloping the Bernadí space on Paseo Sant Joan in Barcelona to adapt it to its new business model.
Another project? We are also working on the design phase of the Paseo pharmacy in Gandía, where everything is based on the consumer experience. In both cases, the key is to put the customer at the centre of the experience and to transform the commercial and working space into a place for meeting and exchanging knowledge.