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The Crown Estate Junks The Desks And Opts For Wellness At London West End Refurbishment

London Office
Not a desk in sight at No 6 Babmaes Street, London W1

These days Her Majesty is rarely pictured working at a desk. The latest images released by Buckingham Palace show the 95-year-old sovereign receiving the head of the UK Armed Forces standing in a comfortable, slightly stuffy drawing room at Windsor Castle. The main feature is a plainly past-its-best wing chair.

The designers and property managers behind The Crown Estate’s rethink of a 6.7K SF office building in London’s West End do not say they were inspired by the Queen herself. But the linkage is apparent. The new workspace at 6 Babmaes Street, in St James, London W1, is all about comfort and sociability, and not much about desks.

The project by Fathom Architects is a new concept in workspace designed primarily for wellbeing and social interaction rather than desk-based tasks. 

The disused 1970s block — owned by the monarchy’s permanent property endowment, The Crown Estate — is not so much a workplace as “a dedicated hub for networking, events and wellbeing activities” and “a characterful urban sanctuary,” according to Fathom.

There is not a traditional desk in sight.

Spaces include a wellness studio (doubling as space for exhibitions or pop-up events), banquette seating booths, meeting rooms, dining spaces, lounge areas and a roof terrace with planted screens and festoon lighting

The refurbishment is part of a wider strategy to rejuvenate existing stock for The Crown Estate. Fathom was tasked with recycling the existing vacant 1970s building on Babmaes Street to extend its life span for a further 10 years and create space for clients to connect and recharge.

Fathom’s approach is in line with BREEAM and WELL principles.

The first floor has four sage-green coworking booths and two phone booths. The second floor boasts a comfortable lounge and open-plan kitchen diner. On the roof a separate meeting room, The Potting Shed, employs a jungle theme with planting and a bespoke mural.

A new rooftop space creates 4K SF of ecologically rich space to enhance biodiversity and local air quality, as well as reduce rainwater runoff.

An empty space where the desks might have been at 6 Babmaes Street, London W1

“No. 6 Babmaes Street is new type of space for The Crown Estate," Crown Estate Workspace Operations Manager Mel Reeves said. "Babmaes not only had to be designed beautifully and sustainably, but had to be functional and appealing for our customers, and designed to enable collaboration." 

“Babmaes Street is a response to an evolving world, complementing our customers’ existing office space, and designed to host meetings, enable collaboration and provide a different environment to more traditional office setting,” Crown Estate Managing Director for London Simon Harding-Roots said.

The redesign is a 1970s design geek’s paradise. There is a chance to explore the life-affirming properties of hessian, fluted glass and macramé, and coarse exposed concrete beams, along with finer crafted finishes such as curved timber joinery, polished terrazzo and brushed metalwork. Suspended acoustic ceiling panels finished with timber and rattan hang within the existing structural frame.

Bespoke paintings, murals and rugs draw on 1970s geometric artworks with bold shapes and colours affording the spaces a distinct character, while a mixture of upcycled vintage and contemporary furniture and finishes share a modern retro palette.