Bloomberg L.P., the international financial media and data giant, has incorporated a stylized forest glade within its European headquarters in London. As part of its ongoing arts program, the company commissioned the award-winning Jump Studios to transform transitional spaces linking the working areas to the elevator core on the top three floors. The client stipulated that the interiors be accessible and useful to the 5,000 building employees and be fabricated for only $160,000. The goal was to create a decompression chamber: a place where people could slow down and socialize.
“We wanted to give them an alternative to the technocratic character of their work environment, where screens and audio feeds are ubiquitous—even in the bathrooms,” says Simon Jordan, the co-founder of Jump Studios. “We looked out the windows to the trees in the square and decided to bring a bit of nature indoors, without being too literal and using potted plants.”
The three stacked spaces totaling 3,800 sq. ft. can be viewed through glass walls from the atrium, and that suggested an installation that was visually interconnected. “We aimed to create something that was whimsical and disrupted people’s perceptions of the building,” says Jordan. “That generated the sequence of trunks on the lower floor, branches in the middle, and a canopy above, so that the trees appear to rise through the floors.” Like trees, the concept grew organically in response to program and site. Asked how inspiration strikes, Jordan quotes Henry Miller’s response to a similar question: “If I knew where my ideas came from, I’d go back and get some more.”
Jump Studios comprises 10 architects and designers using complex 3D modeling software as a design tool. To stay within the tight budget, they value engineered the project, resolved all the details in-house, and then worked closely with the fabricator. The three levels were designed to afford different environments. A trio of trunks were conceived as intimate nooks, providing a quiet retreat. The branches offer a dynamic spatial experience, a thicket in which to lose yourself, with green cushions for sitting. Both are made of white fiberglass elements, and the branches are cast from only two molds, configured to suggest a variety of shapes. They are attached to the floor and stop short of the ceiling. The canopy comprises laser-cut, paint-covered foam sections that are made in Belgium. These are light enough to be moved around, but there was a challenge in cramming the larger pieces into the elevator during the weekend this installation was being assembled. The patterned industrial carpet evokes a sun-dappled forest floor.
Surreal as these spaces may appear beside the frenetic high-tech work environment, the departure from convention makes perfect sense for Bloomberg, where the median age of employees is 28. Financial firms are striving to attract and retain the smartest graduates, competing with advertising, technology, and new media firms that may offer greater creative opportunities. Those employers have substituted team effort for rigid hierarchies, while abolishing dress codes, and blurring the line between work and play. Bloomberg hired Jump Studios for its success in using bold colors, inventive shapes, and a spirit of whimsy to promote interactivity and create stimulating work environments. Ten years ago, Bloomberg’s Tokyo office installed large video screens on its ground floor, and invited the public in to create dazzling patterns of color by moving their hands across the screens. It had nothing to do with the core business, but it humanized the image of the company. The need for financial institutions to present a human face and deflect popular resentment is greater than ever. Though access to the aerial forest is limited to staff, it may help to change public perceptions of the firm.
Project: Bloomberg European HQ
Who: Client: Bloomberg. Architect: Jump Studios;
Shaun Fernandes, Sophie Nielson, Markus Nonn.
Contractor: 2D:3D Ltd. Photographer: Jump Studios.
What: The installation was bespoke, with the exception
of what is indicated below: Flooring: Dalsouple Rubber.
Carpet/carpet tile: Westbond Carpet tiles.
Where: Location: London. Total floor area: 390 sq. m.
No. of floors: 3. Average floor size: 130 sq. m. Cost/
sq. m: £90K.