We conceived our studio as an inversion of the traditional office, in which public and private spaces are separate, instead creating an open layout that offers transparent views into the studios’ working processes.
The 965.sqm studio was designed in close collaboration with our sister studio, industrial design consultancy Map. It includes communal worktables, a materials library, two workshops, project and meeting rooms, a reception area that doubles up as exhibition space, as well as a large communal kitchen and event space at its heart. Shelves of prototypes, materials and models alongside pin-up walls – utilised to divide or screen off areas – permeate the studio and define its character and aesthetic.
In appreciation that modern workplaces require a multitude of varying environments to promote productivity, we have mapped the space to incorporate private nooks for deep focus and individual research, while emphasising open plan common areas where teams can collaborate, make, test and create. The studio features generous tables rather than individual desks, allowing for the teams to expand and flex as projects require, in addition to a number of non-prescriptive spaces such as the quiet reading space.
The design of the studio gave us the opportunity to put our key creative spaces on full view. Two specialist workshops for model making and prototyping and are the embodiment of both studios’ belief in making. The addition of new rapid prototyping facilities enable Map’s agile and iterative approach whilst the materials library – a constant and core tool for Universal – has been designed in response to the studio’s focus on materiality, texture and tactility and our dedication to material innovation. Last but not least the communal kitchen is a space for informal gatherings, cross-practice events and talks as well as convivial lunches – in keeping with the studio’s philosophy that creativity starts with people talking to each other.
Wellbeing was also central to the concept, with materials such as cork, timber, linen and linoleum selected to give the space warmth and create a lived-in feel while access to natural light is prioritised for the working areas. Furniture and design pieces are styled throughout the studio in a considered way to contribute to the character of the space, bringing together classic and contemporary, functional and playful. The selection mixes pieces from the studios’ design heroes such as Achille Castiglioni, Joe Columbo and Cini Boeri alongside contemporary furniture by founding directors Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby.