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National Gallery Company

Reimagining a workspace to transform a team’s working culture. Taking time to listen, for a truly collaborative, hands-on process reflecting everyone’s needs. Conjuring inventive, resourceful responses from strict budgets to inject flair, colour and style for lasting inspiration. Our work on the National Gallery Company’s offices wasn’t just a redesign; it was a reinvigoration on many levels.

The National Gallery Company (NGC) is the trading company for the National Gallery’s commercial activity – running its shops, café and restaurant; publishing books; and licensing reproductions of its paintings.

From clutter to connected

NGC’s central London offices needed some serious attention. Although open plan, the large civil service furniture, files and boxes filling the space meant teams were working in silos – and many couldn’t even see each other. A recent staff engagement process made it clear that staff wanted a change to their environment, to make it somewhere they felt happy to work.

But this wasn’t just about refreshing the space. Our brief was to improve its functionality and make the teams feel more connected, enhancing interaction to strengthen workplace culture. NGC also wanted the design to reflect who they are as a creative organisation – all working within a strict budget.

Understanding working culture – and how to improve it

After winning the pitch, we set to work really getting to know the teams and how they worked. We considered what they needed to get their jobs done, the nuts and bolts like their storage requirements, and then looked at how rethinking the layout could encourage better, more collaborative working practices. We also evaluated where people sat, and the dependencies and relationships between teams. As well as improving staff wellbeing, we considered how to reflect the team’s passion and creativity in their new surroundings.

What we did

Taking the bold move of reducing enclosed meeting space, we created one inclusive open plan footprint that was supported by shared facilities like meeting, social and team spaces. A selection of carefully specified furniture breathed variety into the environment, establishing anchor points within the open plan space.

Once we’d addressed the vital functionality elements, we injected some creative flair to invigorate and inspire. The artists’ colourwheel – painted on the reveals of 26 windows along the perimeter of the building – is a vibrant centrepiece that also helps with zoning and wayfinding, complemented by tonal and textural patterns in the flooring.

The outcome

Delivered on time and on budget, the new space has been a big hit with staff, enhancing collaboration and streamlining working processes along the way. “Since we’ve been in here, there’s been a wonderful lightening of mood,” says Julie Molloy, National Gallery Company’s managing director. “The way the space is being used makes it feel much more airy, lively and open than it used to. Colleagues come down from the Gallery, even a year later, and say how much they like our space.”

“I’d thoroughly recommend HMD because it was a very personalised, collaborative way of working, and one that really understood the constraints – but brought some really clear creative thinking with it as well. All I’ve ever heard from my team was positive responses to the process and the outcome.” – Julie Molloy, managing director, National Gallery Company