Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), the firm behind designs like the London Aquatics Centre and the Beijing Daxing International Airport, focused on responsive design and staff well-being when renovating its headquarters at 101 Goswell Road, a converted garment factory in London’s Clerkenwell neighborhood.
ZHA directors wanted to reimagine how an office space should function. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm occupied the seven-story factory and a nearby schoolhouse. As workers began to return to the office, ZHA consolidated to just the factory. The directors focused less on maximizing the number of desks and more on supporting different work styles—similar to what employees had experienced while working from home. In a press release, director Chris Lepine said, “We needed to give them a reason to make the journey into the office. We came to the conclusion that space for meetings and collaboration was key.”
Beyond the office areas, the firm needed lighting solutions for its creative lab, located on the basement and ground floor levels. The lab houses facilities for design research, digital fabrication, and exhibitions; it also hosts a variety of activities open to the public, each demanding a different lighting style.
Low ceilings and a lack of natural light in the interior areas presented challenges, but it was important for the directors to implement a lighting solution that, as Lepine put it, “did the space justice.” To this end, they partnered with ERCO to develop a human-centric lighting system.
To improve the overall brightness of the space, the team installed ERCO’s Opton wall washers; to give the ceilings a perception of enhanced height, they specified ERCO’s Jilly track downlights. The luminaires are largely hidden from view, delivering illumination discretely and strategically rather than across the entire space. This improves visual comfort without creating patches of light and shadow. Fixtures can be easily repositioned along the track without the need for tools.
Customizability was important to ZHA’s Analytics + Insights unit (ZHAI), the research group that uses digital data and artificial intelligence to predict the future of workspace design. Ulrich Blum, co-lead of ZHAI, said in the press release, “In the past, there was a one-size-fits-all approach to office design, but that has completely gone out the window. Workspaces need to be adaptable to, even on short notice, cater for the differences in how teams work.” In practice, this meant fewer desks and a wider variety of common working areas. The track-mounted Opton and Jilly lights were combined with ERCO’s Starpoint luminaires to provide a warm 3000K illumination in circulation spaces located closer to the office center, which contrasts the cooler temperatures of lights in the workspaces.
The lighting is managed via Casambi Bluetooth wireless controls, which enables users to dim and switch lights one at a time or in groups. Beyond ease of control, this system provides variety in the lighting, allowing staff to find a work area that suits them best. Blum said, “Autonomy is something they really cherish, so we needed to give them the ability to influence their environment.” This system also bolsters energy efficiency—the lighting is responsive to occupancy fluctuations and automatically turns off lights in spaces that aren’t in use.
ERCO’s Parscan 48V spotlights highlight different zones of the creative lab space. Of this feature, ZHA associate director Melodie Leung said in the press release, “We can orient the room in different ways. Sometimes we want it to be very broad and unified as a space; other times we want it to be more dramatic.”
Leung believes that these public-facing spaces are vital to conveying the process behind ZHA’s architecture, adding, “It’s really important for us to create an environment so when people enter, they’re entering the world of Zaha Hadid Architects.”
The staff response to the lighting solutions has been positive, according to the press release. The dynamic environment encourages more mingling, interaction, and collaboration despite workers spending less overall time in the office.