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Wednesday23 July 2014

Oak is at the heart of Talk Talk HQ interior

The Talk Talk headquarters is next to AHMM’s Monsoon building.
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Found Associates has used fumed oak parquet to set the tone for the office

Project: White Building,Talk Talk HQ
Interior designer: Found Associates
Architect: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Location: Evesham Street, west London

Looking out over London’s West Cross Route (A3220) and the Westfield Shopping Centre, it’s no wonder the ground floor reception area of Talk Talk Group’s new headquarters limits the views.

No doubt the outlook is more inspiring the higher one goes in the six colour-coded office floors occupied by the 950 employees of the major telecoms business. Instead of glazing on the other (east) elevation, Found Associates, the designer of the £2 million interior project, has recessed three giant sized bays of 16 LCD television screens per bay (4.5m wide) into a 24m wide wall of an unusual dark brown fumed oak parquet to create a lounge area. Light grey leather sofas are arranged to create an intimate and more acoustically sheltered zone that can be used for meetings.


The ground floor, with its Stabilo flooring, is both cafeteria and meeting area.

Credit: Hufton & Crow

The ground floor, with its Stabilo flooring, is both cafeteria and meeting area.


The LCD screens also allow the area to be used for presentations or company-wide announcements.

The Talk Talk Group moved into the AHMM-designed White Building last month. It was built as part of the second phase of the mixed-use masterplan for this site in Notting Dale, west of Notting Hill Gate in west London. The first phase saw the construction of the adjacent Yellow Building, also by AHMM and now occupied by Monsoon Accessorize. Future phases will integrate the business park development into the lower buildings to the east with a hotel, residential units and workshops.

Found was appointed last year to devise a concept design for Talk Talk’s head office, with the 1,100sq m ground floor forming the core of the design.

“Talk Talk didn’t want an overt interpretation of their brand, which is very colourful and bold,” says Found director Daniel Beardsley. “So we didn’t recommend lots of colour as there would have been too much visual confusion.

“We were keen for the design of the ground floor interior to stand away from the brand so we pushed for a more sober but strong finish.”

The ground floor doubles up as an area for meetings and presentations and as a staff cafeteria, to entice employees to break away from their desks and eat in a more social environment. The main entrance and reception are also located in the north-east corner.

The predominant colour on the ground floor is dark brown, provided by the fumed oak parquet called Stabilo made by German company Bembé Parkett — the material’s first application in the UK. The product has been used primarily for the flooring, but also to form wall and soffit panels surrounding the lounge area and for the 24m-long bar running along the west side, and the three large seating and table units.

Before it discovered Stabilo, Beardsley says Found had considered a number of other options, including poured resin for the floor and Corian for the benches and main joinery items.

Poured resin, however, was rejected for its inflexibility. The subfloor incorporates a raised metal tiled deck with a plenum for air-conditioning, and a seamless resin floors wouldn’t give access for possible maintenance.

Also, Beardsley says, because the resin would have been poured over a metal tile there could have been some movement and, eventually, the resin would have cracked and broken up. Stabilo offered the flexibility the practice was looking for.

Elsewhere on the ground floor, the exposed concrete ceiling has been left untouched and where the Stabilo product hasn’t been used, the walls have been plastered and painted white.

Flooring

Bembé Parkett has been producing and laying parquet flooring since 1780, and Stabilo, a vertical finger parquet, has been in use on the Continent since the 1960s, though this is its first British application.

Found Associates director Daniel Beardsley says he discovered the product while looking through some trade magazines. But it took a trip to Frankfurt airport, where it had been used on the heavily trafficked areas and showed little signs of wear, to finally convince Talk Talk to support its application at the company’s head office floor.

Beardsley says the practice chose the FSC oak timber because it wanted a dark finish. However, the company can produce a much lighter effect and other timbers in the Stabilo range include birch, maple, ash, beech, cherry, merbau and American walnut.

Each solid timber stick is 150mm long x 5mm wide and 23mm thick. The several hundred thousand sticks required for the floor arrived at the site from Germany in individual strips. They were then taped together in 300mm-long runs to allow easier laying onto a plywood substrate, which had been fixed to the top of the raised metal tiled floor. They were attached using an adhesive applied to the substrate.

Once all the blocks were in place, the floor was left to dry for approximately 48 hours before being sanded down. The resulting sawdust was then mixed with adhesive and used to fill any gaps before a final light sand and application of the sealant.

It took about three weeks to lay the floor with three further days spent on its finish — the length of time required for this probably its main disadvantage.

But a key advantage, as discovered by the client when there was a water leak in the kitchen area soon after it had been laid, is that sections can be easily cut out and replaced and subsequently sanded down and polished.

Wall Panels and Furniture

An additional attraction of the fumed oak parquet is that it can also be used to form wall and ceiling panels, a bar and three large seating/table units.

“We were keen to have a product that formed the floor, benches etc because we didn’t want to people to see a sea of chairs and tables as they came into the space,” says Beardsley.


Fumed oak parquet is used on wall and soffit panels in the lounge area.

Credit: Hufton & Crow

Fumed oak parquet is used on wall and soffit panels in the lounge area.


A Derby-based company called Key Joinery made the furniture elements off-site using 10mm x 10mm segments over a period of five weeks. The 24m-long bar arrived in three main segments, which were joined together on site. The installation of the wall claddings at the site took about two weeks.

The other white and black chairs that encircle the tables are a Revolt model designed by Friso Kramer in 1953 and now manufactured by Ahrend.

Original print headline - White Building, Talk Talk HQ

project team and suppliers

Designer Found Associates, Architect AHMM, Main contractorMorgan Lovell, Flooring and joinery claddingBembé, Bembé-clad joinery Key Joinery, Furniture suppliers Viaduct, Hitch Mylius, TwentyTwentyOne and Ahrend, Pendant lightsRetrouvious, Flooring Stabilo

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