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EXCLUSIVE How Wolverine UK redesigned its workspace

Author : David Strydom

02 April 2015

When Wolverine UK needed to ‘re-energise’ its reception area in a hurry, it turned to a small City-based workplace design consultancy. The full article will appear in the PFM June edition. Here are some excerpts:

Not far from King’s Cross Station, on 90 York Way, is King’s Place, a distinctive glass office building, home to The Guardian newspaper and Network Rail, among other corporate entities. The building, distinguished by ‘wavy’ glass runs along the west-facing York Way frontage; this three-layered glass façade is a free-standing transparent surface consisting of hundreds of marginally curved sheets of glass, designed to reduce heat gain from the afternoon sun.

King’s Place was designed by Dixon Jones in 2008 after the architects were given the brief for a large building of far higher quality than the normal spec development; the building was meant to be durable in terms of quality of build materials as well as design. In addition, it had to be ‘spatially generous and environmentally impeccable’, and fit into a local urban architecture which isn't uniform in scale.

Today, seven years after it opened, Kings Place provides music and visual arts venues on seven floors of office space.

On the 5th floor of the building is the UK headquarters of Wolverine World Wide, a US footwear manufacturer, known for its own brand of Wolverine Boots and Shoes, as well as its subsidiaries such as Hush Puppies and Merrell. The company, founded in 1883 by GA Krause as a utility company, also manufactures footwear for other firms such as Caterpillar, Harley-Davidson and Patagonia, as well as shoes and boots for the military.

In January 2014, Tahera Hammond, responsible for FM at Wolverine UK EMEA, decided to revamp the reception area, which she felt ‘lacked inspiration’. “We sell shoes, yet there was no evidence of any footwear as you walked into reception. It was bland, non-creative, we could have been doing anything – we could have been just any corporate organisation in any location. There were no bright colours, for instance, yet we’re all about brand colours.”

So she gave herself a deadline – she wanted to revamp the reception area to better reflect Wolverine’s ethos, and she wanted it to be ready by 10 March. Why then? “We had the executive committee coming over from the US for the Spring management meeting held at our HQ. In terms of management seeing our UK EMEA HQ, you don’t get more senior than that. That was the opportunity I’d been waiting for so we could shout about EMEA and show the parent company we’re different.”

Before she undertook the redesign, however, Hammond had to take several factors into consideration. “The timeframe was tight, there was only a certain amount of budget available, and I had to contend with a lack of clear direction from stakeholders,” she says. “I knew what I wanted to deliver but there was a stakeholder engagement piece that needed to be carried out.”

Wolverine UK EMEA has three brand groups, representing Performance, Heritage and Lifestyle. As Hammond explains, each group has ‘very different’ customers. “The MDs of each division are very different, so everyone battles for space. It’s a case of each one wanting more space arguing that ‘We’re more important than you’ or ‘We sell more shoes’ or ‘Our brands are bigger than yours’, that sort of healthy competitive jostling.”

Hammond had to ensure a balance was struck so all the different parties’ needs were satisfied, all while trying to create a corporate identity. “I had to find an umbrella message that incorporated our brands and consumer requirements.”

She clearly had her work cut out for her...

For the full article, read the June edition of PFM

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