By 2010, the London-based creative agency AnalogFolk, a digital startup launched in 2008 by Brit Matt Dyke and American Bill Brock, had expanded within its original space in East London past the threshold of comfort – close to 40 people were working in a space meant for 30. “We wanted to make an investment in the environment, so that people are able to think more laterally” says Brock. “We also wanted a place where clients would want to spend time with us.”
They found the perfect spot in central London’s Shoreditch – “completely a blank canvas,” says Brock of the 10,000-foot interior – and tapped architect Dara Huang’s Design Haus Liberty to turn it into the airy, inviting, industrial-meets-farmhouse workspace that is AF’s headquarters today. “Dara was at the very beginning of her journey” says Brock. “And on top of that, her style is not conventional.” Which is, let’s just say, an understatement.
Design Haus Liberty’s assignment was, in the words of Dyke, “to avoid the cold, stark, futuristic feel of many other technology-based digital agencies and try to do something that was a bit more tangible, human, and soft.” That is just what Huang pulled off with the artful use of reclaimed “found” objects that both harken back to the predigital age and play on AF’s mission to use digital technology to make the analog world a better place.
Design Haus Liberty created a mezzanine, a minimalist black staircase that matched the interior’s existing black columns, and outfitted the facade with glazed glass to let in a flood of light. A strategically placed oriental rug with a giant leather trunk cum coffee table in the middle, flanked by tufted Chesterfield sofas, make for an instant living room on the first floor that signals relaxation. Vintage iron scaffolding that acts as a library sports a throwback AnalogFolk logo – a design that is found in every one of AF’s satellite offices – and conceals three integrated telephone booths for conference call use.
Within the stark white, futuristic boardroom, with a silver domed wall at one end and hidden-source uplighting on the other walls, sits a massive table made of French barn doors. Recycled glass bottles become, with the help of digital scripting applications, a dazzling, swooping sculptural installation above the reception desk that evokes a school of fish and is fittingly called Flying Nemo; it symbolizes the company’s ethos of synergy and collaboration.
Huang’s background in sculpture is also evident in her lighting choices. One installation, above a small meeting area, is made of recycled jam jars, each hanging at a different level by a cord that is pinned to the ceiling and connects with the others in a radiating pattern, drawing attention to a usually unappreciated wall. “When designing AnalogFolk, our aim was to create thought-provoking designs in every section – like a collection of moments,” Huang told us. “These rooms were often themed, depending on their use. For example, we had a think-tank room where we used an old water tank and unrolled it into a table. We also had jam jars filled with iron mantra hands of thought and keys of knowledge. We wanted every space that people entered to be an unexpected experience that would make them curious and want to know more.”
AnalogFolk. 20 Rosebery Avenue. London EC1R 4SX, U.K.