Hailo at Somerset House, London, 2014

SAM Architects were appointed by Hailo, a quickly growing mobile app start up to design their new head office in London in July 2013. Hailo had rented a large part of the third floor in the “New Wing” of Somerset House and while the basic Cat A fit out was carried out by Somerset house, SAM Architects were asked to develop an interior design scheme tailored to Hailo’s ambitions and requirements.

Hailo sought to create a unique working environment with the intention to make it a welcoming space that creates a strong local identity for the company, a place that employees can engage with, and a place that can serve as the home base of a globally expanding brand.

Rather than creating a working environment with a corporate identity we saw Hailo as a company which engages with the local context and absorbs the dynamics and the character of the individual city.

Hailo’s new home in Somerset House offered a unique historic setting in central London and while respecting the existing, it was intended to add a sense of the contemporary London, as a hub for style, culture and art, by the reinterpretation of daily objects to be found in London streetscapes and by the collaboration with local artists and the use of locally sourced furniture.

Thinking about the ideal working environment of today we saw the opportunity to implement a versatile and nearly domestic office environment in an historic space, offering an extended programme which is not necessarily essential for a working environment but contributes to a social culture in a positive way by adding highlights in strategic positions and creating situations one could encounter at home.

The typical floor plate in Somerset House consist of a long corridor which acts as the main circulation space with a series of black solid doors leading to the office spaces behind. This left the office spaces, different from an open plan arrangement, disconnected.

In order to enhance the communication and the movement across the floor plate the corridor became the central space by the insertion of 5 purpose built black painted plywood arches, picking up on the existing openings, which are carefully positioned in in accordance with interesting local features within the corridor such as light wells, stairwells and roof lanterns. The arches were designed as small informal break out spaces as an addition to the formal meeting rooms.

These small spaces were fitted out by Hannah Stanton, a London based designer, who designed and sourced the furniture and lighting for the individually themed arches. They sit alongside works of Vic Lee, who created 6 murals of varying sizes picking up on themes around travel, cabs, London and freedom, and Claire Brewster, who cuts out birds from historical maps complementing the installation.