Fjord

Design at work!

We don’t see ourselves as a run-of-the-mill architectural firm. Our Fjord case study shows exactly what makes our working methodology so unique.

Photos: Debora Mittelstaedt
Why Fjord wanted to have an office that isn’t one. An audio interview with Michel Tofahrn, Service Design Lead, Fjord
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Breathing new life into digital innovations to improve the relationship between people and their environment: that’s the task the Fjord agency sets itself every day! In 20 different locations around the world, the Accenture subsidiary’s team develops innovative digital services and concepts for its clients. Fjord approached us as a result of their incredibly fast growth and the desire for an office design that not only reflects their identity but is also conducive to their development. Our first step was to carry out an exact analysis of their working processes. A holistic perspective is paramount to us – and that means understanding the processes that go on behind the scenes, which we try to understand anew with each project. In preliminary workshops we examined the issues Fjord was facing, as well as their wishes and ideas, before going on to develop the next steps. The result is an office that doesn’t offer a template solution, but instead creates an architectonic framework – for added flexibility and creativity.

3 × 3

The most important themes for the Fjord office design

Flexibility

How can you create mobility in the workplace?

The teams working together at Fjord can change on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. Every project requires a different configuration. This means that not only do the employees and their approach need to be flexible, but also the architecture and the furniture.

Space for ideas

How do you turn visions into a reality?

Fjord wanted to maximize the amount of open space for their staff. They wanted the office to be like a blank white canvas on which ideas, concepts and visions can be quickly noted, but just as easily wiped away again.

Food

How do you get all members of staff to sit down together at one table?

At Fjord, working hard and eating nutritious food together both play a large role in company culture and fostering a sense of community. Therefore a kitchen was needed that could also function as a place for company meals, casual meetings and everyday office work.

The reason we needed a new office was simply because we were running out of space. And we also wanted a larger playing field for our work.
Andrew Beckley, Principal Director, EALA Design Strategy, Fjord

Boom and castors

Guaranteeing flexibility

3​,20 metres! That’s the radius of the crane we developed as part of our design work for Fjord’s Berlin headquarters. Like a shower, the power and network cables come down from the ceiling and, thanks to the manually operated swivel mechanism, they ensure unrivalled flexibility in terms of the utilization of the space. Power to the people!

The crane’s boom is secured by a tension wire that is stretched over the flange.
With a diameter of 40 millimeters, the stainless steel pipe is perfect for holding up to eight cables.
The narrow flange made of galvanized steel is used as a hanging fixture while also serving as a bracket for the tension wire.
The boom can be moved with the welded, leather-sheathed handle, made of solid steel.

Tables and chairs are integrated into the casual concept: they are all mounted on castors and, together with the computers and cables, can be individually arranged for different sized groups, in order to suit each stage of a process.

Flexibility was a decisive aspect. We work  in groups – and the configuration of these groups often changes. So it’s important that our furniture can effortlessly adapt to these changes.
Andrew Beckley, Principal Director, EALA Design Strategy, Fjord

Whiteboards

Collecting ideas: everywhere and without limitations

Fjord was looking for a solution to improve its teamwork and quickly exchange ideas. With the extensive use of whiteboards on almost all the new office space’s walls we could provide exactly that. The new whiteboards make things like loose pieces of paper, overfilled cupboards and wastepaper baskets a thing of the past and are therefore the perfect counterpart to the digital playground in which the Fjordians spend the majority of their time. And they also offer a pleasant change from sitting in front of a screen. At Fjord we installed 185 m² of whiteboards, which is the equivalent of about 45 table tennis tabletops. And every centimeter gets used!

Ideas within the space

Whiteboards have one characteristic that makes them stand out from all the other office tools: they make the ideas, thoughts and visions in our working world visible.

Full-on teamwork

Whiteboards are usually mounted on walls, are always present and provide everyone with a perfect overview in meetings and group situations.

Paperless offices

Whiteboards mean no paper, no document files and no storage space and are a radical way of emptying our offices. And not only creating physical space but also space in our brains for new ideas.

We are always on the lookout for the one and only, ultimate solution. It has to be the single best idea out there!
Martin Jacobs, CEO Kinzo

The kitchen

A room for cooking up ideas

The kitchen traditionally plays an important role at Fjord. Ever since the early days, the agency has attached great importance to a group breakfast and lunch once a week. But the space is much more than that: it is a meeting place for staff and the setting for important meetings and workshops. A place of communication. With a single table measuring nine meters long, we have given the kitchen a central and single element that is incredibly versatile in its function. 40 employees can sit here to eat as well as work together. That’s ensured by the table’s smooth surface. And those who aren’t in the mood to work or eat can go and read a book in the library next to the cooking and dining area.

Meetings

Meetings can take place anywhere at Fjord. In addition to the regular workspaces, other places that can be used for meetings and the exchange of ideas are the wooden boxes, which are soundproofed from the inside and are affectionately referred to as “factories” by the staff, as well as an empty space called the ashram and the kitchen, which also acts as the library.

Library

There is a reason why the in-house library was merged with the kitchen-dining area: we wanted to remove the classical division between the room functions and thereby eliminate barriers that stand in the way of communication.

Community

A lot of cooking goes on here. The employees tend to usually cook dishes from their native countries so the food they make represents not only a culinary journey, but also a very personal one. And once a month an older local man, who has been christened by the team as the “office grandpa”, comes around to cook traditional hearty fare for the team and chats about the neighborhood and its history. The kitchen is a place for people to come together. And that sense of community goes far beyond the office walls.

Wie es sich bei Fjord anhört? Audioimpression der Küche zur Mittagszeit.
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Kinzo and kitchens

An interview with Karim El-Ishmawi on the role of cooking and dining areas in offices.

In the modern office world, the office kitchen plays a much greater role than it did just a few years ago. Although not much has changed from a purely aesthetic view, its significance has most certainly been adapted to accommodate new social needs.

How important is a sense of wellbeing in the workplace?

It’s a much bigger topic than it was twenty years ago. The main reason is the increased blurring of boundaries between our professional and private lives, as well as the growing awareness that there has to be a choice. You only have one life so your workspace should be a place you enjoy spending your time.

How does that affect the kitchen in our workplaces?

A day at the office basically works along the same lines as a shared flat party: you mingle to dance, drink and kiss – before returning to the kitchen to chat and get more food and drinks. That’s why most people can be found convening in the kitchen at parties! This factor is being increasingly reflected in the design and architecture of modern working environments. It’s a multifunctional place, which, like no other in the office, represents communication.

What is your approach when you design an office kitchen?

By nature, humans are very lazy and don’t want to move unless they have to. So you have to motivate them to get out of their chair when they’re at work. The kitchen, if you help it along a little, possesses an enormous magnetic force and can bring staff together. That’s exactly why the kitchen always plays such a central role in our planning.

What relevance can the kitchen have for companies?

An identity is generated here, which – independent of the brand itself – defines the company culture and the nature of its community. What is interesting is the way these kinds of individually developed spaces and the relatively standardized working environments are linked. Our aim is always to create a strategic network where the working processes can best be implemented – and in a designed space.

The kitchen is the heart of our office. Like a good home where the dinner table is the place you love to hang out the most.
Sandra Fieber, Marketing & Program Management Lead, Fjord

The result

Out of office – Plenty of space for Fjord

Chaos is part of the working culture and the thought processes at Fjord. This is something we realized quite quickly and therefore didn’t want to restrict the agency with an architectonic corset. Instead we created a flexible structure that offers the staff exactly the design freedom they need for their daily work.

What has changed? Our clients are no longer taken aback when they enter, but they are certainly fascinated. We had to limit access to the office because nobody wanted to leave!
Andrew Beckley, Principal Director, EALA Design Strategy, Fjord