The workplace of the British ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty in Shaghai feels like home. They've got a kitchen, a bathroom, a formal dining room, and a kids' room (complete with a laddered loft bed). It could almost pass for a quaint little cottage somewhere in the English countryside. There's just one hitch: The "cottage" looks like it was sawed clear in half.
The cottage, of course, isn't a cottage at all, but a clutch of meeting rooms inserted into a much larger space and done up to look like the interior of some fussy old biddy's home. Designed by the Singapore firm Asylum, the place is meant to evoke "the hurried state of development that is Shanghai." It's to be a "catalyst for social commentary."
We're not sure about the latter, but the former certainly rings true. As any one who's visited Shanghai will tell you, building — like protesting in France and napping in Spain — is the local pastime. To that end, the rest of the office feels like a construction site. Floors are left unfinished. Dividers and shelves are made out of wallboard. And pipes painted white turn the walls into 3-D works of art.
Ad firms are famous for filling their offices with pointlessly whimsical crap. See here, here and here (you'll have to scroll down a little). Bartle Bogle Hegarty Shanghai comes close, except that the office is done so well and the concept is so amusing. Think about it: The place is probably lousy with British expats, and when they come to work every day, exasperated by the jackhammers and maybe a little homesick, they get a snapshot of this charming little English house — ripped in two. If not social commentary, it's certainly a digger bucketful of dark comedy.