The French arm of ad giant JWT tapped quirky fellow countryman Mathieu Lehanneur to design its offices recently. The result: a cool little bunker of a place that looks like a cross between a golf course and a set from Dr. No. And we thought WikiLeaks had the market cornered on this sort of thing.
The open-plan office is pure theatrics, which is about what you'd expect from a guy who has turned houseplants into air purifiers and urns into demographic charts. It's got meeting rooms made out of paper pulp that resemble caves (this, apparently, is meant to symbolize the death of paper in the digital age) and a giant black blob of a coffee bar that could pass for something pulled out of the Le Brea tar pits. Strips of green carpet weave astroturfy pathways throughout the space. Brush against plants cascading from the lobby's ceiling, and music starts blaring, its playlist pre-set by JWT staff.
Ad agencies love offices that go straight for the zany; it's how they announce to the world, "We're creative!" Here, Lehanneur's concept doesn't disappoint.
But it also solves some common open workplace-design problems. The cave-like meeting rooms create private nooks in what would otherwise feel like a fishbowl. And the black blob is a modern take on the water cooler — a place for employees to congregate and something that is itself a topic of discussion. As for the symbolism of an ad office that bears such an uncanny resemblance to a Bond villain's hideaway: Take that as you will.