Minimalist and mobile office design
Metropolitan Republic’s De Waterkant office elegantly throws the notion of creative agencies as bold places out of its double-volume windows.
Minimalist Office: Filling in the Blanks
On first appearances, the Cape Town HQ of Metropolitan Republic in De Waterkant – one of six agencies in the integrated communication group – is minimalist and somewhat sparse. However scratch a little deeper, beyond the generous volumes of space and whitewashed walls, and you discover a highly conceptual 550m2 work hub in which attention to detail and spatial utilisation have been expertly considered. Cape Town MD Josie Fisher and creative director Mike Beukes fill in the blanks…
Why De Waterkant?
Josie: Knowing that Woodstock is the new frontier in ad-land, we identified De Waterkant as the place for Metropolitan Republic to be. So there we were, one hot summer’s day, pounding the streets with an agent, viewing one typical office after the next. Then one of us looked up, and said: ‘What about that space? Love the rafters.’ We walked in, found the delightful Daniel Meyer of Private Collection [furniture retailer] who just happened to be looking for a tenant for his showroom, and here we are, an agency full of happy Cape Town citizens with jealous Jozi colleagues.’
Mike: ‘It was a blank canvas for us to create exactly what we wanted in the space. We’re not big fans of offices and demarcated work nodes, so to be able to have volumes of space that we could use in any way we wanted, as well as keep completely open, was hugely appealing. We also loved the sense of history and age that it has [before Private Collection it was a panelbeater’s workshop for many years]. This isn’t a modern new build – there’s an industrial rawness and age to it, but one that also allowed us to quickly update and shape it, while still being able to keep the provenance of the building intact.’
‘There’s a vibrancy to De Waterkant – there is always something happening here. The piazzas of the Cape Quarter are amazing for meetings and, lest we forget, the Spar to end all Spars is within three minutes’ walk’– Mike Beukes
Putting the Creative Space Together
Josie: ‘We had the vision, the raw energy of a start-up venture, and a few good people to make it happen. Paul Warner, founder and heartbeat of the agency, was the inspiration, and Alison Preyer, architect and project manager, made it happen. Weeks before moving in, we sat here and felt the empty space. As Paul spoke, his vision materialised on Alison’s screen, and then started happening around us. We then painted the walls and ceilings, sanded the rafters, acid washed the floor, installed castle doors, built boardrooms, phone booths, kitchen, server room, storeroom, bathrooms (and a unisex shower for cyclists, runners and gym-goers). Then we built the furniture and a few screens, all on castors for constant reconfiguration of teams around projects. Finally, our IT man put in the most incredible system to connect us seamlessly to our boardrooms in Jozi and Kampala, and to project massive imagery onto the walls of the agency.’
Mobile Office Design
Mike: ‘Most items in the agency are on wheels, even the desks, so that at any given time we can reshape the space in minutes around projects, events, teams or anything else we need to do. Our intention is also to keep on refreshing the space: as an agency, we pride ourselves on being highly flexible and we are advocates of crosspollination. We love to put a mix of interesting brains around a table to work on a problem from many perspectives, rather than working in traditional agency processes and structures.
Our modus operandi is based on the best team for a job, rather than geographic location. We have teams in Joburg working on Cape Town briefs and mixed Cape Town and Joburg teams working on Ugandan briefs, for instance. With this flexible way of working, we’ve kept every person in the agency completely mobile – they have a laptop and a desk of drawers that can be moved as they do. So people move around based on the project they’re working on and who needs to be around the table at any given time. We also rent a house one block away for teams coming from other cities to stay in while they work within our space.
‘Since the initial burst of building and design, we have worked iteratively on the premises, pulling in various design collaborators to help us continue to shape the space. It’s always been important to us to keep things local and support the growing number of creative entrepreneurs within Cape Town, many of whom are South Africa’s finest talents. We’ve forged a close working relationship with Jesse James, who created the iconic M desk. Renier and Lia Zandberg have brought strong conceptual thinking for future plans, as has our own Keisha Milsom. As we grow, we’ll create new partnerships – not only to improve our working environment but to showcase pieces for the agency.’
Local Eateries. Lovely Lunches.
Josie: ‘I usually head for Le Petite Tarte or Loading Bay with its amazing concoctions of red, green, orange or gold freshly squeezed juices.’
Mike: ‘I’m virtually powerless against the hoisin meatball sandwich from Origin Coffee Roasters and the Loading Bay’s burger with truffle chips gets me back there very regularly, and of course Friday lunch wouldn’t be Friday lunch if we didn’t have it at Vascos with some tequilas!’
- Metropolitan Republic: metropolitanrepublic.com
- Le Petite Tarte: 76 Waterkant Street; 021 425 9077
- Loading Bay: 30 Hudson Street; 021 425 6320; loadingbay.co.za
- Origin Coffee Roasters: 28 Hudson Street; 021 421 1000; originroasting.co.za
- Vascos: 3 Alfred Street; Green Point; 021 425 2157
Words: Genevieve Putter
Photographs: David Ross