The making of: One Canada Square

Reimagining an iconic building is always a challenge – one that architectural firm dMFK relishes

‘It’s serious but welcoming, which is quite unusual,’ is how Joshua Scott, associate director at dMFK architects, describes One Canada Square, The Office Group’s latest London space.  

He’s proud to have realised this stunning co-working accommodation that sits across three floors of César Pelli’s iconic British skyscraper, and rightly so.  

One Canada Square, the UK’s second tallest building, is a bold 50-storey display of corporate confidence. Features are so imposing that one of the biggest hurdles when rethinking the 80,000 square feet inside was finding cohesion with the rest of the building without sacrificing the human scale co-working design needs.  

‘This was about trying to create something that sat comfortably within the environment. And that was quite challenging,’ says Scott.   

He points to continuity in the details as a way to meet this challenge. Solid fixtures, like those in the café or foyer, reflect the building’s huge main entrance – deep reds and greens mirrored in the floorings and trim. Alongside timber wall linings, these colours and materials demarcate areas, making navigation easier, and creating an overall look that’s warm mid-20th century Manhattan office sophistication.  

‘The stairway between the three floors was quite ambitious,’ Scott says of the beautiful centrepiece that transforms how people interact with the space, meaning they can move between floors without relying on the building’s busy main elevators. It’s an energising sight. ‘You enter at level eight and are drawn to activity above and below you. It’s quite unusual to arrive on the middle floor. The rest unfurls around you.’ 

Exploring One Canada Square’s co-working offering is essential to understand its breadth — from gym and lounges to study corners, conference and work rooms. The old layout, Scott says, was a confusing ‘racetrack of offices’ on the periphery, dark and dead space abound. The new plan makes people want to move through different areas so they always find an ideal space.  

The sense of space itself is significantly heightened. Main corridors now extend to windows, improving natural light to the centre and making London landmarks visible throughout. Ceilings have also been raised in a number of places. ‘You feel a lot more spread out than you do in other co-worked buildings,’ Scott says of the way unlocking big business dimensions has given different sections, and tenants, room to breathe.  

The end product visually bridges the gap between Canary Wharf’s institutions and the smaller enterprises looking for long-term or temporary bases in their proximity. The end result? A space that’s unique within its market. 

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt edits Design Exchange Magazine, and also contributes to Vice, Mixmag and the BBC

Find out more about One Canada Square here