Moving house: meet our new HQ

As we announced a year ago, we got ourselves a brand new office building in the Scheldestraat on the Antwerp Zuid. Today, those headquarters are a work in progress – but once the New Year’s Eve fireworks have fizzled out, it will have been totally transformed...

While our builders are hard at work and we’re all waiting to see the final result, we thought it would be nice to share some of the process with you.

There were a number of things we wanted in our new HQ. A non-exhaustive list:

  • a more mature style that reflects our personality
  • a better floor plan, with more meeting rooms
  • an improved kitchen and dining area
  • comfort: more light, more green, some outside space
  • better air circulation system and temperature control
  • no more suffering from malfunctioning elevators ;)
  • better mobility and accessibility for clients and ourselves

We’re happy to say that we’ll be delivering on all the above! Want to know how we got there?

A product (un)like the others

Designing our new office was actually quite similar to what we do here every day: defining the purpose (strategy), envisioning the blueprint (UX), designing all areas and elements (UI), building it (development) and making sure we meet the deadline and stick to the budget (PM)!

As we plan to stay in this building for quite a while, we paid a lot of attention to its purpose and to making sure it’s as future-proof as possible. Of course, we did this with respect for both the practicalities of an 80-head company and for that feel-at-home atmosphere we want to offer our team members.

Every single journey was mapped to make sure the office circulation was optimised exactly as we had in mind.

Because of the scale of this endeavour, we also split our entire office project into smaller releases (sound familiar?). For the ‘January version’ we focussed on being able to continue our work after our short Christmas break, in a more pleasant environment.

The blueprint: who & what goes where

With all of our journeys in mind, we divided the building into main areas. The ground level is for meeting, eating & relaxing; and then (as you’d expect in any home) the first floor is where the magic happens!

The ground floor exists out of three main areas: the lobby, our meeting area and the dining area. These spaces are framed from the outside by our impressive front yard, leading into the lobby and creating some distance from the street, and by a private and completely enclosed yard at the back of the building.

The breathing heart of the new office is the central lobby: all glass and big enough to fit an entire tree (which it will). When you visit us, this is where you’ll enter, take a seat, and have a delicious coffee (yes, the beans will be locally roasted). You’ll also likely run into our own team members, because this is the only coffee corner in the building. We like to keep our step counts up ;)

Moving through to the meeting area, you’ll be taken to one of our four dedicated meeting rooms for client meetings, each named and styled after one of November Five’s previous HQs.

Our dining area boasts two kitchens (one for the daily meals made by our beloved Auntie Hilde, and one for our in-house foodies). The “cafeteria” looks nothing like one: we chose to subtly divided it into different smaller spaces, giving it a bit more intimacy. We also created room for our Post-It-free standups here.

Going up, you’ll be surrounded by our busy bees: this is where the hard work happens. We took the opportunity to think about a better distribution and seating chart for our different team members. Team Strategy Design will share the west wing with our Experience Designers, while all developers and the Project Managers sit together in the east wing.

We also created more meeting rooms and half-open areas upstairs, to be used for all internal meetings (or for hiding away and going into focus mode for a little while).

Finally, the East wing is home to our hardware lab, and to our portfolio companies Spencer, Gorilla and Appmiral (we wouldn’t move without them).

One more thing: the auditorium

Our architects surprised us with the idea, and we surprised our team members in turn – we’re constructing a brand new space inside the office.

Our “floating” auditorium will be a new level between the ground floor and the first floor, just above the lobby in the beating heart of our new office. A construction in black steel grids, it will wrap around the elevator shaft to give it a floating effect. The grid material makes it seem more “transparent” so as not to lose the effect of the lobby’s high ceiling.

It will be the perfect environment for our tried-and-true High Five knowledge sharing assemblies, but with its capacity of 100 people and the new, giant laser beamer, we can also branch out into other events.

Farewell to plywood: defining our style

As we mapped the structure of our office, we of course didn’t forget about its looks.

We decided from the start that we wanted to give this office a bold, consistent look. Something a little less startup-y and a little more mature – but of course, never boring… We wanted to reach a style that was understated, modern and clean, but still warm and welcoming. We also wanted to make full use of the building’s architectural style and the copious amounts of natural light it lets in!

We defined a number of colours, materials and design elements that would be the common theme throughout the entire office.

We took our inspiration from the building itself to create a strong story. Wooden beams, like the ones covering the windows on the first floor, will be used as area dividers in the lobby and dining area. The main stairway and the auditorium will be made out of black powder-coated metal grids, as a stylistic wink to the ones used on the outside. And we will embrace the existing elements in exposed brick: these are the parts of the original Vismijn that were preserved.

We’ll also incorporate a lot of concrete, combined with a sleek black and white colour scheme. This will work together with elements in a darker wood (smoked eucalyptus – no more startup-favoured plywood ;) )

And finally: a small jungle of plants! These will bring the outside in and add some warmth and a natural element to our industrial style. And of course, most of them are NASA-approved and have been selected for their air purification skills. The biggest piece of nature, however, will adorn our lobby, where a 7-meter tall tree will rise to the ceiling…

Easy to get to, amazing to be in: our new neighbourhood

With all that said, we also want to look outside of our own office walls. Not only will our own HQ be amazing – so is our new location, right in the centre of the Antwerp South.

Firstly, we’re happy to say that our new location solves one of the few downsides of residing right in the old city center: easy accessibility and parking space for clients who need to visit us by car. Unlike our current HQ, our new building has an underground garage with room for 40 cars, with an elevator leading right up to the lobby. It’s also closer to the edge of the city, which makes it easier to get to in the first place.

But more than any practical aspect, we’re extremely pleased with our new surroundings! Het Zuid, as it’s called, is already a great neighbourhood, filled with excellent bars, restaurants, and beautiful architecture. And in the following months, things will get even better. The part of the Scheldekaaien closest to us is getting a serious facelift, as are the Gedempte Zuiderdokken. The goal of these ambitious construction works is to improve the flood wall, and to reconnect the city center to the riverside in one go.

This means that by early 2019, our location will have even more perks. The new flood wall for the Scheldt will take the shape of a green hill, which means we’ll find ourselves right next to a park and recreation zone with lots of green, a dog park, a new square, a “city beach”, sporting areas, and more!

Pretty cool, right?

We’ll soon be faced with the tough choice between having our summer pintjes in our own private backyard, or drinking them in the park next door ;)