It’s been nearly 50 years since Aberdeen Journals moved from Broad Street to the Lang Stracht and last month the company made the historic journey back to the city centre.
Now located on the fifth floor of the state-of-the-art 1 Marischal Square development, the new office is the perfect home for Society and the Evening Express.
Fiona Adam of Covell Matthews Architects was the project architect for the design of the top floor space. Giving readers a look behind-the-scenes of the firm’s new digs, she shares her favourite moments of the project and her thinking behind the creative office.
Fiona, who has worked for the company for 18-and-a-half years, specialises in commercial fit-outs and “loved the opportunity” to bring Aberdeen Journals back into the heart of the city.
“The brief was very detailed, but what was very refreshing was that the design team were so forward-thinking in how the space was to be used,” Fiona said.
“Collaboration was really important so the whole idea was to get the departments to mingle a little more and create a much more vibrant working environment.
“There are a lot of different breakout areas so we brought in elements of colour as the building isn’t just a nine to five.
“Although there’s white space, we really wanted to bring the walnut trim into the white desks and timber in the breakout areas to make it feel a bit more relaxed and feel like it was a home from home.
“All of the fabrics are 100% wool fabrics to make it feel a bit more plush and homely. The finishes are all very nice and if you spill anything on wool, it’s easily cleaned up.”
Taking the business back to its roots, history played a big part in the design of the space.
Fiona says: “There’s so much history associated with Aberdeen Journals and although it’s not immediately obvious, on the reception wall when you walk in there’s the old Broad Street frontage and Union Street is just beside it, too – but you have to step back and experience it, it’s not overly obvious, which we wanted.”
One area where history was the main focus was the library, which is now home to a number of artefacts the business has acquired over the years.
“It was all about going back to Broad Street and the history the Journals has,” Fiona says.
“The library space definitely incorporates that. There’s a huge connection to the past in there. We’ve got old architects’ drawings from 1947 of the old offices in Broad Street so we’ll potentially add them to the library space too as they are all hand-drawn. There are lots of amazing bits and pieces in it.”
Fiona and her team incorporated front pages from the Evening Express and The Press and Journal to create statement walls and also added pixelated art walls.
“Because it’s a printed medium, all the pixelated artwork sort of mimics the media design idea, especially with the huddle walls which have been lathered in front pages of the papers from over the years, again revealing the history of papers,” Fiona said.
“It’s pulling the north-east together and we’ve incorporated the pixelated graphics to be a sort of timeline throughout the building.
“We’ve also got a lot of local references like Willie Miller, oil rigs, loading newspapers on to planes, the blackout when there was no power and then the old front pages going back years and years. There’s blue graphics on some of the meeting rooms too which resemble the North Sea and its rigs.”
The blue throughout the office also nods to DC Thomson’s company colour, which has been absorbed by the Evening Express in its recent redesign.
She said: “All of the chairs boast the DC Thomson blue and Cara Munro from advertising was quite keen on incorporating some pink for her department so the chairs were pretty much selected by and for the teams. The other chairs are blue to co-ordinate with the company’s colours.
“There’s also a cream and blue carpet which is really cool – it’s got a pebbly design around the windows and it merges in the middle of the building. It resembles pebbles down at the beach. And there’s green carpet in other areas of the office that resemble grass – they highlight where all the breakout areas are for staff.”
As the gateway to the office and the first place guests are greeted, the reception area had to be welcoming, clean and creative.
“Reception is the first part of the experience for any visitor so it needed to look really good,” Fiona says.
“We worked with Sir Joinery in Balmedie for the wall piece, which was a lot of fun. The letters were all originals and we laid them all out and created words which were associated with Aberdeen Journals.
“I’ve also put the initials of the key people involved in the project up there subtly, too, but the rest is all just random. It’s a fun addition to the space.”
Linking DC Thomson’s head office in Dundee with Aberdeen was done so with the addition of bespoke made train carriages, which are used as meeting spaces.
She said: “The train carriages were really just for fun. It was a narrow leftover space we wanted to do something quirky with.
“We made it into smaller meeting areas and because there’s a lot of interaction with Dundee and many people go up and down on the train, it’s a wee nod to that really.”
Greenery was used to finish the office space off, helping to divide breakout areas and bring an additional pop of colour into the office.
“The addition of real plants and greenery has worked really well,” Fiona says.
“We’ve got tall plants to divide different spaces – like in the kitchen area to put a barrier between it and workspace. It creates a bit of privacy.
“The real showstopper has to be the views, though. From the west they are amazing as you can see the whole city, but the Marischal College view is spectacular. It’s very, very impressive and having the balcony to go and enjoy it is even better.”