Dezeen Magazine

Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture

Cake Architecture creates London office space spread across two contrasting floors

Cake Architecture has designed a workspace for London agency Ask Us For Ideas using materials and forms that are in "complimentary contrast" with each other.

Split across the ground floor and basement of a building in London's Soho, the office offers a new home to Ask Us For Ideas (AUFI) – a consultancy founded in 2010 to connect brands with creative studios.

Exterior of office space in New Cross, London with roughly textured walls and black cladding
The Ask Us For Ideas office occupies a basement (top image) and ground floor (above) in Soho, London

The interior consists of a crisp white street-facing gallery and office space on the ground floor, as well as a "speak-easy style" subterranean space with a meeting, lounge and bar area used for collaborative co-working.

"We're a business that centres around making connections," AUFI founder Nick Bell told Dezeen.

"The brief, in essence, was to create a space that was a physical manifestation of the role we play within the creative industry – a space for connection, somewhere that above being a beautiful place to work was a place that brought people together."

Crisp white office and gallery space with long meeting table
A white gallery and office space are housed on the ground floor

On a practical level, the brief called for office space for the company's ten staff members alongside a street-facing gallery and concept store space for various events, plus enough room to host clients and agencies.

In response, London-based Cake Architecture set out to create a place that "feels somewhere between the home and the office", using a mixture of materials and textures to divide up the large open-plan areas into multiple zones.

Grey carpet-lined walls in office space by Cake Architecture with white walls and off-white chairs
A grey carpet runs up the walls of the work area

"There were a couple of references and key drivers pushing the concept for this project forward," said Cake Architecture.

"Firstly the AUFI website itself. It has this layered, multi-dimensional aesthetic and we thought it could be really interesting to try and translate this into 3D physical space," the practice added.

"We started thinking about this layered approach to space-making, removing all internal partitions, maximising light, space, air and experimenting with layers of material, texture, colour and form as a kind of 3D collage."

White office space with glass interior walls and grey carpet-lined counter
The same carpet coats a central volume that conceals the staircase

Solid partitions were removed and a spiral stair was inserted into the centre of the plan, unlocking the basement for use and further rationalising the layout and flow around the office.

The two separate floors also provided an opportunity to create two very different moods and atmospheres.

Metal spiral staircase leading to basement in office by Cake Architecture
A spiral staircase runs between the two levels

"For us, this project was an attempt at realising a holistic quality of space with materials and forms that are in complimentary contrast with one another," explained Cake Architecture.

"In this sense, the consistent theme is really an exercise in playing with contrast."

The crisp white gallery and office space on the ground floor features mesh panelled walls for mounting and displaying work.

A silver-grey carpet applied to the walls and floors takes visitors through to the main office area at the back of the room.

Custom steel-framed desks topped with Marmoleum-lined birch plywood provide workspace for the permanent members of staff.

Black table and stools in office basement with dark walls and yellow curtain
Darker walls and furnishing create a different atmosphere downstairs

In the centre of the room, a large monolith clad in the same silver-grey carpet conceals a spiral staircase made of galvanised steel that draws guests downstairs.

Cake Architecture worked with interior designer Max Radford, who consulted on the project and steered the furniture selections including Robin Day's injection-moulded Polyside chair from 1963 and upholstered swivel Howe 40/4 chairs.

Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture
A long table provides space for collaborative work sessions

The materials and colours used downstairs in the co-working space are warmer and calmer than those used upstairs, with the walls and ceilings finished in a dark brown limewash render.

Dark hardwood flooring contrasts with areas of soft and shaggy carpet while mesh screens and a neon-yellow mesh curtain provide further subdivision.

A bespoke aluminium and glass table takes centre stage in the meeting room and a long table stretching through the middle of the basement is used for collaborative work sessions. A selection of mid-century armchairs provides space for quieter moments.

Office basement with textured white walls, black ceiling, and dark floor by Cake Architecture
The dimly lit meeting room features an aluminium and glass table

A stainless steel kitchen and bar with a raised floor area serve as a platform for socialising before, during and after work.

Furniture pieces include green Alky lounge chairs by Artifort from the 1970s, Handkerchief chairs by Massimo Vignelli and Howe 40/4 side chairs.

Green chairs in yellow-lit black office lounge area by Cake Architecture
Green Alky chairs by Artifort feature in the lounge area

Los Angeles design studio Spiritual Objects was commissioned to create a series of unexpected interventions for the space such as a hand-painted bouquet of flowers on the gallery window and a tulip-shaped door handle powder coated in fluorescent yellow.

"The Tulip Pull door handle is an amazing illustration of the power and impact a beautifully made object can have on a space," explained Bell.

"It marks the threshold of the building and is the first thing you physically come into contact with. I believe these moments consciously and subconsciously impact people massively, setting a tone for their experience as they continue through the building."

Exterior of yellow tulip-shaped door handle of the Ask Us For Ideas office
Spiritual Objects created a tulip-shaped pull handle for the office's main door

Previously, Cake Architecture has collaborated with Max Radford on a subterranean cocktail bar in London's Soho that uses colours borrowed from Indian artworks.

The photography is by Felix Speller and the styling by Tamsyn Mystkowski.

More images and plans

Axonometric drawing
Axonometric drawing
Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture
Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture
Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture
Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture
Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture
Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture
Ask Us For Ideas office by Cake Architecture