Case Study

Oliver Wyman and CBRE – daring to design in a challenging space

International consultancy firm Oliver Wyman is not the average organisation; therefore, they would therefore not feel at home in an ordinary office. A challenging space in Atrium Amsterdam turned out to be the perfect match. Working in co-creation with CBRE's architects, the quirky consultants took the impossible – and turned it into an amazing place to come home to.

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  • 1,000 square metres 

  • 60 flexible workspaces 
    50 informal workspaces 

  • An office to come home to 

    With kitchen, bathroom and bedroom

A complex space in Zuidas

Atrium Amsterdam, founded in 1972, is one of the oldest buildings in the Zuidas. It has withstood the test of time thanks to a few renovations. Only the top floor of the main building had been vacant for a long time.
The top floor is situated directly under the glass roof, around an open space with a walking route along it. You can look down one floor if you lean over the railing from that vantage point. No workspaces were able to be placed in this ‘walking zone’ due to safety concerns. “That means you can’t use part of your square meterage”, said Vanessa Kranenburg, Market Development Manager at Oliver Wyman. “Many tenants get put off because of that, but when we saw the space, we all went ‘wow’!!”
Many tenants were put off this space, but when we saw it, we all went ‘wow!

Different than the rest

Oliver Wyman is hard to call average – just like the top floor of the old atrium. The international consultancy firm is relatively new to the Dutch consultancy market. There is a much more informal atmosphere within the company than you would expect from a corporate consultancy firm.
Oliver Wyman’s first office was located near the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. It had an almost homely atmosphere. “Our consultants work with clients from Monday to Thursday, then everyone comes to the office on Fridays only. We think that should feel like a ‘homecoming’, which is what the space was designed for. We all had lunch at one long table and a drink on the roof terrace when the weather was good.

An inevitable departure from a once-beloved home

The beloved office became too small as Oliver Wyman continued to grow. “At one point, there were consultants sitting at the lunch table bent over their laptops. And you couldn’t call or meet anyone without disturbing other colleagues because we rented one big open space. That became quite untenable after a while, so we started to look for a new place”.
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Moving to the top of the Atrium

That move to a new place became Atrium Amsterdam’s top floor, an office that Oliver Wyman had been keeping an eye on for a while. Kranenburg said: “It had been vacant for two years, so we were able to secure a great deal. It was a challenging space, as fantastic as it was. And we also gave an unusual brief for the interior”.

A home right outside the door

We saw the new office not so much as a workplace, but as a 'home away from home'. “As we said, our workplace functions more like a home base”, said Kranenburg. “We wanted to develop that idea further in the new building. For example, our wish list contained a large kitchen, where we could all cook and eat together, as well as a guest room including a bed and shower. Our consultants sometimes work abroad on weekdays and occasionally sleep on the plane. After a long journey, you want to be able to freshen up. The same goes if they have exercised”.
We found the creativity we were searching for at CBRE, and they also had experience working in a collaborative creative process

A co-creative design

Oliver Wyman wanted to have an influence on the design process. “We really envisioned a co-creation design process for us”, said Kranenburg. “We clearly knew what we wanted, and also realised that we didn't pose a standard question. We wanted to avoid a situation where the design agency worked on autopilot”.

CBRE has plenty of creativity

It was a challenging space, combined with divergent plans for furnishings as well as a highly critical customer. What design agency dared to try it out? “We received several responses to our request for a proposal, including one from CBRE” said Kranenburg. “We saw the creativity we were looking for in it, as well as the experience working in a collaborative creative process. Furthermore, CBRE had more to offer than simply interior design – they could also help us with contract negotiations and project management. That meant everything could be taken care of in one place, which was great for us”.
CBRE had more to offer than simply interior design–they could also help us with contract negotiations and project management. That meant everything could be taken care of under one roof, which was great for us

Co-creation means learning together

After making each other’s acquaintance and seeing the initial sketches, we began an intensive design process. “We kept each other on our toes”, said Kranenburg. “The designers occasionally came up with designs we felt were too conventional. So we discussed those, and learnt that everything in interior design is connected. One choice has a consequence on many other levels. That also means that not every idea you have can be feasible or realised practically. In the end, we managed to create a fantastic interior within a fairly tight schedule and within the space limitations and our budget”.

A consultancy firm, but different

Entering the Atrium’s top floor is kind of like entering a luxury boutique hotel – with workspaces and a large, open kitchen. The interior has been given a ‘biophilic’ design – natural materials, patterns and structures were used everywhere. Flexible meeting spaces were placed along the walking route so all available meterage can be utilised. That was ‘a very creative solution from the CBRE team’.
In the end, we managed to create a fantastic interior within a fairly tight schedule and within the space limitations and our budget

Team Amsterdam is trendsetter

The new office was officially opened on February 14, 2020–right before the corona crisis. “A few weeks later we were all at home”, said Kranenburg. “Despite that, I am certain that the office will be a success. I even think that our concept fits well in a post-pandemic context, in which you mainly go to the office to see colleagues and customers. Our entire interior revolves around encounters”.

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