Based in Sunnyvale, California, the epicentre of technological innovation, Intuitive Surgical (ISI) is a global leader in robotic-assisted surgical equipment to enable less invasive surgical procedures. Since the launch of the company’s da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system in 1995, Intuitive has been a pioneer in minimally invasive surgical platforms and future diagnostic tools. Here, Stantec UK’s Interiors Lead, Velimira Drummer, talks us through the design of its Oxford premises.
The success of Intuitive’s technology and its ambitions for future innovations have led to rapid growth in its global network of offices and training/demo facilities. Each of these needs to provide a comfortable and productive workplace for employees, alongside a user-oriented training and demo suite for visitors.
The challenge for Stantec – the UK architect tasked with designing Intuitive’s new base in Oxford – was to replicate the corporate brand and office/training centre template while delivering a facility that reflects UK working practices and workplace cultures, along with the character of the existing office building.
The new Intuitive facility in Oxford comprises a 680m2 floorplate within an existing contemporary office building at the prestigious Oxford Science Park. The space needed to provide a training/demo area for five pieces of robotic equipment, along with an office area containing open-plan workspaces, meeting rooms and a front of house area.
Intuitive was keen to ensure the work environment reflects the corporate brand while leveraging the unique character of the location.
Fanny Kosynsky from Intuitive explains: “As we expand in Europe, we want to ensure that there is a sense of cohesion across all our locations that gives our global teams a sense of pride in the brand and a feeling of being part of a bigger picture.
“It’s also important that the work environment is representative of local working practices and cultures, however, and replicates a cohesive team space in each location. In Oxford, therefore, more formal brand and practical requirements needed to be balanced with opportunities for social interaction and collaborative working.”
The design process was collaborative from the outset and Stantec UK’s Interiors Lead, Velimira Drummer, worked closely with the team from Intuitive’s European HQ in Switzerland, and the management team in Oxford, to understand both the practical requirements and the location-specific preferences for the interior design.
Velimira explains: “We had standardised templates from the US guidelines for the sizes of the workstations and rooms only. Based on that, we developed a very practical layout, with the front of house area leading to a central circulation space. For the space planning, I was inspired by the Chinese yin/yang principle of dualism, recognising the dual functions of the same facility; with office spaces to one side and the training/demo suite area on the other. An open waiting area and a large conference room form a pivot point in the centre. This delivers a very ‘intuitive’ approach to directing visitors straight to the training and demo suite or the conference room without having to pass through the offices. This layout draws on a synergy of interior space requirements recognisable in any Intuitive Surgical location. Still, its organisation and interconnected circular flow of spaces are innovative and unique to the Oxford facility.
“We could see an opportunity to utilise the space between the offices and training suite as much more than a thoroughfare by creating a heart space that both articulates the collaborative nature of the company and brings together the colour palette, materiality and branding used across the interior scheme.”
A further collaboration area is located in the open-plan office, which is visible from the central heart space thanks to its dropped ceiling feature. It consists of an informal kitchen and a social table with bistro-style seating, enhanced with timber accents to soften the grey, blue and white colour palette. This provides a space for collaboration and hot-desking. Feature lighting completes the impression of stepping outside of the normal work environment, without leaving the office.
The front of house area provides an opportunity to set the tone for the whole interior and establish a clear brand presence. In addition to the branded reception desk, in corporate blue and white, this waiting area features a central branding wall, which immediately catches the eye, and A/V displays that showcase the company’s products and vision. The futuristic shape of the front desk and blue feature lighting are balanced by soft grey from the corporate palette in the sofa and the carpet.
The branding continues throughout the facility with digital screens and artwork showing Intuitive’s products in use. This also creates carefully placed focal points to help navigate through the facility, complementing a range of wayfinding cues, including dropped ceilings and feature lighting, which clearly differentiate different work, visitor and social locations.
“Permeability and the creation of a procession of spaces is the key aspect of the space planning,” Velimira continues. “Simplicity and artwork have been brought together on a neutral palette of materials and colours on the floors and walls, and glazed partitions provide a feeling of openness and a visual connection between formal, informal and visitor spaces.
“The result is an elegant environment that answers Intuitive’s vision for the corporate workplace and articulates effective collaboration amongst colleagues and between the company and medical practitioners.”
The interior design requirements for the demo and training areas were quite specific due to the operational needs of the equipment. Still, in the office areas, there was more scope to tailor the environment to the preferences of the local team.
Fanny continues: “There is no mention of biophilia within the US guidelines, but our aim in Europe is to find locations on science parks, and it makes sense to bring a feeling of the natural world into the office environment. Stantec’s design maximised natural light and connection to the outdoors, using timber and carpet motifs inspired by nature, and creating a feeling of openness that ensures both staff and visitors can see the people and the technology behind our success throughout the office.”
The design of the workstations, which are more open than those found at the company’s US offices, continues this theme of visibility and connection between the different areas of the office and the open aspect to the outdoors.
Velimira adds: “The finished Oxford office is a European interpretation of Intuitive’s US corporate interior. It combines familiar elements with a holistic approach to enabling individuals to work and interact in a way that suits them. We are now working on the design for Intuitive’s Bordeaux office, which will evolve the design again, based on the same principles of tailoring an established corporate design to the uniqueness of the location.”