lighting design

The Empty Space That Changed Pace

Good work is when you transform a white corridor into a space for others to have their own lightbulb moments.

Michael Grubb Studio was invited to create a light installation at Amazon UK Headquarters. The 600,000 sq ft building, known as Principal Place on the border of Shoreditch, London, can accommodate over 5,000 Amazon employees.

Amazon’s constant strive for innovation is not just driven by its external brand and internal culture, their work environment is also vital to its success.

Our focus was the seventh floor and the area dedicated to Amazon’s internal creative team XCM (Cross Channel Marketing).


The Vision

Tony Ennis, Senior Art Director EU, Amazon

Tony Ennis, Senior Art Director EU, for Amazon had the vision, we simply extracted it, translated it and brought to life.

Tony explained, “I did not want a standard corporate environment, we had to have an amazing entrance that left a lasting impression. So I researched, visited and took it upon myself to view as many spaces as I could.”

“After discovering Michael Grubb Studio’s Wonderlab project for the Science Museum they became the natural choice.”


The Challenges

With any creative vision, comes a series of logistical challenges.

The focus was a corridor but approval had to come from the landlord, building managers and various internal departments within Amazon UK. There were also other considerations such as emergency lighting, fixing constraints, control and the long-term operation and maintenance of the installation.

Tony explained “When you are embarking on something new, you have to jump through a multitude of hoops. Michael Grubb Studio helped us immensely with this. The focus is not just on the creativity but also on the logistical side.” 


The Design

The through-way corridor in the centre of the building became a permanent light installation. This was achieved by combining a smart fabric wall from Ettlin Lux with LED control technology from ProtoPixel.

Light weight acrylic panels were fixed to the sides of the corridor to create an optical effect that refracts light into an arch similar to a fabric lens. Stuart Alexander, our Associate, who led this project explained, “The fabric works as an optical illusion. It moves as you walk past it. It animates, but is not in your face or overbearing, which would be too much for people walking past it everyday. There is a sense of calmness.”

“The moment that changed everything was when a test panel was brought in. The response was fantastic in terms of seeing the LED strips and the fabric. The material elevated everything.”


The Process

Getting to the delivery of a smart fabric wall does not start with option A, B or C. Tony highlighted the importance of building a conversation to get to the final decision. “We started with a Q&A where the emphasis was to know what I required. I wanted a slightly industrial feel and lots of colour. I didn’t want to go down a traditional or on-trend route, it needed to be unique and ownable.”

“This wasn’t a case of working with a host of decision makers (apart from the landlord and building managers), it was delivering the vision and responsibility that I had.”

“It was collaboration, working together, getting to know each other and delivering something that had not been done before.”


The Reaction

With the installation now in place, what did Amazon think?

Tony recognised something much more simpler than the initial concept. “What creative person does not want to work in an inspiring environment?  It also becomes an internal PR exercise where the floor is effectively signposted that the creative team are here.”

“To hear someone from Amazon say, ‘why is our floor not as cool as floor seven?’ gives a sense of pride. Finding the right working partnerships are worth their weight in gold.”


Let’s Round Up

No one wants a standardised corporate environment. To get to a place that can make its own stamp within an environment, the answer is not just in the delivery of a new concept. 

There has to be an appreciation of the stakeholders involved, the people who use the space and the flow of communication with the teams who have accountability.

Stuart sums up, “We had some bonkers ideas from the outset. Over time we created and delivered a light installation that Amazon and Michael Grubb Studio can be proud of.”