The new headquarters of EY, located right in the heart of old Milan city centre, has opened its doors as a totally green, renovated organism featuring revolutionised spaces, cutting-edge technology and an innovative vision of work. The project, by DEGW, Lombardini22 brand, has done so by redeveloping an entire block, “welding together” totally different structures built at different periods in time that seemed to be unsuitable for either the latest work methods or an innovative company like EY. The real challenge the project faced was to incorporate all the most highly developed modern-day work processes within the constraints imposed by history, turning every restriction into a fresh opportunity to enhance the space itself.
The new headquarters of EY takes up an almost 19.000 mq complex of buildings, whose spaces have been completely optimised and whose layout has been rationalised, so that it is now fully operational. Spread over ten stories in height (with a large panoramic deck offering 360° views across the city of Milan), the spaces hold offices for 2.500 people, 1.200 desks and over 170 meeting rooms designed along the lines of a smoothly flowing, non- hierarchical “activity-based” work model.
As the key concept of a so-called “smart office”, the “activity-based” model envisages specific work settings and professional facilities to meet every imaginable requirement that can be used on a flexible, non-hierarchical, based on working activity, which is more efficient for you, your colleagues and your clients. DEGW has managed to achieve this by drawing on all the experience and expertise it has gained in the field of modern-day workplaces and found an ideal partner in EY and its vision of the future (the “workplace of the future” is a key aspect of EY’s Vision 2020 project).
EY’s new headquarters is, consequently, the result of a successful joint-venture between two important international enterprises constantly striving to attain innovative results in all kinds of contexts through their organisation/design culture: DEGW – the Lombardini22 Group brand at the very cutting-edge in strategic consultancy into work methods and interaction between physical space and corporate performance – and EY – a world leader in professional assurance, tax, advisory and transactions services – have joined forces to provide the first office complex in an historical setting, where smart work is now a reality.
The new EY headquarters currently sets one of the benchmark in Italy for all future designs aimed at attracting and holding onto the most talented people, who are most open to the latest developments in modern-day work. DEGW supported the client throughout all the different stages in the project: from an analysis of EY’s international guidelines reinterpreted in relation to local and emerging organisational needs and how they can be accommodated in new workspaces to the management of space planning, interior design and furnishing policy, not to mention art direction and work supervision.
Within this general framework, the physical branding project for the new offices was handled by FUD Brand Making Factory, which manages the Lombardini22 Group’s communication and brand identity operations.
EY’s new headquarters are located right in the heart of the old city centre of Milan, where it was originally founded. They take up an entire block bordered by via Meravigli to the south, via Porlezza and piazza Santi Pietro e Lino to the west, via Giorgio Giulini to the north and via Manfredo Camperio to the east. The headquarters include various different architectural structures built at different times: the main construction, which was built between 1972-1974 based on a project designed by Lorenzo Muzio (son of the better-known Giovanni Muzio) and originally designed for housing and offices(1), is located at via Meravigli 12-14 and is actually EY’s landmark building. It is part of a more heterogeneous complex incorporating the neighbouring buildings and various different historical relics in the urban fabric in which it is located: some of them are extremely unusual, such as the little church belonging to a Benedictine nunnery (San Vincenzino alle Monache) that used to stand here, whose remains have now been rebuilt along via Giulini and partly absorbed into EY’s headquarters. Their structural “anomaly” also contributes to the multifarious layout of the new offices(2). In this sense the site posed its own peculiar design theme: can a cutting-edge vision of modern-day work come to terms with the constraints imposed by composite, non-homogeneous spaces incorporating fragments from different periods, which are based on an old-fashioned notion of work and, in addition, situated in the heart of an Italian city?
(1) Maurizio Boriani, Corinna Morandi, Augusto Rossari, Milano contemporanea. Itinerari di architettura e di urbanistica, Maggioli Editore, 2007, p. 107. (2) Founded earlier than 1043 and closed down in 1798 after undergoing various alterations and partial demolitions, the monastery was completely destroyed in 1964. Like all nunneries, San Vincenzino Church was divided into two parts, a public section along the road (what is now via Camperio) and private premises for the nuns facing onto the nunnery’s internal courtyard. This meant the church had two fronts (one from the 15th century and the other from the 17th century), which, after it was knocked down in 1964, were rebuilt and relocated along an extension to via Giulini between via Camperio and via Porlezza, and they are now part of the new block that has been created: the public front’s main structure is now encompassed in the new headquarters of EY (the other is still used for holding religious services).
Approach Design method: DEGW consultancy and smart work
The challenge facing DEGW in this project was to create a “smart” environment in a complex of buildings that would appear to be unsuitable for the latest work methods and an innovative company like EY.
DEGW took on this challenge using a constantly evolving work method developed based on over 30 years of experience: a method which, alongside more conventional space planning and interior design services, also includes an elaborate strategic consultancy process. In the case of EY, this process is included in a particularly innovative and stimulating brief: claiming to be the “Workplace of the future”, the company stated its desire to adopt a different work method and new concept of workspaces with the ultimate aim of breaking down barriers and encouraging the coexistence of multidisciplinary teams. This was achieved by adopting an “activity- based” work method(3), a key concept in the so-called “smart office”, which caters for all the requirements of people in a professional environment (communication, cooperation, contemplation, concentration) by making it possible to use specific work settings, so that all operations can be carried out more efficiently for you, your colleagues and your clients. This meant moving beyond the conventional notion of a workplace, still found in most businesses and basically consisting of corridors, enclosed offices and hierarchically defined meeting rooms, in favour of a more fluid, flexible and malleable space.
DEGW supported the client right throughout all the different design phases in this process of radical change, from the analytical stages involving a study of the organisational structure, functional standards and quantitative-quantitative use of space, to the optimising of the balance between “organisational demand” and “building supply” and the setting of new standards and operating guidelines for offices. This meant the project translated a business culture already focused on innovation into an office system that is no longer “mechanical”, but perfectly in line with modern-day digital “liquidity”. In this context, space planning has led to the identifying of areas for individual work and areas for joint work. The former consist of open-space stations sized based on a study of staff presence (approximately 1.200 workstations for over 2.500 people). These unallocated areas are equipped with monitors and port-replicators to reduce setup time. The latter are enclosed spaces (Focus Rooms, Just in time Operating Rooms, Project Rooms, Collaboration Rooms, Team Rooms, Meeting Rooms and Visual Collaboration Rooms) to be used without permanent allocations or hierarchies and mainly reserved in advance, as well as open spaces (touchdown areas, presentation pads, brainstorming areas, floor hubs) to be used on a “first come, first served” basis. These facilities are completed by more conventional ancillary areas that have been redesigned along smart lines. DEGW has made use of all the expertise it has gained working on the most cutting-edge settings and models in the modern-day working world(4) and carried out the general architectural project based on these principles: from space planning and interior design to the furnishing policy, art direction and works supervision.
(3) Activity Based Management (ABM) is a way of assessing the activities carried out by a company to analyse the value chain and improve an organisation’s strategic and operating decision-making processes. ABM encourages a multidisciplinary and non-hierarchical approach to activities, incorporating them in a flexible workspace. (4) See, for example: “Smart Working: cambiano le coordinate. Nuovi strumenti per orientarsi”, special supplement enclosed with no. 9/2015 of the Harvard Business Review Italia, edited by Methodos, DEGW, P41.
Building structure EY’s new headquarters is a structure composed of a perimeter section that is five stories high (in addition to the ground floor) and a central tower extending up for a further four floors to conclude in a spacious panoramic deck.
The complex’s figure-of-eight shaped layout forms two enclosed internal courtyards and a third courtyard along via Giorgio Giulini, while its compact facade along via Meravigli is decorated with sculptural panels designed by Romano Rui (1915-1977), who studied under Leone Lodi (famous for a number of works carried out on some of the city’s main buildings). These panels are a notable example of his modular projects bringing together sculpture and architecture.
The way the building has taken physical shape over the years meant it posed a number of problems: different floor depths on each level, notable height differences between the various parts, discontinuity between the entrance area and vertical links, difficulties in managing the flows, and a certain lack of flexibility of usage in certain areas. DEGW’s design approach called for extensive reciprocal adaptation between the architectural constraints and client’s guidelines so as to turn each of these restrictions into an opportunity to enhance the space.
Accessibility and flows: an interconnected ‘officescape’ Work on the flows and accessibility, in particular, was critical for making all the different areas usable: the ground floor and first floor, where two vehicle entrances were “disrupting” the continuity, have been turned into fully connected spaces by means of new transversal links and overhead walkways.
A new Reception with a double-height section welcomes visitors and leads them through to the various entrances to the different areas, while the main courtyard, revamped into a fully- fledged square complete with a covered passageway and new architectural ramp (which, from above, looks like a rendering of EY’s logo), becomes the epicentre of the system, a central hub serving as a passage way and congregation/interaction area. From here you can access the main vertical connection hubs serving the entire complex, which has been structurally optimised by improvements to the utilities and lifts, which have been partly reconstructed, repositioned and extended.
The ground floor also leads through to the Auditorium located in the basement along a projecting “scenic” stairway held up by tie-rods, which can also be accessed directly from outside.
Reception and Client Areas The ground floor, which is the first and most direct interface with the outside cityscape, is one single level entirely connected and devoted to the so-called Client Areas, building supports and communal facilities: starting from the spacious double-height “filter” of the Reception – which combines with the internal plaza, Cafè and rear courtyard facing onto via Giulini to form the system’s entrance way, passageway and distribution area – this is where the Recruiting area, Press area, IT area with internal maintenance service, Mail service with its own dedicated route, Facility Office, Medical Office and various different meeting rooms are all located, which, as with the rest of the building, can all be booked/reserved from information booths equipped with touchscreens and located around the hubs of the vertical and horizontal links.
Office Space The spaces from the first to fifth floors are entirely devoted to offices (with the partial exception of the first floor that accommodates the Training area with a direct link to the Recruitment area on the floor below), which have no designated work stations or any kind of hierarchical ordering.
A recursive mix of different configurations runs through the work areas and, simultaneously, caters for all the different forms of work: formal and informal, individual and collaborative, focused and freely organised.
In order to provide this “integral availability” of space, the space planning of a standard floor has allowed for double sequences of enclosed spaces and open spaces along each wing of the building, which face towards each other, interact and are integrated into the diffuse system of ancillary/support areas, such as functional hubs and recurring directional landmarks. With all the due variations between one level and another, work operations unfold across an alternating sequence of spacious areas, meeting spaces, recreational places and, thanks to the location’s specific traits, spectacular views across the city.
Open The open-space work environment is divided into different types of settings, with workstations varying in relation to the work methods they serve (activity-based): pre-cabled desks to be connected to by means of a USB cable, using a standard mouse, keyboard and fixed screen or own PC, even allowing a combination of both by cloning the screens; clusters of desks connected at an angle of 120°, which are not cabled, just electrically connected, creating wi-fi hotspots; adjustable-height stations; areas with open tiers, special ancillary areas for brainstorming located in the corners of each floor. Making a total of about 1.200 desks (for about 2.500 staff).
A seemingly high space-sharing ratio exploiting the high levels of internal/external mobility (the desk sharing for certain business units actually reaches a ratio of 1:4), whose balance lies in the considerable number of meeting spaces and other complementary settings available.
Closed A wide range of quite distinct enclosed and modular settings interact with the open-space stations. Once again they are not designated but can all be reserved by means of a digitilised reservation system (ERS Enterprise Reservation System). They are conventional Meeting Rooms, Collaboration Rooms equipped with monitors with adjustable arms to facilitate content sharing, Team Rooms with four-seater tables or Focus Rooms with armchairs and sofas, Just in time Operating Rooms, Virtual Rooms equipped with video conferencing facilities, Project Rooms and casually furnished conference rooms. Each is identified by its own numerical code and etched-glass window film to alter the degree of privacy, so as to form a combination of over 170 settings that can modulate the various activities, ranging from individual tasks to more extensive team work, with the utmost flexibility.
Hub The centre of the building’s figure-of-eight layout provides the idea location for support hubs located on every floor. The Hubs, which are directly connected to the Meeting Rooms and archives and fitted with a kitchen or break area complete with vending machines, furniture and special features like designer gazebos, are informal settings located around the office areas and high-tech connection nodes serving the various different functions: also located close to the digital information booths for managing the reservation system for the spaces and to the building’s central connection hubs. they are carefully positioned to facilitate vertical use of the informal areas and, for this reason, strategically placed in a barycentric position in relation to all the work space.
Tower The building, which gradually tapers towards the top from third to fifth floor with terraces progressively cutting into the main structures, culminates in a tower where the sixth to ninth floors are meeting rooms. With its reconfigurable meeting rooms with stackable walls, more informal lounges, catering facilities directly served by dumbwaiters (elevators with separate flows), all the tower’s spaces are allocated for open interaction with companies and clients instead of the more conventional practice of allocating the most prestigious top floors of the building for executive management offices. This reflects EY’s quest for innovation through constant and increasingly frequent interaction with the outside, as requested by the clients themselves and supported in design terms by converting the 10th floor into a usable terrace and integral part of the boardroom level below.
Specials EY headquarters forms an integrated and flexible workscape, a work environment designed like a set of tools providing all the privacy, sharing, informality, concentration, warmth and relaxation required. It is never a monotonous setting, thanks to the clever design of the spatial “irregularities”, its height differences and narrower sections, where the layout of workstations is interrupted by suitable ancillary/ support functions – such as the “brainstorming” areas, which are casually furnished and feature curved walls (for writing on) and elliptical ceiling lights creating geometric corners on every floor – and where special settings are located: most notably the well-stocked library on the third floor, which exploits the little church structure, the result of centuries of transformations, and is encompassed in the complex through its “unusual” pitched roof.
A technologically cutting-edge system offering high standards of mobility, permeability and interaction and a “client-oriented” organism supported by widespread brand diffusion. This is the dual vocation of the new headquarters of EY, whose interior design is based around clear-cut and transparent spaces that are sufficiently “neutral” to form an ideal backdrop for pinpoint perceptual features: including yellow strips on the floor marking all the interior perimeters, etched-glass window films controlling the levels of privacy, the sound-absorbent panels shielding the workstations like brightly-lit pixels, the special furniture features, the patches of colour and graphic/verbal images spread strategically through the space. Particular care has been taken over the special areas: from the wooden panelled surface enveloping the reception with back-painted white glass and clear resin structures; the acoustic features in the Auditorium and Training Area, which boasts notable functional flexibility thanks to the use of stackable walls making it totally flexible in its usage; the Hubs on the various floors (soft spaces with designer gazebos that look like spaces within space) recreating a homely feel immersed in technology and, lastly, the distinctive looking finishes in the Client Areas.
There is a clear and light feel to the entire setting dominated by the white walls and ceilings and the neutral colours of the carpeted or tiled floors, whose rarefied “standard-ness” is aimed at conveying the fact that it can be used in a totally collaborative way without any hierarchical distinctions.
Interior design and physical branding are completely separate from each other in the project for the new headquarters of EY. Raising EY’s status as an art dealer is the concept around which the entire graphic design has been developed: culture. Special branding – developed by FUD Brand Making Factory belonging to the Lombardinin22 Group – is divided into a double (inside and outside) pathway running right through the building like one single guiding thread (or, to be more precise, a yellow thread, conforming with EY’s corporate colours). Milanese culture is a key feature of the outside courtyard. The design is aimed at setting the building in its urban fabric and inviting people to discover inner-city art locations. On the inside, as well as placing carefully chosen quotes and “better questions” at strategic rest/transition points, the theme of international culture is also a feature of the Hubs, where details of iconic and non- figurative works of art by leading 20th-century artists (Rothko, Malevic, Mondrian, Fontana and Lichtenstein) enhance the space. The aim is to break with a museum- based notion of art works, making them an integral part of the building and its image. Indeed, the colours of the works comply with EY’s corporate colour schemes. In the tower the theme of culture is geared to Italian-ness. Each floor is matched with an artistic discipline in which Italy excels and always has excelled: art, architecture, design, music and theatre. The combination of the various features, structurally linked to the architectural design, creates one single narrative about EY as a seamless multisensorial experience.
Technology and plant engineering
Designed in conformity with the LEED-CS v2009 standard, the building has Leed GOLD certification in the “Core & Shell” category. The new EY headquarters are, therefore, intended to be a completely sustainable building and make use of all the technology available for achieving this status in the best possible way: extensive photovoltaic surfaces on the roof, the use of groundwater to the opting for building materials from local manufacturers and with recycled content, the replacement of the old fittings and fixtures with new components with high heat-insulation ratings and the presence of recharging stations for electric cars, as well all the measures required to design safe and healthy premises for the people occupying them on a daily basis.
EY with L22 (a Lombardini22 brand) and Antirion designs the best possible plant engineering and thereby keep down the building’s energy requirements. EY has provided technology that DEGW has incorporated in the space and furnishing (for example, DEGW has indicated how to incorporate reservation screens in the walls and geared the numbering and layout of the rooms to a reservation system). L22 designed the audio/video and provided the information and parameters required for all the building’s “sensitive” features: from the lighting control system based on presence detectors in all the different premises to the automatic adjustment of the light flow in relation to natural light (DALI standard), the systematic use of LED light sources, air-conditioning control in accordance with occupancy levels to guarantee the highest levels of environmental comfort, and a BMS system for constantly monitoring how all the systems work.
As regards the “soft” technology, whose implementation is vital for activating and optimising smart work, EY’s new premises feature particularly innovative solutions. The most important of which are: the aforementioned Enterprise Reservation System (ERS) for reserving spaces, a PrintPlus printing service connected to all the printers in the building by means of badges, and the use of instant messaging and video conferencing services for communication purposes, thereby totally eliminating the need for landlines from the offices. Most notably, L22 provided targeted consultancy for the design and works management of all the building’s multimedia facilities.
What they have to say
Donato Iacovone AD EY “A workplace of the future is one of the key projects in our Vision 2020 programme”, so Donato Iacovone, the CEO of EY Italia, explained, “which envisages new ways of designing spaces and a different work method. We are faced with a digitalisation process that sees us as key players in a profound change that is not just confined to this innovative, high-tech headquarters, but is also (and above all) aimed at a new way of working. The input for implementing a radical change to our work method came directly from our clients, who kept on asking us to work together. The new offices, new headquarters and new approach to work are more than just a simple change of address, they are our way of interpreting Digital Transformation and one of EY’s main goals as it increasingly focuses on the quality of services designed to meet the requirements of our clients and our target markets. The ultimate aim of this project is to break down barriers to allow multidisciplinary teams to coexist and get resources more closely involved through a more natural and stimulating work environment. For EY innovating, above all, means catering for the emerging needs of not just the market, but also the people working with and for us.”
Vincenzo Scerbo Fund Manager Antirion SGR “The EY project creates value in this area of the city, because it brings back a leading player and approximately 1400 staff into a neighbourhood that has always accommodated leading Italian groups”, so Vincenzo Scerbo pointed out, a Fund Manager at Antirion SGR. “The project guidelines refer to the redeveloping of a building in its present layout, knocking down spaces that used to mainly accommodate private offices to create a workplace more geared to the needs of its current owners. Antirion is pleased with the outcome of the project, because great teamwork between the architectural designers, fund and company has produced a fantastic result in a very short space of time, enhancing a property that had been vacant for quite a long time before it was bought by the fund. Moreover, the presence of a player like EY inside the building will really enhance the property’s leasing value.”
Alessandro Adamo Partner Lombardini22 - Director DEGW According to Alessandro Adamo, a partner at Lombardini22 and director of DEGW, “brand, design, technology and work processes all come together in the new EY headquarters to generate a blend of workspaces extending into Lounge areas, HUBs and people services. In this project smart work can be perceived in every single space, it can be felt in the air and experienced on a day-to-day basis at work, just as our client’s brief specified. We are particularly proud of this design, because it has allowed us to enhance all the specific departments of our company, proving to us that the growth strategy we have undertaken, i.e. growth through acquisitions and agreements with experts in ‘complementary sectors’, is reaping excellent rewards!”