Posted on January 5, 2018 by staff

‘Naughty’ designer Bansal is hot stuff


The designer behind some of Manchester’s most iconic tech spaces says his success is about doing “naughty things” and creating offices that look “hot”.

Atul Bansal is the co-founder and partner of the Sheila Bird Group and was credited with creating the “world’s best office” when he designed the Manchester HQ for fashion giant Missguided.

The 57-year-old also designed the offices at Co-op Group’s Federation House, including ThoughtWorks, Social Chain and  artificial intelligence specialist Peak and has several more schemes in the pipeline.

Bansal said: “We like to think that we place-make. We also like to think that we do naughty things. We do things that generally make people smile.

“I always think you succeed on a project when you walk in and think ‘yeah that looks hot’ and you see people really happy. You can also tell when a space works because people are talking to each other, because that means they’re relaxed.”

He said a successful building has to ‘live and breathe’ and ‘have arguments with itself’.

He explained: “What we’re really good at doing is empowering the people who live in these spaces that’s it’s not just the people who are employed in that company but it’s the people who live within that company. They live in that space, not us. We know we’ve succeeded when we go back for a visit and the place looks different. They’ve added things, they’re not afraid to do things. We’re good at empowering people to take over and do what they want.

“Interior design is a bit like sex, it means different things to different people. Sex is very often about the journey. Interior design is exactly the same, you need to go on a constant journey, and if you don’t change the space you’re living in or working in it becomes boring and formulaic.”

Bansal said the offices of social media marketing agency Social Chain, set up by Steve Bartlett and Dominic McGregor, were a good example of what he meant.

He explained: “What’s really interesting is that if you go and look at their interior it’s actually a chronological history of them growing up as a business. If you look at their space, it started off with a slide and a ball pit, and that actually is a reflection of their personality at that time.

“You’ve now got spaces where you walk under trees and flowers to get to another space. The whole idea of having one space looking the same as you travel through it is gone. It’s like you’re going into different worlds.

“They’re growing up, they’re getting older, so their perception of what’s cool and what they want changes. And the staff they employ, their expectations are different now than the people that started there two years ago when they were younger.”