Workspace and leisure specialist Bruntwood Works has launched Bloc, an urban oasis in the centre of Manchester, as part of its £50m Pioneer redevelopment programme.
The re-imagining of the 16-storey office block on Marble Street has introduced a raft of quality new workspaces, amenities and technology that have all been designed to improve workplace wellbeing and boost productivity for Bloc’s diverse community of businesses.
Central to the focus on workplace wellbeing is the introduction of RESET, a new state-of-the-art yoga studio by FORM, Manchester’s premium training brand. Situated within the serene basement space at Bloc, the studio hosts a rolling programme of yoga, pilates and wellbeing-based classes to help people blend fitness seamlessly into the working day.
This, combined with systems to optimise air quality, sensors to inform space utilisation and a Building Management System that supports the efficient use of energy within the building, a sleep pod, has created a place that truly prioritises workers’ wellness and enhances productivity. There is also a pop-up room that will be available for local independent businesses to hire – providing a much needed space to offer private consultation in areas as wide ranging as healthcare and counselling, and consulting and financial services.
The transformation has also completely overhauled the arrival experience at Bloc, with local independent bakery Trove taking space on the ground floor and BrewDog set to open a new bar and restaurant, as well as its first hotel, on site later this year. This provides unrivalled on-site amenity for customers and, alongside the introduction of a new coworking lounge, auditorium and events space, cements Bloc’s position as a place where people can come together and collaborate.
A focus on biophilia, which is known to help improve wellbeing, and sustainability has also been included through the installation of an innovative, two-storey living wall that provides oxygen and helps reduce noise levels and a blue/green roof that reduces the discharge of rainwater and features wildflowers to support biodiversity and provide an additional thermal barrier. Created in partnership with Polypipe, this is Manchester’s first wildflower roof and also aims to attract a rare native blue butterfly.
Ciara Keeling, CEO of Bruntwood Works, said: “Bloc’s transition from a corporate office building to a wellbeing-focused workplace is game-changing for Manchester, and we have responded directly to what businesses and their employees expect from a modern workspace. We’re seeing increased demand for quality spaces that not only provide a wealth of amenities, but support positive work-life balance and create an environment where people want to spend time – both in and outside of work. Bloc provides all this and more.
“The increased demand for spaces that support hybrid working and further flexibility has made it clear the office is still so important, just in a new way. Through its blend of innovative workspace, lifestyle and retail, Bloc is setting a template for the office of the future. We need to create places where people truly want to be, not just a space where they come to work. With the addition of our new wellness suite with FORM, collaborative workspaces and an independent hospitality offering through Trove and BrewDog, we know that Bloc will become a thriving hub at the heart of the community.
“I’d also like to thank our team – it’s testament to their hard work that despite beginning the project in September 2020, during the middle of the pandemic, Bloc’s transformation was completed on schedule and highlights our commitment to providing our customers with cutting-edge workspace that meets their needs.”
Two large Trompe L’oeil murals – an art technique that uses forced perspective to create the optical illusion that objects exist in three dimensions – created by Sheffield-based artist Rob Lee, draw the eye across the new ground floor space. Replicating the building’s external facade, Rob’s ‘sculptures’ represent literal urban oases, signifying the symbiosis between man and nature. Rob’s work uses pattern, repetition and abstraction to explore the concepts of perceived reality and illusion, and the complex relationship between technology and nature.
The new living wall that wraps the external façade is another key feature of Bloc’s transformation. A Manchester-first, the HYVERT living wall is made from 18,000 plants and was created by I Want Plants, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. It uses sensors to monitor its biodiversity and record how the wall is absorbing gases like CO2 and NO2, and is just one example of how Bruntwood Works is addressing sustainability across its portfolio.
An innovative grid of lights has also been embedded into the living wall by Artin Light, which brings Bloc to life at night with subtle waves of organic light. The ‘glowing’ wall will give the effect of delicately coloured blossoms within the greenery, contrasting with and softening the brutalist architecture of the building.
Formerly occupied by NatWest on the Spring Gardens side of Bloc, the Annexe has been totally transformed into three floors of flexible workspace, including 200 desks in a variety of serviced office suites, communal kitchens and lounge areas, with tech-enhanced meeting rooms to suit every need on the ground floor.
New additions to Bloc also include a coworking studio with 20 desks – which along with the new coworking lounge are available to customers on a flexible Pay As You Go basis, with day passes bookable online here and monthly coworking memberships available.
Bloc’s revitalisation comes as part of Bruntwood Works’ £50m Pioneer programme, which is creating vibrant, community-focussed workspaces centred on six key pillars: biophilia, art, sustainability, wellness, amenity and technology. Blackfriars House, 111 Piccadilly and Neo are also part of the Pioneer scheme in Manchester
Bloc offers a range of workspace options that cater for businesses of all sizes, from coworking, serviced offices and traditional leased spaces that range from 500 sq ft to 7,500 sq ft to All Inclusive options which provide larger, private spaces that include rent, business rates and service charges. All workspace includes membership to the Collective, Bruntwood Work’s digital community platform and access to a broad range of amenities.
CubicWorks was the lead contractor on the project.