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Open Source Workplace Design: lowRISC

Remember working in an office? Sharing camaraderie, having team meetings, and having all your tools to hand? While remote working is proving more and more possible as we all get the hang of it, working in our office now seems further and further from reality. However, we do all know we will be back together in our offices sometime soon, where working and collaborating is undoubtedly easier.

One company that miss their new office is lowRISC. lowRISC, a not-for-profit engineering firm, engaged workplace designers Eve Waldron Design to design and fit-out their new Cambridge based office on Hills Road, and it was completed about a month before the ‘lockdown’. They had outgrown their old space further down Hills Road and found a 3 storey Victorian Villa with character and some room to grow.

Robert Mullins, Reader in Computer Architecture at Cambridge University, Department of Computer Science and Technology, and a founder and director of lowRISC describes their business - 'lowRISC is a non-profit engineering company working to produce high-quality secure hardware and software designs that are incorporated into larger computer systems. We are committed to bringing the benefits of open source - as demonstrated by the open source software movement - to hardware, i.e. the design of silicon chips. We are highly collaborative, bringing together industry, academia and the broader open-source community, to make it easier, faster and cheaper to produce high-quality silicon chip designs.’

Eve and her team connected really well with the client, whose open-source idea resonated with their own open and transparent way of working. Eve said: 'We are used to collaborating in our own work and have been invited to work on some very high profile large projects. Our best projects result where trust is formed from the outset, and people with different and specialised skills work openly together sharing their ideas'.

The construction sector as an industry is complicated and not always easy to fathom. Eve says ‘ As a team, we remain steady and pride ourselves on maintaining high standards of integrity and transparency.’

lowRISC had aspirations for a new office space that catered really well to the needs of their staff and the clients who visit them. They also wanted the office to reflect their branding and aspirations, and input from all 8 directors plus staff was carefully captured. Fortunately, the front door was already painted red by the landlord!

EWD provided guidance on various test fit options to illustrate that the premises could work now but also had room for future expansion - in spite of restrictions on demolitions given the historic nature of the building and Landlords agreements.

Reception/break-out spaces and a smart conference room were key to their requirements.

They implemented a split open plan office environment with sit to stand desking for all members of the team on the upper floors, as well as a flexible reception/ break out area in the proximity of a new Kitchen. ‘We had fun with the kitchen’ said Eve ‘ although space was tight we managed to get in a large Smeg fridge with rounded 50s style retro design to work with the handmade tiles and industrial vintage lighting.’

Colour was used boldly throughout and plants and artwork helped finish the rooms and aid in wellbeing. Customized storage under the stair and elsewhere throughout enabled the optimum use of limited space.

Project success was achieved. At the completion, Gavin Ferris, whose CV boasts Dreamworks, Radioscape (co-founder), Aspect Capital (former CIO) and cofounder and Director of lowRISC said:

“It was a pleasure working with Eve Waldron Design on the refurbishment of our new offices. We are very pleased with the outcome of the project and look forward to working with them again in the future.

Due to tight timescales in acquiring the premises and moving in, EWD managed a phased approach of the fit-out to enable occupancy of the premises at the soonest possibility. While this push to get in now seems surreal in hindsight, lowRISC will undoubtedly look forward to getting back to work in their fit for purpose and bespoke office.

Eve Waldron is a workplace design consultant and founder of and online furniture platform


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