Creativity buttons, kaleidoscope artwork and tactile walls: is Hilton London Bankside’s new meeting room the answer to productive meetings? We found out
It was the week that PM Theresa May and her ever-diminishing Conservative party suffered mass meltdown during Brexit negotiations. So, it seemed fitting that we were invited to preview a new meeting space that promises to make teams more productive through creativity. London Hilton Bankside has launched the Agora: a design-led meeting room on the hotel’s dedicated events floor that claims to be ‘the world’s best meeting room’.
A bold claim, indeed, but one that is perhaps bolstered by the creative duo behind it: Bompas & Parr
. Event enthusiasts who are au fait with the work of its founders Sam Bompas and Harry Parr will know that creativity is the company’s forte. It opened a cloud bar in Borough Market which featured a breathable cocktail cloud; created the world of Roald Dahl’s The Twits
with a gruesome dining experience in The Vaults; and achieved a world-first with their ‘Voice of God’ installation in Hilton London Bankside’s basement pool.
It was the latter collaboration with the hotel that inspired the beginnings of the Agora. ‘We’re a young hotel – ‘Hilton with a twist’ if you will – in a cool and cultural area,’ Hilton London Bankside’s general manager James Clarke explains. ‘When I saw what the guys were doing with their Voice of God installation I knew I wanted to work with them to create a new space for our events. We are very passionate about Bankside
, so we wanted to create a cool meeting space for the creative industries in our local area.’
The result? A space unlike any we’ve seen in a London hotel (they’ve really taken the ‘bored’ out of boardroom). The quest for creativity in the Agora (which means ‘gathering’ in Greek) begins as soon as meetings begin, with delegates arriving at the 14-seat space seeped in a blue light. ‘Every one of our events starts with a certain type of research and with this one, it was scientific,’ Bompas & Parr cofounder Harry Parr tells us. ‘We discovered that this particular hue of blue light inspires creativity so we wanted guests to enter the space with that in mind.’
Other seemingly subtle touches also point to the research that Harry and the team have undertaken. A kaleidoscope video artwork plays on the presentation screen (more on that later), with Harry informing us that artist Doug Foster’s work not only depicts parts of the hotel and the local area, but that kaleidoscopes’ hypnotic nature is conducive to human focus. Looking up, a faux skylight acts as an artificial source of natural daylight to detract from the space’s lack of windows, while everything from the carpet design to the choice of plants dotted around the space have been chosen with their creativity-inducing properties in mind.
There are, however, more patent elements of the room’s design. For Clarke, it’s the room’s centrepiece that tops his ‘favourite’ list: ‘I love the table – it’s the crux of creativity.’ With inlaid ley lines of key creative site in the area [Tate Modern, Borough Market and The Globe
to name a few], it’s designed to inspire delegates who sit at it. Clarke also references the techie prowess of the room’s Clevertouch presentation screen, which allows presenters to hook up any device without the need of wires or worry of incompatibility issues, draw diagrams at the touch of a finger and annotate photos and documents with ease. ‘It sums up the whole premise of the space,’ says Clarke. ‘Creativity and practicality.’
There are also plenty of fun elements to play with. A ‘Push for Creativity’ button activates a jet of bergamot scent for the pusher to inhale (the citrus essential oil has been shown to have significant mood boosting properties). If that doesn’t work, one of the walls acts as a giant whiteboard, complete with terrazzo-style magnets for team members to pin their ideas under, as well as a mirrored whiteboard for brainstorming – both designed to increase attention and memory. We think the use of a mirror (that reflects the rest of the room) as a whiteboard is particularly innovative – there’s nothing worse in a meeting than a completely blank canvas.
‘Stealth Health’ food packages are on offer for those wanting brain boosting menus but it’s the tea station at the back of the room that has been specifically designed for the Agora. The menu includes ingredients that have been proven to assist brain power, whether it be through increasing blood circulation or improving memory. How does a Fatigue Fighter (yerba mate, lemon verbena and Sri Lanken lemongrass) sound?
Of course, with any innovation that claims to reinvent an industry, there are bound to be critics. Parr’s answer to them is simple: ‘They’re just wrong. We know that environment plays an important role in how productive we are. Look at workspaces like WeWork and Second Home – they’ve been designed entirely to enforce a different way of working and living and are hugely popular. The meeting experience is so much better than ever before.’
But is it the ‘the world’s best meeting room’? Parr thinks so: ‘The way everything has been custom-designed justifies that definition. It combines the worlds of hospitality, art and science to create something wholly considered. It’s more than just a table and chairs.’
Want to decide for yourself? Just contact the team using the button below and (hopefully) get creative!