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The design thread, past to present

‘Plants – lots of plants.’

That was just one of the asks we received when gathering feedback on the future of the Underwriting Room.

When the consultation started in 2021, we had no preconceptions about what it would lead to: any new direction would be determined by what we heard.

And what we heard was fascinating.

While the way we collaborate as a market has changed forever, it was clear the Room still holds a very special place for those using it. It’s as much a part of our market as the policies we write every day.

Each working day we sit in a unique space unlike any other office in the world. There is still tremendous pride in that, and this landmark of the London insurance market continues to attract global curiosity. Despite the feeling of being in a cathedral-like space, the Room fosters a sense of community. That’s both how it creates value, and why we value it. It’s a meeting place not just to trade in, but to meet your peers and to keep up with market intelligence. On its busiest days, the Room is a hive – collaborative, focused, productive, building relationships.

When I first arrived in Lloyd’s Corporate Real Estate team, I was daunted by the strange and confusing trading floors. Over time I’ve grown to understand and treasure the space, with its unique furniture, configurations and ways of working not found in any other building. It’s probably why people treasured a desk that was uniquely uncomfortable to work at and hasn’t fundamentally changed for centuries!

So it was with some trepidation that we set about thinking how the next chapter of the Room would look and feel. With the constant demand for a more equitable allocation of space on the Ground Floor, we knew the current underwriters boxes on that level would have to change first – focusing on better ergonomics and classic design aesthetics to optimise the layout and support broker-underwriter relationships. We’ve grasped this opportunity to consider how design could help not only optimise performance, but improve our wellbeing.

Months of discussions, redesigns and prototypes have resulted in a new box that’s familiar, but transformed. We weren’t afraid to tear up ideas to improve them, working with designers and joinery specialists to create a contemporary solution that’s just as handcrafted as the old boxes. Timber was always going to have a starring role, supported by materials sympathetic to Lord Rogers’ building. 

Sustainability has been a focus, seeking to design and manufacture new furniture, signage display and lighting solutions with responsibly sourced materials and energy saving tech – keeping in mind our legacy for a braver future.

Wherever possible we’ve sourced from close to home - not only to reduce airmiles, but to support British design, manufacturing and craftsmanship. With the exception of the new underwriters’ chairs – recognised as a premium product and sourced from Germany, most aspects of the revamped Room have been British made.

Tradition will still run deep in the Room. References to our past are everywhere – just brought up to date for today.

Visits to factories, studios, warehouses and joinery shops have been full of discussions about the fine details; the way something will feel as well as perform, and the human experience it will create. Solving one design detail – our new brokers’ stool upholstery – even meant a walk down to London’s East End to one of the last remaining leather suppliers for an embossing stamp.

It doesn’t get much more local than that.

Each day new interior aspects arrive, and the Room is filling up with components, ready for the big reopening. We’re excited to welcome our market back to see how they enjoy the new space.

For me, this project has been a career highlight, in particular having our work endorsed by the Rogers Stirk Harbour team.

I think Lord Rogers would have been proud of the changes we’ve made: and hopefully approved the new planting. The only thing he wouldn’t have forgiven, in such an innovative space, would be standing still.

Kimberley Sandiford - Head of Lloyd's Underwriting Room, Lloyd's

18 Aug 2023