Unilever 'Aladdin' Phase 3

Phase 3: Office Environment

Sector: Manufacturing
Location: Leeds
Scope of Works: Design, Fit-Out, Furniture Installation

The Brief:
The Unilever facility in Leeds is the largest deodorant production centre in the UK. For many years the Leeds site has been known for its Technology Centre. As it has now developed into a Global Design Centre, the building had to reflect this status. The aim of Project ‘Aladdin’ was to create an office environment which truly reflects a dynamic R&D organization and allows its users to embrace agile working. There were two buildings which both provided office accommodation, research laboratories and a consumer area – all of which had been expanded and developed as the business requirements changed. Project ‘Aladdin’ gave the client the opportunity to approach the design for the R&D office building as if it was for the first time. Crucially, a connecting bridge between the two buildings was to be installed to improve connectivity and collaboration between the two buildings.

The Challenges:
In re-designing the buildings, Ben Johnson had to guarantee business continuity for the 200 people that worked across both buildings. The refurbishment works therefore had to be carried out in phases to maintain business continuity. A particular design innovation was the ceiling in the breakout area where a slatted wooden ceiling was specified to give the space a different look and feel, but this proved complex for the team to install around the services so a bespoke slatted ceiling solution was developed.

Phase 1 – Customer experience Centre: (Click link here)

Phase 2 – Research Laboratories –Ben Johnson are specialist in lab design and installation, but due to the confidential nature of the space we are unable to share any photos.

Phase 3 – Office Accommodation – see summary below
Unilever maintain strict health & safety requirements on site, and these have to be adhered to at all times.

The Solution:
Phase 3 Office Accommodation:

What were the success factors?

Agile working:

The increase in homeworking put different demands on the office design. As a global business, Unilever also had visitors from other sites to consider plus accommodating meetings with supplier partners. Adopting activity-based work-settings was the solution, which included bookable workstations, quiet rooms, a range of meeting rooms, breakout spaces etc – giving the Unilever the flexibility it needed, both now and in the future.

Work-setting types:

Three types of settings were provided in the shape of ‘focus’ for people working on their own; ‘collaboration’ where teams work together either on an as-needed basis or permanently; and ‘Vitality’ areas which were kitchen breakout areas. The ratio of floor area allocated to each of these three work-setting types was critical.

Consumer experience:

The client felt this had to be improved. Consumers are now able to enter through the ‘front door’ rather than via the separate entrance near the site entrance to reinforce the key value that the consumer is at the heart of everything Unilever does. See Unilever Phase 1 case study.


Glass walls should be used internally where possible so that the brands, the staff and the technology are all visually accessible.

Localised team identity:

By the careful use of colours and graphics the areas were able to represent the teams or departments to provide them with an identity and space ownership of their own.

Natural daylight:

Roof lights were introduced at first floor level to increase the natural light, new windows added to ensure focus areas had excellent levels of natural daylight.


The design heritage was reflected in the design via timeline and use of graphics.

Visiting staff

Visitors had to be catered for, with a space that is ‘home from home’ to encourage use of the vitality areas and lockers for personal belongings.


Between the two buildings, individuals, teams, work area, visitors and consumers. The two buildings were connected with a new link bridge/office at first floor level.

Ben Johnson undertook the design and fit-out which included ceilings, partitions, decoration/graphics, floor finishes and extensive bespoke joinery. Phase three was completed on budget and on time.

Visit Unilever’s website here

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