Into Africa: blending the modern with the traditional

Mishcon de Reya began in a one man office in Brixton, where it was founded by Victor Mishcon in 1937. In 1961, it had opened a second office in Holborn – the area it has been based in ever since.

We began our search for new, larger premises in 2012, and considered moving out of Holborn. However, as our Chairman Philip Freedman CBE QC conceded, our presence in Midtown "is part of our DNA". A 122,000 square foot Grade II listed building at 70 Kingsway and formerly multi-let offices, Africa House presented an opportunity for us to create a space that we felt best reflected who we are as a firm.

Africa House has stood the test of time since it was designed in the early 1920s by Trehearne & Norman, with its exterior retaining its original features, including a set of figures by the artist Benjamin Clemens. But we also had big aspirations for the interior: we wanted the client areas to be inviting and comfortable and for the office areas, most importantly, to meet the evolving needs of our business. An extensive refurbishment ensued.

Once we had confirmed that Africa House was the right location for us, we set about specifying our requirements. We engaged architecture and design firm TP Bennett to help us bring to life our vision of creating an open, collaborative space that also enabled us to retain the confidential areas that are necessary within a law firm environment. One of our real estate partners, Ian Paul was heavily involved in every detail of the design of our stylish ground floor client lounge.

We felt that, when walking into the atrium,
you shouldn’t feel as if you were entering
an office building.

The lobby, with its original marble floors and sweeping staircases, retains a sense of the building Africa House once was, but our additions of a striking modern light sculpture by Bocci and a large screen projecting a variety of performance art pieces accentuates the extent to which we have made the building our own. It leads to a contrastingly comfortable client lounge with muted colours, thick carpets, soft seating and a coffee counter.

Our clients are invited to spend as much time in our client lounge as they wish – whether meeting with our lawyers or simply taking some time out in a comfortable Central London location to grab a coffee and cake at the barista bar and make some calls. We are proud to exhibit art work here too. First we displayed “Where the Angels Raged”, a collection of works by artist Richard Davies. Now we have "Jerusalem", the critically acclaimed collection of portraits by Colin Davidson. Providing this informal and interesting space was critical to us – we wanted to stay true to our brand proposition: 'It's business. But it's personal'.

The 17 meeting rooms on the first floor are each named after lawyers who have made significant contributions to public life and had a great impact on the society in which they lived, from Bella Abzug to Ivy Williams. The meeting rooms range from formal style boardrooms with more traditional leather seating, to oval tables and armchair style furniture. They also reflect our ongoing investment in technology and innovation, from the state of the art conferencing facilities to the iPad coffee machines in the meeting rooms.

Every detail of Africa House has been driven
by one overwhelming theme: collaboration.

The building enables us to embed this environment of collaboration - between our clients and their lawyers, between our varied networks of contacts and intermediaries and between our colleagues.

Read a feature about Africa House in Estates Gazette.

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