Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have associated Ministry of Sound with hot desks and daily yoga sessions. But then again, back then a ‘hot desk’ was what happened when your bucket-sized desktop computer monitor overheated, and yoga was something Madonna did.
Burgeoning demand from conscientious millennials for a more balanced space to work and network has seen the business transform into private members’ club The Ministry, though not without reverence for its audiophiliac roots – the entire building has been soundscaped by DJ-turned-sound architect Tom Middleton to encourage productivity and creativity.
“A lot of offices are set up with the idea that work isn’t fun, says creative director Simon Moore. “Work is a chore, a drudgery that you have to get through, and typically the environment reflects that. We came at it from a different perspective – that work is enjoyable, it’s not a case of dreading going in the morning and being desperate to leave at 5.30pm.”
The premise of a member’s club is nothing new, they’ve existed for hundreds of years. But while the fundamentals haven’t changed – “the curation of a community”, says Moore – the demands, needs and interests of the people inside certainly have. “What people are looking for now is the ability to fulfil their lifestyle needs within one space,” says Moore.
The facilities are centred on this simple premise. One third of the menu at The Ministry’s restaurant is vegan. The latest films are screened regularly in an on-site cinema. There are soundproof music studios and swanky serviced meeting rooms. There’s a secret Tequila bar in the basement toilets and a fully-equipped gym where you can sweat it out the next day. Alongside a daily yoga roster, specialist classes – from gong sound baths to Breathpod breathing sessions – are hosted regularly. It all seems very seamless.
“Everybody likes the idea of being healthy and exercising, but going out of your way to go to the gym is often a mental block – ‘I need to get ready, take all my stuff, travel half an hour to get there and then come back to work’ – whereas if you’ve got something one floor below you, you’re much more likely to go,” says Moore.
“Being able to incorporate time at the gym during a working day is almost impossible, but it’s more possible if it’s a one-minute walk away from where you’re working. Being able to be impulsive and spontaneous about exercising makes a big difference to how often you actually do it.”
Much like the nightclub, The Ministry’s door policy is strict: to become a member you must work in the creative industries, for whom “the idea that work should be compartmentalised from the rest of your life – quarantined as something you only do in one place – just isn’t true,” Moore says; many of his own projects and collaborations were forged from chance social meetings rather than “enforced functional meeting arrangements”.
Having a desk used to make sense, he continues, “because you either had a massive, heavy computer or all your work was on paper and you needed filing cabinets to store it in.” Today, everything is done on a laptop and all you really need is somewhere to sit down. “You can literally have no desk at all and still work.”
We’re all guilty of blurring the lines between ‘work’ and ‘play’, whether it’s catching up on work over the weekend or scrolling through Instagram during that 11am presentation. Something contemporary members’ clubs like The Ministry seek to make as seamless as possible. The dedicated music lovers who once frequented Ministry of Sound until dawn can now be found practicing sunrise yoga at The Ministry. In that way, the ethos of the business hasn’t changed at all, says Moore.
“It wasn’t like Ministry was the first nightclub in London, there were all sorts of slightly shabby wine bar carpeted sticky floor-type places that played slightly rubbish music,” he says. “But there was no purpose-built place for music lovers, people used to go to raves in fields or take over fitness centres. I guess what The Ministry has done is the same as what it did in 1991 – give a home to people who didn’t really have one before.”
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