Approaching the Design Cube feels special. As you wander along its broadwalk at Millwall Inner Dock by South Quay station, there's a feeling of arrival - like you're on the red carpet heading into the Oscars. It's a feeling many of Ballymore's customers, investors and teams have felt over the last decade.
Built as a marketing suite for a nearby development, the team soon realised the Cube's potential to become a physical manifestation of Ballymore's new focus on product and customer experience.
"The Design Cube was a deliberate move to cement this shift away from being just about construction and becoming a product-centric company," says Roger Black, Ballymore's creative director.
Ballymore was founded by Sean Mulryan, who started out as a bricklayer stonemason in Ireland almost 40 years ago. Over the last four decades, the business has evolved first into a contractor developer, then fully-fledged developer, and is now a development business focused on creating desirable consumer products and great experiences.
This latest move required a space that demonstrated to Ballymore's creative teams a dedication to design. "Our people were focused day-to-day on their individual activities, and many of those were construction-based," says Black. "Without having a physical manifestation of that commitment to actually focus on the product and experience, it's hard to evolve this culture."
When the marketing team moved out of the Design Cube, the creative team and sales team set up base there. With its glass walls and location looking out to the docks, the teams found the space naturally uplifting. In the words of Black, it was "a wonderful place to go to work".
For many years, culturally the business has been led by the construction department. The Design Cube re-balanced the focus around the notion of product. Although construction is vitally important to Ballymore, the company sees the end game as delivering amazing products and creating great experiences for its customers.
To do this, Ballymore has evolved into more than a developer. It is the only real estate company in London that manages all the estates it builds. That will total over 10,000 properties over the next year.
Why does Ballymore take this approach? It's because Sean and his team are committed to the outcome of every development they build. They want to show customers that these buildings are run by a particular way, and deliver a particular service. "We want to find ourselves being known for the great experience of living in our developments. If we're not involved in the management and choreography of our developments, we can't lay claim ultimately to the experience."
Ballymore has started a shift in the industry, with suburban developers upping their game and employing consultants, architects and better marketing teams. However, no other developer is managing the estates it builds. It will take a generation for anyone else to get to that position.
Today, the Design Cube is an exhibition space for Ballymore's latest developments. As a design centre, it's where the company continues to showcase projects and elements of its design work. Walk around its floors and look out to the dock and you get a sense that Ballymore is as conscious about aesthetic as any other product-led business out there, be it Apple or Jaguar.
Like Ballymore itself, the Design Cube continues to evolve depending on the needs of the people and communities it serves.