Glass blower and designer Beate Einen spent eight years studying her trade before setting up a glassware business in her home town of Bergen, Norway in 2007. She will be showcasing her latest project, Perception of Density from stand L94 at 100% futures. The vase pictured, which is part of the series, was made from free blown glass and has a height of 13cm and a width of 29cm.
Pullpo is a production centre, design agency and photography studio with offices in Argentina and Chile, designing ads for the likes of Pepe and Lee jeans, and an umbrella company to sites such as cooltrends.com, a fashion advertising site in Spanish. The starting point for its new Chile office was the abandoned facilities of a salt factory, in the western sector of Santiago. This cavernous industrial site was converted by architect Hania Stambuk into a moody and atmospheric workspace from which the agency could operate, and the project went on to win last year’s Bienal de Arquitectura prize.Because Pullpo is a mixed agency, the space had to be designed to accommodate a number of purposes, and the finished project includes offices, conference rooms, photographic studios, service and storage areas, a cafeteria, restrooms, and incorporated parking.Pullpo occupies all of the factory, although not all areas received as much architectural intervention – “they were adapted and restored as warehouses, lavatories etc,” says Stambuk.The project was kept low cost and effective, Stambuk goes on to explain, through architectural strategies that involved harnessing the new architecture to the perimeter wall of the factory shed.A number of interrelated units are arranged to host the agency’s activities, which can range from photographing fashion to wild animals and vehicles. These units are structurally joined by braided steel cables anchored on to the existing factory trusses.“This system allowed the maximum structural capacity within the host building,” Stambuk explains. It creates an interesting juxtaposition, and allows both the old and new to co-exist alongside one another. Each of the ‘cells’ within the larger building space was conceived of as a “small citadel” by Stambuk. In each cell, different functions in the creative process are carried out, creating a linear “assembly line of ideas,” she explains.The units allow services such as light, temperature and ventilation to be localised. The controlled atmosphere within the separate units ensures a comfortable work environment within the greater pre-existing container structure, which would be difficult to regulate as a whole.“The site had to be a large structure to contain the different demands and situations of an advertising agency,” says Stambuk. “Due to its size the factory was perfect for the development of this type of programme. “I don’t necessarily prefer to work with converted spaces; this was a challenge that came up and I approached it with the same professionalism as any other brief. However, it brought everything to the project. This is seen in the way the structure of the new building hangs from the structure of the old.”Stambuk explains that the concept behind the industrial build was of one huge model construction kit, like Meccano – a prefabricated system based on low cost, serial modulation.The materials were chosen for quick assembly and consisted of steel, glass and Isopol panels. Made out of prefabricated polyurethane sheets wrapped in tin, the panels were developed for industrial use in refrigeration chambers for meat storage. They have great thermal capacity, and they were also chosen for their rigidity, versatility and low weight, allowing them to be easily transported to the factory. “The project can be disassembled and relocated since the dimensions and constructive system are designed for this purpose,” Stambuk explains.Examples of Pullpo’s visual work form an integral part of the project, and add to the surrealist feel of the space, as do the plants and trees planted inside the old factory. “I suggested the size and placement of the Pullpo photography so that the glass surround spaces would appear as large aquariums, so it looks like there are octopuses swimming in enclosures next to people passing by,” Stambuk explains.The lighting has been kept bare and basic to complement the industrial aesthetic, as does the steel cabling that supports the structures, and the bare strip-lights over the car park.Stambuk describes the project as architecture reinvented as advertising metaphor, where astonishment and fiction rival reality. Although she has worked on projects like this before, she says: “I was younger and not as daring. Now, I endeavour to build what I imagine.”
Google gave us the office slide, Red Bull introduced the chute, now Electric Works digital media centre in Sheffield has stolen their thunder with a thirty metre helter-skelter, upping the ante on fun in design.Travelling three twists and turns from the third storey to the ground floor in seven seconds, this installation is about far more than visual effect. Stepping out of the sack post-slide staff are slightly disorientated and pumped with an adrenaline release they wouldn’t get from travelling by lift – a method of travel that is still an option should they need to travel with paraphernalia that is impossible to clutch in the recommended arms across the chest position.There is something impressively aesthetic about the huge steel structure, it is highly reminiscent of Carsten Höller’s slide exhibit at Tate Modern 2007, and was installed by the same engineers. In the context of the Tate Turbine Hall Höller surmised the experience of sliding in a phrase by French writer Roger Caillois, as a “voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.” “It was a turn of fate that the building had a three floor atrium in the reception,” Toby Hyam, the managing director of Manchester-based Creative Space Management recounts. And there is a traditional twist to the story: “Industrial cities at the end of the 19th century had a touring fair culture with an architectural mix of entertainment providing exciting sensations through carousels and rides as a diversion from industrial or rural life.”Having worked on the revamp of Huddersfield Media Centre and the set up of Round Foundry Media Centre in Leeds, Hyam speaks from experience when it comes to pulling shared creative business spaces together. He knows how important it is to give them the right dosage of identity, to make them stand out in a client’s mind without trampling on the toes of the brands that hope to establish themselves in the space.“Electric Works is not an incubator centre,” he insists, “it is a step up from that, it caters for companies on the verge of going global.” The build is designed to facilitate all the collaborative and crossover benefits that come from like-minded businesses sharing a space. It is the result of a collaboration between South Yorkshire’s RDA, Sheffield City Council and private sector investment. Although the city council have decided to buy the building, Electric Works operates “a corporate approach to asset management, to secure the best return on investment,” says Hyam.Dive, the interior architects on the project designed the club, or conference area to accommodate major names and clients, “without feeling apologetic that you are not based in Hoxton Square or Soho.” It is fitted out with verdant green carpet, rather like astroturf, and Vitra furniture. Bouroullec Alcove Highback Sofas create cosy enclosures, and sound absorbing wall panels giving the space a contemporary character. “We wanted to create a club area, with social meeting space that felt natural and fresh,” explains Andy Nettleton, the English counterpart of half-Swedish, half-English duo, Dive. For set subscription fees members can access meeting rooms, IT networks, showers, rent lockers, recharge their laptop, make use the 150-seater conference centre, hold a mini trade fair, and, on a more personal note, have their post bought to their desk. Hyam describes the club area as stepping up from what Starbucks has done for the freelancing community. Entering into 24-hour work culture, this area has round the clock access, members can let themselves and business partners or clients in for meetings in the evening, or any time of night and the building is only a five-minute cab ride away from Sheffield’s city centre.The bespoke, cubic reception desk by Dive has an ‘easy to lock down’ setting, as does the slide, to overcome health, safety and theft risk, and the high spec surroundings makes raucous behaviour unlikely.Upstairs unfurnished open-plan office spaces in variable sizes with suspended ceilings, power access points, brightly painted kitchen points and carpet tiles to meet the grade A office spec await business arrivals.The centre also acts as a Vitra distribution point, a more than gentle push in the right direction to get the place fitted out in designer gear through and through. The George Nelson Marshmallow sofa and other designer classics positioned around the project make it an exemplar for contemporary style.Dive used large planes of colour to create impact and break up the otherwise speculative open plan office floor, splitting the space into smaller, varied units and creating a corridor through them with an irregular, “more meandering route” to prevent the floor becoming “a repetitive thing”, Nettleton explains. Sheaf Street, where the glass encased digital campus sits, opposite the main train station, adjacent to Sheffield Hallam University and down the road from the Cultural Industries Quarter, used to be pretty derelict. “It was an area renowned for boxing, and for being a bit of a dive before the centre came along,” Hymen says. The whole thing may feel a touch prescriptive – businesses can see the space, and be set up and running there within days – but it seems to be a good medicine. Flexible, feel good space, above average in rent but with a good measure of added value to merit it. “Plus, no-one is tied in for more than a month and there is the potential to expand or contract a business in a matter of days,” Hyam points out, which is surely an asset in this climate. As is being iconoclastic. “Having the slide, a unique interactive and stimulating installation in the UK really counts.”Hyam resists the idea that the fairground will become a trademark of the firm: “We want each project to relate on an individual basis to its location, and the people that use it. Of course, we’ll be on the lookout for new ideas and architects for enlivening the workplace.”
Project HOLO is a new furniture design collaboration between Australian designers Michael Travalia and Christopher Thomas. Following the success of its launch last year, Project HOLO now has a beautiful and elegant new product – Bodice. This free-standing light is the work of Michael Travalia, and is manufactured primarily from wood veneer with acrylic and brushed aluminium. It has a tall stance at 2.2m high, and the organic warmth of its light complements its naturally curved form.
The Royal Borough of Windsor houses Eton College, Ascot racecourse, the Queen, most weekends, and less expected, one of Britain’s top ad agencies.
Clive Wilkinson has always been big news. His first workplace project, the TBWA/Chiat/Day complex in Los Angeles became known as ‘advertising city’ on account of its main street, central park, basketball court and billboards: it rewrote the way we viewed the workplace.
Since then there has been the Google Headquarters in Silicon Valley; helping to establish Mother studio in London as the mother of all creative agencies; and, at the end of last year, his project for marketing giant JWT’s HQ in New York (see onoffice issue 26).
It’s not all workplace design, he points out. He first came by his client TBWA incidentally when working under Frank Gehry, and was commissioned in ’97 to recreate their workspace. What he liked about designing offices from the outset is that you work with “non-professionals who think about space in exactly the same way that we (architects) do.”
Ad agencies have always been an obvious match for Wilkinson. “The focus is on how people behave, and how this improves the end creative product, without which they would go out of business.”
But, having worked on all the big ones, he came to feel he had exhausted creative agencies to the point that they were not such a big challenge.His latest project, designing workplaces for Macquarie, Australia’s biggest investment bank, goes against the grain of all of his clients until now.“This is the other side of coin for us; it’s the opposite type of business. Ordinarily we wouldn’t go near them; they’re a finance service, a different animal. But they reached out to us,” he says.“They may be a more conservative, conventional institution, but they are forward thinking in the way they work. They see themselves in a different way, and wanted to morph into something new.”In terms of scale and complexity, the project represents Wilkinson’s biggest challenge to date; at 330,000sq ft, accommodating 3000 people, it is three times the size of TBWA. “I was working on that project ten years ago, but it was not as radical as this.”The new project is built around activity-based working, a concept that the financial services firm was turned on to by a visit to Interpolis in the Netherlands, an insurance company that has done away with designated desks, where employees continually move around facilities and environments.“They had Dutch consultants (Prooff, see p56) on board to convert to this way of working, and we were prescribed a detailed brief,” he says, “which we interpreted for the building.”Does it still look like an office? “Not really,” he muses, “more like an airport, or a business lounge.” Hard to believe, with Wilkinson’s unconventional force at the helm.“We had creative input into the building, as well as the fit out,” he moves on to explain the stunning ten storey atrium, with working clusters and meeting pods cantilevered over the side at the centre of the building. “It is a dramatic, vertical space and built area”: this sounds more like it.The working ethos is “very radical, very unusual”, so does it work, in practice? As occupancy hasn’t taken place yet (the project completes in October 2009) it’s hard to tell. But the process was piloted before the leap was made with a test run floor that staff were rotated through, which got a ‘high thumbs up’. It’s nice to have “that change of environments,” Wilkinson points out. “Companies in the dot com era ten years ago tried to do this open desk policy, but they didn’t think intelligently about it; if you got in early you ran for the best desk and if you got in late you had nowhere to sit.”The paperless office may be a long way off, Wilkinson reckons, but the management at Macquarie for example are making a concerted effort to reduce it and it’s definitely headed that way.What Wilkinson looks forward to now is the rest of the world’s reaction to the project. “A lot of businesses will be sceptical, which is why the post occupancy survey will be interesting. It’s a big story, because it’s such a large model, and it’s this company.“When ad agencies change working practices it’s easy for other businesses to believe ‘it won’t really apply to us’; with this company other organisations like it will be taking closer attention, and wondering if it could benefit them.Wilkinson is a key player in championing the move into open architecture, and “rarely does anything other than fight for it” when drawing up plans with a client.“You can have both, private workspace and collaborative space. If you had 20sq ft per person, our approach would be to minimise the personal space each person has to maximise public space: meeting rooms, club house areas, break out spaces, anything that keeps people moving around the office, making it interactive.“The strong case traditionally made that offices should be built one third collaborative space, and two thirds private, is exactly wrong.”The inappropriate focus on private space is a paradigm Wilkinson wants to see put to bed altogether. “Open environments encourage transparency, you can overhear, see what goes on around you.” It seems a relevant cause in today’s climate, when academics predict the survival of the office in the face of emerging technologies on the fundamental basis that we, as humans, are a social race.Getting to know a client well, and realising other people’s vision of themselves, is key to Wilkinson’s approach, as much as helping to create the identity they want.“Corporations often have such a fragile identity and sense of brand. They may have a logo, but their relationship with it is completely abstract, it’s not a genuine representation of a community of people.”His agenda however, pushing for highly collaborative and identifiable spaces, only works with the right client.“It’s not easy to get these projects,” Wilkinson acknowledges of Macquarie, “Gensler and HOK are seen as safer options. There is more risk in going with us. But the clients that come to us regard that as an essential part of our approach. They want to move into the future without the baggage of the present.”As it brings different groups from across Australia into one building Macquarie was a very complex project, he explains.“There were many different leadership teams involved. It’s a process of negotiation and navigation. We had to present to many different groups in Australia. It’s a complex, human, intense process. It’s highly socialised, you’re looking at how people spend their time every day. You can’t fail, there is no margin for error, it could be incredibly disastrous for business.”The finished project is “still quite colourful, but not as nutty, it has a sophisticated edge.”Wilkinson takes workplace design seriously, but doesn’t see anyone else out there pushing the boundaries in similar ways. “There are a lot of architects doing interesting buildings, but very few looking at the workplace in a creative way.”Although his approach isn’t for everyone, “on the Googleplex project there were two camps, those who loved it and those who didn’t, but there were political things happening at the time,” he does not see himself as a designer pandering to novelty.The 2000-gallon fish tank that is talked about at TBWA was something they incorporated that was already there from an advertising shoot, and the indoor basketball was a client request, “there is a banal assumption we author everything,” he levels. Since the recession hit a year ago, he has been applying his approach to new areas, including education, where there are “fascinating parallels”. He is also working designs for a radio station in Los Angeles, and a University in Texas. Rest assured, that while this LA firm is in practice, the concept of working space is unlikely to ever reach standstill.
Geoff Fox was browsing ebay for scrap metal one evening when he stumbled across a disused building for sale. The owners were stunned when his team turned up and dismantled it, piece by piece for rebuilding.