Betaunopuntozero is an innovative office system created to embrace new ways of working. Betaunopuntozero is not only a product but a self-sufficient work environment, independent from building constraints and contaminated by domestic elements, which has been designed around those who work. The office system is capable of growing or adapting to evolving teams or individual needs and can be updated to future technological standards. Described as the “evolutive office” the Beta range embraces the concept of making the working space an emotional and social space: a place to live and not only to work.
In these tough economic times, when it’s hard to know what’s round the corner, many people are understandably reluctant to put down permanent roots in terms of where they work.
You wouldn’t want to walk into Burberry’s new HQ underdressed, this building would show you up. Corinthian grey marble floors, dark oak panelling and polished black chrome all spell out classic, unbudging style.
We meet by a sculpture of Ozymandias in the atrium of Kings Place, best known as the new home of the Guardian newspaper in Kings Cross. But unlike the protagonist of the Shelley poem, which is concerned with the hubris of mankind, this office building’s architects and developer have something more philanthropic and inclusive in mind.
The work of Belfast-based Hackett Hall McKnight does a lot to answer the question of whether great architecture is happening in the far corners of the UK. Having beat stiff London competition for the coveted Young Architect of the Year Award (YAYA), HHM is another reminder that exceptional work is done by architects based outside of London. In fact, one could say that, in terms of architecture, HHM has put Northern Ireland (and Belfast in particular) on the map.
Bookmark, designed by Sang Jin Lee from Korea, was exhibited at 100% Design this year. Created with two purposes, it is a night-light as well as a book rest. After reading your favourite novel, your book can be placed on top of the house shaped light, creating a roof as well as keeping your place within the book.
Melbourne’s laneways hold a treasure trove of hidden gems and unexpected surprises. In between the main roads of the city grid lies a network of smaller streets and alleys, each with their own story. Within this urban rabbit warren exists a host of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, galleries and clubs, most of the time impossible to find; in fact the more hidden and anonymous the better. And when finally uncovered, the discoveries are usually very well rewarded. Situated in one such laneway, Monaco House, a boutique office building by Melbourne-based architecture and interiors practice McBride Charles Ryan, is an intriguiging find; its geometrically complex facade beckons the viewer to slow down and contemplate the discovery further.The four-storey building is located on Ridgway Place in the eastern part of the central business district, home to the city’s high-end boutiques and eateries, luxury hotels and private clubs, rather befitting for a building that accommodates its owner’s role as Honorary Consular of Monaco. Much like the country itself, the footprint of the site is miniature – 6.1m wide and 102.5sq m. Bordering opposite, the long brick wall of the Melbourne Club is lined with huge plane trees from within the grounds, cascading a high green screen. The ground level houses a cafe, followed by two floors of offices, a top floor entertainment/reception space and a roof terrace. Services are located at the rear of the building to maximise the frontage onto Ridgway Place.Monaco House is very much a laneway “jewel”. Barely five metres wide, Ridgway Place is not heavily trafficked by cars but is commonly used by pedestrians to shortcut between Bourke, Little Collins and Collins Streets. Walking along the lane absorbed in thoughts, haste or an iPod, the striking origami-like facade jolts the attention to the present. “We wanted the building to be both abstract and awash with imagery,” explains Rob McBride, co-principal of McBride Charles Ryan. “We looked at the plane trees, the gothic, surrealism, the heraldic, deco and Prague cubists. We wanted the building to be above all else something that amplified its miniature urban grain and enriched the pedestrian experience of the city.” Upon closer examination, details arouse further curiosity: a protruding red glass balcony, the deep recess of the top floor opening or the north western corner that crumples down four storeys culminating on the ground floor in a hovered seating ledge landscaped with a patch of artificial turf. The building appears different each time depending on the approach, viewing location and light conditions that highlight the tonal contrasts of the facade. Looking up from the narrow lane, the exaggerated vertical perspective makes the building seem higher, perhaps more towards the scale of an embassy. Logistically, the restricted laneway access influenced the cost and construction; building elements like the concrete facade were pre-cast, designed to be transported to the site and lifted with standard cranes whose sizes were dictated by turning circles. While pedestrians ponder the exterior, the crafted details continue inside. Divided by a glass screen, the second floor offices are visually open, where perimeters of dark built-in joinery contrast with the stark white interiors, winding into the middle to become office tables. As a reminder of the context of the office, a coffee table is fashioned from a racing car wheel from the client. The cantilevered balcony is seemingly projected into the trees, providing a green respite from work. Large shaded openings provide natural daylight for workspaces and the reliance on air-conditioning is reduced through cross ventilation and heavy insulation. Upstairs, the entertaining/reception space intended for official consular functions feels dramatically cavernous, tracing the undulating folds of the exterior. Accentuated by the whiteness, surfaces crease into each other, blurring boundaries; the shelter on the balcony folds down to provide shading, travelling to become a wall that continues inside. The upholstered surfaces surrounding the fireplace are playfully ambiguous; white vinyl seating is morphed into the walls and ceiling and vice versa. “The built furniture is an extension of the formal gestures of the building itself – we wanted the walls to fold seamlessly into the furniture,” McBride says. Exiting above, the roof terrace is a secluded mini getaway complete with fake grass and fantastic city views where deck chairs and martinis wouldn’t look out of place. In addition to providing distraction from work, the roof terrace collects rainwater that is stored in the stairwell, and the “Tiger Turf” adds an extra layer of insulation. The corner is gently uplifted as if launching the green carpet into the city beyond. Since its opening, the building has become interwoven with the fabric of the city and pedestrians definitely use this shortcut just to include the building in their city route. “When we lifted the facade seat it allowed an opportunity for some urban landscape – a mini lawn for the smallest of nations seemed appropriate,” says McBride. “This small detail has provoked a spontaneous response from a passer-by – a carefully placed sign saying ‘Please Keep off the Grass’ is a playful response to our gesture.”
If you could peer into the soul of the average Google boffin what would you see? Eskimos sheltering from arctic blasts in remote igloos; idyllic beaches with inviting hammocks hung between two palm trees, green pastures dotted with giant walk-in eggs or fusty old libraries full of comforting leather armchairs?These are just some of the sensuous pictures imagined by the 300-plus Googlers at the company’s new dream factory in Zurich – images that have led to the creation of physical environments that the Googlers, or “Zooglers” as they are known, said would get their creative juices running. Interior architect Camenzind Evolution persuaded Google’s top brass in California that indulging the staff in this way would lead to more bright ideas, amazing new products and ultimately bigger profits.“If people feel more self empowered about how to work and where to work in the building, then there is clear evidence that they become more motivated,” says director Stefan Camenzind, who used a psychologist to work with the Zooglers to identify their values, motivations and stimuli.The result is a bold and surreal series of communal areas and meeting rooms of all sizes, where the Zooglers can go to relax and think – and then hopefully have that “eureka moment”.Eureka moments are what the Zooglers are all about. The new-build office, on the site of an old brewery near the city centre, is where new products are invented and where success stories such as Google Maps were born. And with the size of the World Wide Web doubling every six months, the firm is under ever greater pressure to find ways of improving its search engine and its general offer. The solutions will germinate in these outlandish interiors. “Most of the people here do new product development, so communication is extremely important between people,” says Matthias Graf, head of communications at Google Switzerland. “We focus here on innovation and pushing the boundaries of technical development, and that involves short cycles of intense creativity. There is no way they can do this in an ordinary environment.”Camenzind Evolution won the job at competitive interview by selling Google a design process in which the 350 Zooglers would fully participate to “create their own local identity”. There would be no brief, no corporate design manual and no reference to Google’s Silicon Valley HQ.“Usually you start with the client giving you tonnes of paper, but this job was different because there was no brief and no research on other Google offices,” says Camenzind.The process started with a questionnaire of all employees, with some very searching questions about what makes them the person they are. The psychologist then conducted interviews and workshops to hone those values down and make them representative.The studies found that the majority of Google’s staff particularly relate to visual things. And at least the Zooglers do not take themselves too seriously – the resultant spaces are playful and fun, including a slide from the upper floors that directs starving Zooglers directly to the staff restaurant. Each of the seven floors is themed by a colour and concept, such as the blue floor in which you can immerse yourself in the rarefied subterranean world of the life aquatic, or the green floor in which you can commune with nature. If you want to be a beach bum you can go to the yellow floor, or if you want to generate the intensity of metropolitan life you can go to the city floor, complete with its yellow cab meeting rooms.The diverse spaces are suited to different moods. For example, the aquarium emits a diaphanous blue light that makes it a good place to meditate, and Zooglers can recline in baths full of foam cubes in front of the fish for just that purpose. It is a good place to de-stress before or after an intense meeting, says Graf. “Many staff stay late into the evening because of the need to video conference with Googlers in California, and the aquarium is a good place to relax between the two phases of your day.”If there is a theme that harmonises the spaces, it is that wherever you are in the building, even the staff restaurant or the games room, a bright idea should never be far away. As a result, there are whiteboards everywhere inviting an idea to be scribbled down before it gets lost in the ether.The many meeting areas facilitate the huge amount of video conferencing that needs to take place in a global organisation like Google, but they also give a complex building some clear points of reference. And it is hoped that by having so many spaces to choose from according to your mood will see different groups of Zooglers mix together and not be ghettoised in a certain part of the building. “During the workshops we realised that people did not view Google so much as one huge company but a series of different groups,” says Camenzind. “They feel more connected to their group than Google.“The company is growing very fast in Zurich [Google expects to double the amount of staff there] and there is a concern that people will never see each other,” he adds. “So we hope they will walk through other areas to get to the communal area of their choice and not just go to the nearest place to have coffee.”The dreamscapes are bulging out of the 12,000sq m building, and in order to enjoy them the Zooglers have had to make some sacrifices when it comes to their actual office spaces – which, at 16sq m per person, have been squeezed much tighter than in Google’s old Zurich office. Not that they mind – when they are sitting at their desks applying all that newly flowered creativity, they want to be somewhere that is neutral and not distracting. On average, a Zoogler moves workspace twice a year within the building anyway, so they do not get too attached to their workstations.The project budget has not been released, but Camenzind insists it was relatively low compared to other major buildings for a multinational company. “Google is not a big spender, but it does put money where it matters. Most of the office furniture supplied by Vitra is simple with no fancy stuff.”In much of the building, the concrete walls are left exposed and many of the meeting rooms are furnished by Ikea. The glass walls that partition the enclosed offices for up to six people are merely functional, but good acoustically.
All the furniture in the old-style library is secondhand and furnishing the whole room cost just £2,300. The upturned boat stuffed with cushions was bought secondhand and was cheaper than buying a sofa in Ikea, says Camenzind.The open-plan office areas can be easily moved at any time. The desks have an integral up-lighting system so when the desks move so does the light, and the lighting requirement can be limited to just 14 watts per square metre. Turning Zoogle dreams in to reality may not be free but it hasn’t cost the earth either.