Internet-hosting firm Bearstech needed a rugged answer to their workplace in Paris
Bears live in caves. So now Bearstech, an internet-hosting firm in Paris, will operate from a cave. It seems a logical enough design conclusion, if not a bit corny. But it’s easy to forgive the offence when the end result is this enchanting. French designer Paul Caudomy, perhaps best known to us for his pioneering use of cardboard, has converted a shop in the 2nd Arrondissment into a cave-like workplace fit for six Bears(tech employees). The idea was to reflect the company’s “innovative and animal image” and to promote the “wild and raw aspects of their approach to virtual technology,” he says.
The new space, completed in May, holds a fantastical quality due mostly to Coudamy’s use of reclaimed wood scraps in what looks like a timber explosion over the ceiling of the main meeting area.
“Bears can be very powerful when they wake up, and the client asked for a meeting room that was very organic and closed,” says Caudomy. “The result is a wood structure that intends to translate the chaotic mass power dynamited in an uncontrolled energy – a wood vortex out of a natural disaster.” Whoa! Though in spite of this daunting description, there is an undeniable cosiness, an intimacy to the space – and the smattering of light from the perforated window dressings adds to the magic of it. Caudomy points out that the streets in the surrounding area are narrow and do now allow a lot of light in to buildings. “The client was also interested in this darkness. That proposition was something very interesting for them. The main story of the cave and how it is built is the strategy of finding wood and creating an atmosphere.”
Technically speaking, the office is split into three areas: work, leisure and the meeting room. Caudomy worked with a small team to source the timber, mainly old floors, from rubbish dumps, pavements and skips. They also collected discarded scraps from flooring companies who wanted to save themselves a disposal job.
“For us it was interesting to work with this wood that has a history and a past, and maybe people have worked or lived on it for fifty years,” Caudomy explains. “Everybody won – the client, us, and I think the project was more interesting because of it.” Not to mention more sustainable, which is something that Caudomy specialises in with these sorts of low-tech materials.
“The idea was to reflect the company’s ‘animal image’ and to promote the ‘wild and raw aspects of their approach to technology”
Previously he had constructed a whole office of industrial cardboard for a Parisian events company, and that particular material makes an appearance in the Bearstech space as well. Honeycombed cardboard bookcases sit in the meeting room and a felt covered bench, which acts as a divider between the meeting room and work area, is also constructed of it.
Aside from wanting the office to feel like a cave, the client was keen that it be a green operation, so the cardboard and the reclaimed timber are major bonuses. “He didn’t want to be silly and use brand new wood – he was happy to use the old stuff,” Caudomy says.
In that same vein, Caudomy sourced Eames chairs on ebay instead of buying brand new editions from Vitra. They are older models from the 1970s and 1980s, which have different colours with both high and low backs, and he feels they add to the charm of the place.
Previously, he adds, the space had been a shop for postcards and trinkets and required quite a bit of basic work. The walls were covered with partition, so everything had to be removed and the walls treated. The “crappy floors” were torn up in favour of poured concrete, which have new electrical outlets everywhere so staff can move freely around the office with their kit.
The cave feeling is carried through to the back space, if in a different way, by the emphasized Parisian rock and brick walls, which create a sort of mineral atmosphere.
In the next year, Bearstech would like to use the new office for an exhibition of the new hardware they’re working on. “The company has an original strategy and marketing – they’re interesting,” Caudomy says. “It’s a headquarters – they have many collaborators all around the country, so they wanted to spend some money to give a strong impression of the company.”
For all intents and purposes, Caudomy’s work does tend to hit the mark in terms of keeping to low budgets and inventing a specific environment that is not so easily forgotten. The cave and the cardboard office are both spaces that provoke a bit of thoughtfulness for the people who work in them. So in that sense, this project has been beary successful indeed. (Sorry, had to.)