Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Interpolis, ’t Laar in Amsterdam, The Netherlands by NL architects
June 7th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: NL architects
Information Technology allows us to re-think the way we work. Working becomes potentially independent from time and place. The insurance company Interpolis has together with Veldhoen Company developed a revolutionary and radical office concept, called ‘Helder Werken’. The central idea is that employees no longer need a fixed workspace. Potentially any place becomes a place to work. They are allowed to choose from numerous high quality rooms and spaces that are optimized for the nature of their business at each point in time. You can take your laptop and cell phone and find a place under a tree, if you want, or go home, or work in the car, or use the ‘clubhouses’ that are especially designed for you. Flex.
By matching spatial organization and occupation the company is capable of reducing their real-estate property with 50%. In a compact and crowded country this is a generous act. Without the clever flexibility of their operation the building would be twice as big!
A truly miraculous paradox is created: by reducing the total surface by half the sensation of increased spaciousness is evoked. Instead of using the same old tiny office with your private desk day in day out, now you can choose from a catalogue of glamorous rooms with different identities. The ‘Melrose Place’ experience: instead of just possessing a bathtub by your self you can own a kidney shaped swimming pool together.
The Headquarters in Tilburg was the first project in Europe according to these principles. The master plan by Nel Verschuuren from the design firm Kho Liang Ie features a great number of internationally acclaimed artists and designers. They created specific lobbies and collective spaces that form a differentiated and ultra inspiring working environment. The company believes in the added value of intelligent design and is willing and able to invest in it (and of coarse they save a lot on real-estate).
The so-called ‘satellite’ offices are organized according to these principles as well. The office called ‘t Laar (their second office in Tilburg) consists of two towers connected by a lobby. The first act was to spatially reconsider the layout of the proposed ground floor level: another 300m2 was added to the initial brief of 900m2 in order to fit the required program in a more ‘loose and relaxed’ way. The assignment -initially restricted to designing the interior only- extended as such into shaping the ‘base’. An additional outdoor space was carved out of the planned ‘hill’ to provide a pleasant continuation of the interior on both sides of the plinth.
The Blackness of the granite facades of the buildings designed by Architectenbureau Storimans continues into the interior and forms a continuous background defining the entire lobby as a whole. Local incidents and differences determine the atmosphere. Walls are clad in locally produced fabrics, boxing sacs mimicking columns filter the space, gold-clad lockers provide a warm glow. At your command James Bond-like monitors rise seamlessly from the tabletops, electrically controlled curtains automatically re-find their most transparent positions after you leave the room. The furniture is adjustable in all directions, the couches are versatile like Transformers, a leather clad counter at the entrance might perform as a one legged Pommel Horse.
The cluster of initially orthogonal meeting rooms crystallized into an amorphous and as such more efficient ‘Blob With Angles’. The ‘Crystal’ differentiates the surrounding lobby without fragmenting it. And it directs the space in a comfortable way. A surprising by-product of the angularity is acoustic advantage compared to rectangles. Each meeting room is geometrically unique.
The ceilings and floors of the meeting rooms are executed in different shades of green as to reinforce the spatial character of these spaces. They appear like fields with different crops: a green oasis for refreshing meetings.
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