Horizon Media, founded in 1989, is the largest U.S. independent media services company. It is growing fast and needed a new space to accommodate its New York City staff that was scattered within ten blocks in three buildings and on nine floors.
Its new digs, designed by New York’s a+i Architecture are a cool mix of industrial-scale open space – 115,000 square feet in total on three floors – and warm, inviting working environments.
Horizon’s new offices occupy the 14th, 15th and 16th floors at 1 Hudson Square on 75 Varick Street between Grand and Canal Streets. It is part of the Hudson Square Business Improvement District established in 2009 by Mayor Bloomberg and envisioned to attract media and creative organizations as tenants and to become a major creative hub.
The building was originally a printing factory with an impressive concrete structure, 360-degree views and high ceilings. With such good bones to start from, a+i further amplified the grandeur by cutting a wide staircase through all three floors.
This not only opened the light-filled space up even more, it also met another requirement: it helps the staff see the “hive” at work and connect and interact with each other.
This cohesiveness and interaction was an important goal for Horizon, especially because this is the first time its large headquarter staff was under one roof. The goal of taking fuller advantage of the proximity of the talent of all teams is also reflected in the number of huddle rooms, screening rooms and flexible spaces that have the latest technology to enable cooperation, interaction, brainstorming, presentations, video conferencing and client meetings.
The colour palette of the space is neutral with accessories, furnishings and millwork providing splashes of colour. The coldness of polished concrete and steel is softened by curving wood features made of maple veneer.
Horizon Media employs 500 people in total with additional offices in Los Angeles, San Diego and Amsterdam. a+i Architecture is a full-service architectural firm with projects ranging from workspace consulting, planning and design to retail and hospitality design. - Tuija Seipell
Berlin and Shanghai-based COORDINATION ASIA has just migrated its Shanghai office from an old textile mill to a glass-company headquarters. The former office was located on the banks of Suzhou Creek at No. 50 Monganshan Road in an old textile mill now known as M50 and housing a mix of creative businesses, cafes and restaurants.
COORDINATION ASIA’s new digs are located in the former headquarters of the Shanghai Glass Company at Huangpi Road 688, a building waiting for complete renovation in 2012.
COORDINATION’s CEO Tilman Thürmer, now more or less permanently located in Shanghai, says he misses the artistic community of M50, but loves the downtown location and the cool vibe of the new space.
The team at COORDINATION created a sleek 300 square-meter home for itself among the crazy “old-style European mansion” decor that was the result of a renovation in the 90s. They kept the marble, hardwood, built-in bookshelves, hidden storage, weird ceiling molding and the odd mix of ceiling light fixtures but covered most of it with black paint, a colour prominent in many COORDINATION projects.
The result is an elegant and artsy creative space that could be mistaken for a completely customized environment. - Tuija Seipell.
As recently as in October 2010, the Luxembourg-based Skype’s Stockholm office in Slussen housed only 35 employees. But the video- and audio-focused team’s digs were bursting at the seams and new offices were needed.
Skype found its next Stockholm home in a completely restored massive historical building, Münchenbryggeriet, a landmark of Stockholm’s skyline. Built in 1846 as a clothing factory, the building became Sweden’s largest brewery in 1857 and operated as a brewery until 1971.
Skype’s new offices in the München Brewery now have room for 100 employees. Head architect Mette Larsson-Wedborn of PS Arkitektur with team members Peter Sahlin, Thérèse Svalling, Beata Denton and Erika Janunger, was charged with expressing the Skype brand’s playful spirit and its mission to connect the world in the working environment.
To do this, the designers used round shapes, fun light fixtures and bright-color furnishings in an otherwise almost completely white space. The rounded shapes of the furnishings and cloud-like lights speak the same language as Skype’s rounded font and cloud logo. The custom-made wallpaper is literal, depicting the audio and video world of the staff.
The design team sourced the furnishing from around Europe. The soft, round furnishings come from Blå station; the large, soft green seating from Offecct, the poufs and sofas from Johanson design; the white chairs and barstools from Crassevig, the conference seating from Arper and the workstations from Martela. Customized furniture was designed by PS Architectur and built by Olle Lindelöf AB/Linjon AB.
The interior design of Bank of Moscow’s offices in central Moscow’s Kuznetsky Most area (Kuznetsky Most street 13) retains the building’s great historical bones and matches customized adornments to them.
The office — one of the Bank’s many offices — occupies 7,000 square metres on the third floor and in the previously unused mansard (attic) space. Moscow-based designer, Alexey Kuzmin, retained by architectural office Sretenka for this assignment, used the space’s key feature, the large, hexagon-shaped central hall, as the defining point. He placed the client services functions in this grand, open area to evoke and retain the elegant feel of the entire building.
It is windowless, so Kuzmin created a stained-glass ceiling, that echoes the forms and style of the building. Everything in the client zone was customized, including the tall wooden doors with glass, stained-glass windows, chandeliers, oak paneling for walls and ceilings and the marble floors.
Kuzmin located the staff offices on the wings or balconies surrounding the client zone. The dividers in the office area are made of glass with wooden arches around them.
The attic had no historically significant features and it was designed as a typical, effective office. Glass dividers allow light into the space from the small narrow roof-top windows. The ceiling is made of fire resistant panels, covered with birch veneer. The white office furniture is by Vitra.
The storied building has housed the Tretyakov Trading House (same Tretyakovs that are behind the Tretjakov Art Gallery) and the expansive shop of the famous Russian photographer, J. Daziaro. Over time, the Kuznetsky Most area has changed from an upper-class shopping district (early 1800s) to financial district (mid 1800s), to Bolshevik and KGB offices, and back to elegant shopping (since 1980s). Tuija Seipell.
Pool tables, free beer and “casual everyday” dress code may have become the desired and appropriate work environment in many companies, but for some, a gentlemen’s club atmosphere works better.
London-based architecture and design firm SHH created this elegant office in London for an international investment company. The offices are located in a five-storey Georgian townhouse connected to a two-storey mews by a partially covered walkway. Several marble-inlaid fireplaces, marble mosaic floor tiles and beautiful ceiling cornices were kept from the previous occupants but the rest underwent a thorough modernization.
The resulting milieu is imposing and somewhat intimidating. Its dark, black-and-white photography vibe harkens back to some secret storied past, yet the contemporary treatments, especially the dramatic lighting pieces return the thoughts back to today.
Some of the light fixtures are by Modular and Foscarini and the statement chandeliers were custom-designed by Michael Anastassiades.
Custom-work, limited-edition pieces and classic furnishings such as Eames chairs accent each space, giving stunning jolts among the calm opulence.
Showing up in dated jeans or worn-out sneakers (unless you are Steve Jobs or Richard Branson) in this space would not seem appropriate, and should cue sports be allowed, they would most likely be the English Billiards variety.
Founded in 1992 by David Spence, Graham Harris and Neil Hogan (the S, H and H), architecture and design firm SHH is now a practice of more than 50 people working globally on architecture, design and branding projects.
Many of SHH’s retail, hospitality, nightclub and office clients are in the luxury category, but their client list includes also names such as Sheraton, Adidas, Pizza Hut, Aphostrophe and McDonald’s. - Tuija Seipell
This streamlined and crisp office environment in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is the work of Sergey Makhno’s design and architecture firm. The play between soft and hard, round and angular, plain and colorful creates a sense of whimsy and energy, but does not overpower the space.
The Kiev-based Makhno and his partner Vasily Butenko have used their own distinctive furniture throughout the interior.
The wine-coloured, square-form Origami chairs in the small meeting room contrast beautifully with the azure walls and simple, white table. Black, padded Blobby office chairs give a soft touch to the sparse individual office areas, while the shiny blue rounded sofas add a playful touch to a flexible, multi-use area.
Corian walls “buckle” on top of wood paneling, exposing the wood and creating nooks for storage and soft, undulating features for the eye to follow. Makhno’s work has been featured in local and regional publications, but we expect to see more of it around the world. - Tuija Seipell
We are cautiously nursing a glimmer of hope that even the most corporate of the corporate world could start taking design seriously. And that they could really start understanding and taking advantage of the effects that great head-office design has on staff creativity, productivity and comfort; which, in turn, leads to either staff loyalty or revolving doors. And, most important, that all of this inevitably filters down to how the customers experience the company.
Some banks in Australia are giving us reason for this hope. We observed Macquarie investment bank’s new harbourside office building in Sydney some time ago.
We are now looking at the ANZ Centre in Melbourne’s Docklands and our hopes rise up further. Designed by Melbourne-based HASSELL, the massive “urban campus” occupies 130,000 square metres and is the location of the daily grind for 6,500 people.
The design centers around a common hub that on the ground level includes cafes, a visitor centre and public art. Throughout the campus, 44 individual hub spaces connect to quiet working zones.
The floor plan maximizes flexibility and daylight penetration, and fosters collaboration and varying work styles. About 55 percent of the work area is collaborative space and the remaining area is dedicated desk space.
HASSELL won the 2010 World Architecture Festival’s Interiors and Fitout of the Year award for ANZ Centre. The World Architecture Festival is an annual three-day event held in Barcelona where the Awards this year attracted a record 500 entries from 61 countries. - Tuija Seipell
Large companies with thousands of employees often give just a cursory nod to creating an appealing, exciting and comfortable workplace. Enter the thousands of pool tables and vending machines that are supposedly making work more fun. Lucky for its 3,200 employees, one of Thailand’s leading telecommunications firms, Total Access Communication PCL under the dtac brand, did much more.
In June 2009, dtac gathered its massive team from six separate buildings and relocated them to the newly designed dtac House in Bangkok’s Chamchuri Square office tower. Now under the same roof for the first time ever, the dtac team occupies 62,000 square metres (about 662,000 square feet) on 20 floors, a move that marks the largest-ever office lease in Thailand’s history.
Opened to the media and VIPs on the auspicious day of 09/09/09, dtac House reflects the company’s desire to become the employer of choice, to enhance cooperation and communication, strengthen common goals, increase creativity and make it easier for the brand to react quickly to changing conditions. For staff and customers, the new environment aims to communicate dtac’s brand approach “play and learn.”
Australian Hassell won the competition to design the space and align it with dtac’s vision. Hassell created an open and flexible environment with natural wood, natural light and purpose-built spaces. Some of the highlights include a massive circular library amphitheatre, and an entire Funfloor with indoor soccer, table tennis, running track, and concert and performance spaces.
Other custom-designed spaces include the Conversation Pit, the Freeform Meeting, the Picnic Table and the Dining Room, all created to encourage informal, face-to-face meetings. An open terrace atop the building overlooks Bangkok’s skyline. It is easy to imagine that employees used to this environment would find it difficult to adjust to a boring row of cubicles ever again, in spite of the pool tables and vending machines. - Tuija Seipell
Upperkut, a young communications agency, takes up residence in the basement of a fully operational church, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church, in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood of Montreal, Canada. How do you design the space without compromising the dynamic and fun character of the agency, and without altering the ceilings and other acoustic components of the building?
Montreal-based designer, Jean de Lessard, solved the problem by relying heavily on color and large-scale graphics that echo Uppercut’s website. The 380-square-meter space was divided into four areas: president’s office, project managers’ area, studio and multi-function room. The result is a colorful, functional space with a slightly scruffy feel that reiterate the vibes of both Upperkut and church-basement life. - Tuija Seipell
Macquarie investment bank’s new harbourside office building, One Shelley Street, at King Street Warf in Sydney has been collecting accolades and awards for not only architecture and design but also for environmental sustainability and workplace functionality.
The main players in the team behind the building are Sydney-based Fitzpatrick & Partners, responsible for the design of the actual building, and West Hollywood’s Clive Wilkinson Architects that led the design team in the interior design and outfitting with Woods Bagot as the local executive architect.
Apart from the obvious visual appeal of the 10-storey office space, particularly impressive is Clive Wilkinson’s execution of the idea of using design as a key component in causing change — in encouraging and facilitating a new way of working. Macquarie wanted to adopt a new collaborative working style — Activity-Based Working (ABW), a flexible work platform developed by Dutch consultant Veldhoen & Co. — and the new office facility would play an important part in making this happen.
Macquarie’s 3,000 employees now work in an open and highly flexible space where, for example, in the 10-storey atrium, 26 various kinds of ‘meeting pods’ create a feel of ‘celebration of collaboration’ and contribute to openness and transparency.
The interior staircases have already reduced the use of elevators by 50%, and more than half of the employees say that they change their workspaces each day, and 77% love the freedom to do so.
We like Wilkinson’s own description of the result: “. . . a radical, large-scale workplace design that leverages mobility, transparency, multiple tailor-made work settings, destination work plazas, follow-me technology, and carbon neutral systems. The result is part space station, part cathedral, and part vertical Greek village.”
Clive Wilkinson Architects is known for creative workplaces. Their clients include ad agencies such as Mother, JWT and TBWA\Chiat\Day, and technology firms in the Silicon Valley and Nokia in Finland. - Tuija Seipell