the design brief for our architecture office
The Challenge

The brief was quite straightforward: how would we design a workplace that enhances quality of life experience whilst motivating workers to work closely to their psyche. To bring about an awareness and appreciation to arts, culture and literature around us. We wanted to work around a small budget, something responsible: use of recycled wood, readily available materials and low technology. We had many constraints not to modify any facade or puncture the floor slab for drainage. We had a vision of an environment that was truly pleasant, inviting and exciting without compromising the expectations of a good office. After some reflection, we came up with a reused library concept, a sort of science laboratory, a living room, reading room. A designers workplace.

The Process

Foremost we need to design for fifty persons at the most, so we need new furniture, new layout. The driving design element for us was dealing with storage, and work stations and how we meet and run discussions. It was a lot of clutter we need to clear away, so we introduced shelving systems that evoked a living room bookshelf, serving for a corporate need, efficient, completely organic and raw, and yet minimal. And the floor of course, it had to be to very strong, sustainable and super flat. An experience starts to evolve from these mappings and soon we came to create a space that was humane, organic and yet very corporate and efficient. We also said no walls, no barriers, no rooms and no boxes, (we have that at home and we sit in our cars all day). So an open plan was adopted and with masses of custom shelving were introduced.

The Design

Helping people engage

The layout has everyone mobile, making their coffee, or facing the meeting rooms, as all work areas receive daylight. The pantry or “fireplace” for us all is where we sit around, and meet and talk, or merely just passing by each other, a dynamic space, with a informal feeling about it. No one feels threatened to go as often as needed to make a cup of coffee or to watch a colleague run meetings or participate in ongoing events.

Bringing people together

The office encourages long conversations, discussions and workshops. We introduce books and literature placed strategically in custom design shelves. We share films, magazines, books for all to borrow and read. We bring in morning papers etc. at the end of each day, design presentations are held openly in see through conference rooms with no door, or walls, to stimulate project teams, so there could be interaction without any formal arrangements.

Enabling work to happen anywhere

The furniture we have are completely mobile. We relocated people to where they best prefer to sit, we allow meetings to be held in any part of the office. We went wireless, our server has four hubs and we work in the courtyard next to the building. We interact and print our work into books, displayed on our shelves, intelligent design tools we use and place where they can still migrate and move around as reference documents. There is artwork everywhere and we keep our records in the cloud, and we have wireless.

Environmental responsibility

Our furniture are made of plywood. We use very little power for lighting, as the office has daylight all day long. Everyone works and gets a great and perfect views out, they can look at trees throughout the day, have access to a garden and a large courtyard where we hold events and design lectures every month. We make our own sketch books, and provide food in house, we collaborate with a raw food company and encourage our staff to live close to the office. (50% live within ten minutes of the office.)

Expression and identity (space as branding platform)

We tell visitors it’s a living room, it feels like home, like library and like laboratory for the mind. We fuse emotional and corporate obligations of an individual into one vision, empower them through design, allow creative expression without imposing egocentric needs. Each person identifies with his own personal realm, communicates preferences through personal choices: books, location he chooses to sit in (place he likes to be when he has his coffee, etc).

The result

The result is a place which is neither office or home. It’s a workplace, a library and living room which allows positive energies to emerge from each person, and is unique. Within this, the quality of life is preserved, the individual expresses himself, and he chooses where he wants to work, if it be in a different spot each week. This open plan, at one time the philosophy of great offices of the ’70s is here to stay, and we can now weave into this, external awareness, which is about looking out of the window and enjoying daylight. And above all, embracing a lifestyle by introduction of great raw food service once a month, a book club to join, a reading list, and heaps of great design movies to watch, and to impart ideas to the mind and enrich the soul. And a lot of conversations and lively discourse. The result again, is a place they want to return to every morning, helping to build in affect a intelligent and articulate community.

@huatlim. 2013

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