Program: Government Office
Client: Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency
Status: Completed in 2017
Location: Groningen, The Netherlands
Office buildings are among the most generic of functions: standard grid size, carpet, low grid ceiling, horizontal windows and floorplans with office spaces along the facades and traffic zones in the dark middle. The open plan office provides some variation on the theme, with typically more people and less walls per square meter, hence its ever rising popularity among clients. However, the removal of walls also has an unfortunate byproduct: lost concentration, diminished productivity and no place to hang your calendar. What to do?
The design aims to provide the best of both worlds: walls, but only in one direction. Obediently, the floor area is divided along the existing grid lines into orderly sections that respect existing building elements like stairs and elevators. The resulting spaces receive daylight from both facades and are big enough to be usable by teams of various sizes, while its relatively easy to avoid noise pollution by sitting far away from each other. On the ground floor, the walls are rotated 90 degrees, allowing for an inviting public space that covers the whole width of the building.
Loosely placed openings in the walls connect the different segments and makes the traffic space feel like a sequence of theater wings which are experienced differently depending on the direction the user is walking: from one side the walls are painted boring grey, from the other they are lined with Birch plywood. The last echo of the generic office is avoided by fitting out the ceiling with baffles instead of the obligatory grids. Next to a significant improvement in ceiling height and spatial expression they also provide enough acoustical absorption to neutralise the need for carpet.