Offices

June 2 2008



At the end of last year we filled you in briefly on the evolution of office design from autonomous, uninspiring closed spaces to the ubiquitous cube and finally the latest incarnation of creative, motivational and dynamic workable environments.  And now we’re back to tell you about one of the latest projects from the architecture and design firm Camenzind Evolution: Google Zurich.

And what is truly remarkable about this project is that Carmenzind Evolution delivered exactly what Google desired, while not exceeding the costs of many conventional interior office fit-outs.  The design team began by working closely with Google through the pre-design process by interviewing all 350 employees with the intention of incorporating their ideas into a new workspace.  Because many companies spend excessive amounts on furniture and finishes that have nothing to do with how the employees work and interact within the space, the final design resulted in elements from which the so-called ‘Zooglers’ would benefit most.



Stefan Camenzind, the design firm’s founding partner, reveals the essential considerations that led to the innovative creation for the new office space in Zurich: staff knows better than a management committee what works best based on personality types; flexibility of space allows employees take ownership and feel like they belong; communal areas can and should be outlandish and inspiring; bold, clean colour will successfully change the character of the room; cash is always well-spent on an extraordinary coffee machine rather than on soda or junk food; and finally, it’s OK and even recommended to splurge on a few signature items rather than going all out on carpet, furniture and chairs, all of which can amount to spending too much on the stuff no one notices anyway.



Keeping all that in mind, let’s dissect Google’s new EMEA Engineering Hub located within walking distance of Zurich city centre in the ‘Hurlimann Areal.’  The building was originally a brewery that has been converted in to a vibrant mixed-use development of residential and commercial spaces, including shops and a spa hotel. The Google offices comprise seven storeys of 12,000 square metres of floor space for up to 800 employees.

A diverse team of Zooglers was assembled and represented the entire staff by approving and rejecting nearly every aspect of the interior fit-out.  Carmenzind Evolution was never given a specific design brief, but instead followed the directions and recommendations given by the steering committee.  Another unique element included in the design process was the involvement of a psychologist who administered a survey to each employee identifying both emotional and practical requirement of the Zooglers.



The final design strategy involved the creation of highly functional, yet somewhat basic individual workspace surrounded by proportionally larger, highly stimulating communal areas and meeting spaces.  Open-plan workspaces were created for 8-10 employees, whilst glass-partitioned offices were built for smaller work teams allowing for both transparency and light from the outside, as well as creating the required degree of privacy from within.  And because the average Google worker moves workstations twice a year, each area has to be exceedingly flexibly and adaptable. 

Every floor is individually themed and colour-coded allowing for effortless orientation.  The fifth floor, the history floor, was designed to resemble an old library parlor.  The meeting room has large overstuffed sofas and chairs, dark, velvet curtains, a fireplace and a chandelier.  The fourth floor is the green floor — the environment floor.  The communal spaces have large, cocoon-like meeting areas amidst a forest of tree trunks.  Zooglers can slide down a pole from the floor above into the space.  And the third floor’s theme is Switzerland.  The floors have carpets that look like snow, and ski gondolas have been converted into meeting spaces.  Igloo Satellite Cabins allow work teams to close themselves off to their surroundings and attend videoconferences with peers around the world. 



Other noteworthy communal areas include an aquarium water lounge where workers can chill out in foam-brick-filled bathtubs; a massage spa and a games room to play billiards, foosball and other video games; the Milliways cafeteria accessible via a large spiral slide where chefs use local produce to offer fresh meals; and a fitness studio offering group yoga and Pilates classes.  And as each communal area is dispersed throughout the seven floors, Zooglers are encouraged to circulate and explore thereby increasing their interaction and communication with co-workers from every department. 

We have to admit we’re huge fans of socially-inclusive design processes — and the design team at Carmenzind Evolution were dedicated to insuring the wants and needs of each Google employee in Zurich were met — and usually even exceeded.  Google, of course, is a highly innovative and effervescent company where their new relaxed work environment will undoubtedly inspire and motivate Zooglers to keep the company moving forward while conceiving provoking initiatives. By Andrew J Wiener.









Architecture

May 28 2008



Antwerp, Belgium-based one-year-old sculp(IT) is a partnership of two architects, Pieter Peerlings and Silvia Mertens. They have recently completed a clever office, residence and studio for themselves in what they call “Antwerp’s narrowest house” located in Anwerp’s former red-light district. They took a 2.4-meter (7 feet 10 inches) wide space between two buildings, erected a steel skeleton in it and installed four wooden floors, one each for work, dining, relaxing and sleeping, plus a bath tub on the roof.



A one-piece staircase connects the floors. The walls are all glass, allowing light in and creating a feel of space. In a nod to the area’s “exhibitionist” past, each “window” to the street has a black frame emphasizing the showcase or display aspect. The multi-color lighting scheme completes the seedy notion. By Tuija Seipell




Stores

May 22 2008



After becoming one of the world's hottest boutique botanical skincare ranges, the Australian-based Aesop brand is now making a name for itself in the world of innovative retail design, injecting a large dose of cool into the concept of sustainability. If you thought the brand's Melbourne "cardboard" concept store was clever (all of the merchandising stands were made from recycled cardboard), you'll love its brand new Adelaide "bottle" boutique. The store's ceiling is crafted entirely out of recycled bottles, precisely arranged in a wave pattern. Who said green had to be dowdy?

These new Australian stores are part of a big phase of expansion for Aesop, which has also just opened boutiques in Paris and London's swanky Mayfair. By Lisa Evans



Music

May 21 2008


While hipsters the world over are salivating for distorted bangers from the likes of Justice, Teenage Bad Girl and the rest of the rabble, there’s something far more exciting happening just out of the spotlight. It’s called Valerie (scene, sound, label and blog). It’s sunglasses at night, John Hughes, Molly Ringwald, old Sega Megadrive cartridges, endless summers and high drama romance all rolled into one. Purveyors of the Valerie sound include founders the Outrunners, Anoraak, College, Mathelvin and Minitel Rose and more recently Parallels and Aedyhawke, all brought together through their shared adoration of retro synths and Miami Vice re-runs. Good thing they all found each other because they’re hitting all the right marks, from Maethelvin’s car-chase disco to the teenage anthems of College and Anoraak’s make out sesh scores. In three years time Valerie might be an inescapable, designer-tee-spewing, branding monstrosity. Right now, it just sounds so good.  Touch it while it's still pure.

myspace.com/valeriejetaime
myspace.com/theoutrunners
myspace.com/maethelvin
myspace.com/anoraak
myspace.com/minitelrose
myspace.com/collegeoflove

By Dave Ruby Howe


Architecture

May 19 2008




There’s a new planet in the solar system and it’s called Luxury. Actually, it is here on earth, on a little-known island called Nurai, located northeast of Abu Dhabi city.

The 130,000-square-meter island is about to be transformed into an achingly glamorous and luxurious resort and exclusive private residential estate, comprised of one boutique luxury hotel resort with 60 suites, 31 beachfront estates and 36 water villas.



The mammoth project is a collaboration between New York based Studio Dror, led by Dror Benshetrit, that has designed the residences, and the Paris-based firm AW2 are responsible for the design of the hotel.

The sheer scale of the project is awe-inspiring; the incredible multi-storey water villas alone will span 515 square metres each, comprising of three bedrooms, four bathrooms, a private rooftop garden with spa pool, private infinity pool, multiple decks, outdoor barbeque area, gourmet kitchen and concealed service quarters. No doubt Tom & Katie are making their reservations already.



As for the private “Seaside” residences (which are sure to be snapped up by Saudi Princes and oil shieks because they will probably be the only ones who can afford them), the five bedroom-six bathroom estates span across between 3,000 — 6,050 square metres.
 
Each “Seaside” estate will include a private beach and garden, rooftop garden with spa pool, infinity swimming pool, indoor reflecting pools, concealed service quarters, entertainment patios, outdoor dining areas, chef and show kitchens and outdoor showers.

The resort is due to open in 2010 and residences start at €20 million. By Lisa Evans




Architecture

May 15 2008



Some of us think that our far off ancestors lived in the trees — and during our childhood, when our thoughts and memories are most pure, we yearn to climb trees growing in our gardens, in our parks, in our cities.  As we get older, the urge to climb trees subsides as we ride elevators up to our offices in the sky and look out across the cities where we live.  Yet occasionally, as we’re sealed up tight in our artificially climatic spaces, we long for a breath of fresh air.



At a German company called baumraum  an architect, a landscape architect, an arbologist, and a craftsman design modern, natural and solidly constructed treehouses. Each treehouse project is assessed individually. The team takes into consideration both the condition of the environment and of the tree, with the size and features the clients desire.  


baumraum offers a range of wood-types as well as options for insulated walls.  Treespaces can be outfitted with sitting and sleeping benches, storage spaces, a mini-kitchen, heating, glass windows, lighting, as well as a sound system for multimedia.  Every piece is pre-fabricated in a workshop, and then brought together on site.



Sound like something you’ve been wanting?  The baumraum team offers free consultation where they can talk you through every option available as you put together your dream treehouse.  The treehouses can span multiple levels and sit among several trees.  Treehouses are mostly secured with ropes, thereby minimising the impact of stress to the tree or trees on which the house is placed.  And if a tree is particularly weak, or even if a treehouse is wanted where there is no suitable tree, stilts are used to guarantee people everywhere can once again climb trees. By Andrew J Wiener.




Stores

May 14 2008



If you were led to a department store’s make-up and perfume floor blindfolded, would you know where you are when the blindfold came off? What store, what city, what country? Probably not, as one looks just like the other. Unimaginative, predictable, boring. Not so at Berlin’s 100-plus year-old Kaufhaus des Westens, one singular store known by Berliners as KaDeWe. Specializing in luxury, style and indulgence, KaDeWe has never shied away from swanky design or striking displays. This time, they’ve allowed Hamburg-based Bilen & Born GbR  to create two radically different areas on the ground-floor perfume department. One is a white space-agey multi-label area inspired by the act of breathing in fragrances, where spirals and rounded shapes draw the visitor in. The other is a baroque-inspired space with a contemporary twist. With its glass mosaic floor, studded pillars and ceiling with more than 8,000 Swarovski crystals, these surroundings are memorable even if the brands are the same as everywhere else. By Tuija Seipell



Design

May 13 2008



The work of Belgium’s Rotor Group is popping up in more and more visible places. Rotor covers a wide range of projects, from basic design, branding and packaging, to events, lighting planning, interiors, showrooms, products, trade shows and art. We especially like the work they have done with Belgian lighting firm Modular Lighting Instruments creating events, showrooms and surroundings that defy definition. A great example is Rotor Designer Toon Stockman’s retro-futuristic showroom for Modular that pays homage to Modular’s Beam Squad and consists of six enormous cages supported by a skeleton of fluorescent tubing. The wild narrative for this installation – a typical Rotor tale – tells of life-destroying peril but luckily, all will be well and in about 2069, lighting will be manufactured in peace again. By Tuija Seipell






Fashion

May 12 2008




For all you sneaker addicts - here's two new crazy styles that have just been released. Arriving in Dover Street Market (London) on 15th May — the Pierre Hardy special limited edition ‘Cruzeiro’ in metallic calfskin (above) and below, the must-have terry toweling inspired sneaker by Japanese brand realMadHectic - the Pile.





Music

May 9 2008




Yeo Choong, from Brisbane, Australia is smart.  I say this not because he is the mastermind behind Yeo and The Fresh Goods, or because he makes music with mathematical precision. 

I say it because he is a 21 year old Masters student in Audiology and because his debut album 'Trouble Being Yourself' sounds like a nerdier version of N.E.R.D.  Indeed, the production on his standout track 'Two Sides Of A Door' would make Pharrell proud.

But Yeo isn't just in the mood for making funk rock and singing in a slight falsetto.  He jumps and jerks between genres, sometimes in the same song. 

The reggae-pop intro of 'Fishin' With Aidan' melds into a salsa infused party jam, all the while mixing the ska-delivery of Sublime and the 'Thank You' message from Dido's long-forgotten hit of the same name.

From his sneaky horns to his hand-claps and Super Mario samples, Yeo recorded, mixed and produced the entire album.  It's catchy, cheeky good fun.

Fresh goods indeed. By Nick Christie



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