Story by Colleen Hawkes
Photography by Rory Daniel, Framing Pixels
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SapientNitro office fit-out by Space Matrix
Bring creatives together and you can expect the imaginations to flow freely. That's precisely the cause and effect of this office interior designed for a Singapore firm of integrated marketing and technology specialists, or idea engineers to use the popular terminology.
The interior, designed by Space Matrix, belongs to SapientNitro, a multinational company that required a workplace that would inspire creativity and encourage communication and collaboration. The fit-out also needed to enhance the company's corporate branding and identity.
SapientNitro creative director Jeffrey Blais says the company knew immediately that the office space was the most suitable base for the business. A living wall of greenery, large balcony and additional small balcony on the opposite side of the building provided an attractive outlook. Workers could look right through the office and see the greenery on one side, and a row of traditional Singapore shophouses on the other. Space Matrix director Michael O'Brien says the floor offered a blank canvas – a long, narrow rectangle with white walls and suspended ceilings.
"SapientNitro wanted something a little different, and was quite ambitious in terms of the number of people and facilities to be accommodated within the space," he says. "The company's innovative approach to business and the way the team works needed to be reflected in the design, so the first challenge was to get rid of the monotony of the rectangle, while still keeping a sense of order."
The lively, contemporary design response is evident from the black-walled reception area, which features two intersecting inverted L-shaped suspended ceiling elements. One is a bright orange canopy that embraces the reception desk and the other is a more organic wood veneer element that wraps down the wall to form a bench seat. A large graphic of a pair of glasses on a glass wall plays with the idea of transparency, vision and creativity. It's a theme that continues on the interior.
"We required areas for production work and collaboration – the team is always brainstorming ideas," says Blais. "And we didn't want straight rows of desks like a classroom. We want to inspire creativity – we encourage people to get up, walk around, sit out on the balcony, interact with each other and write on the walls."
O'Brien's response was to skew the main axis, realigning the space so that everyone could see through to the outdoors and also to the back wall, which incorporates a wide glass panel that provides an extended whiteboard available to all staff.
"The design breaks away from the regimentation of the rectangle," says the designer. "As well as positioning the workstations on an angle, we introduced a collaboration hub to the middle of the space, which is also at an angle. This area is defined by a bright orange carpet – it's a lively colour that gives out energy."
The design centre, as it is known, provides a variety of meeting spaces, large and small. Operable glass walls between the rooms provide flexibility – the entire space can be opened up to provide a town-hall style volume, or closed down for more intimate meetings and brainstorming sessions. Rooms are also equipped with the latest audiovisual technology, with one space designated as a videoconferencing room.
"The glass walls can double as whiteboards," says O'Brien. "There are blinds on both sides, and either one can be pulled down to allow a better view of the whiteboard."
Circulation areas behind the meeting rooms also have a function beyond the obvious. Clusters of stools and brightly coloured bean bags provide breakout areas, and there is a business centre where people can pop out of a meeting to retrieve or copy papers as required.
The original suspended ceilings were removed, and new acoustic ceilings provided for the design centre. But in the rest of the office the services were left exposed and painted white – with the exception of the sprinkler pipes, which are red.
"Removing the existing ceilings has provided more height, and painting the services white has helped to make the office seem a lot more spacious," says O'Brien. "The red accents add a splash of colour for a little visual relief."
Fluorescent lighting also helps to define the various functions of the space. Above the work areas, the lights are in orderly lines, while the lights above the breakout zones in the circulation areas reflect a chaotic disarray – and a design that doesn't take itself too seriously.
"We also wanted the interior to provide a sense of place," says O'Brien. "Decorative panels along the top and bottom of the glass whiteboard on the back wall reference the traditional Singapore shophouses."
In keeping with SapientNitro's focus on staff wellbeing, the fit-out includes a tranquil Zen garden area on the smaller rear balcony.
"The larger front balcony with the vertical garden is a very active, social area. The company often entertains clients out there and staff gather after work – there is a kitchen and bar area. In contrast, the opposite balcony is designed to be all about serenity and quiet reflection.
"Staff and guests can also gather in the kitchen, where a second suspended canopy in wood veneer wraps down the wall, providing a warm, inviting place to linger. This is also a visual connection back to reception, so there is a sense of continuity flowing through the office."
First published date: 09 September 2012
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