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The new offices of DDB Hong Kong are designed to make staff feel inspired and involved. Pared-back, expansive interiors inset with playful communal spaces set the scene

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Stock in trade of a successful communications company are highly creative ideas – and lots of them. With this in mind, an architect or designer creating a new workspace for an advertising company might give highest priority to creating an environment where concepts and communication come easily.

When communications company DDB relocated from downtown Hong Kong to a more spacious satellite location across the island, it enlisted CL3 to mastermind the redesign. With the new offices now a reasonable commute away, the space had to be both inspirational and a welcoming journey's end, says CL3's project architect on the fit-out, William Lim.

"Large, spacious interiors and a sense of fun were both integral to creating the right feel," says Lim. "This playful, stimulating atmosphere is evident when you first approach DDB's new reception area, which takes the form of a white architectural cube inserted within a larger, open volume. One wall of this entry space is magnetised, allowing messages and words to be pieced together afresh every day. On the opposite wall, projections of product showcases play from a mounted projector. The reception is whimsical, clean-lined and unexpected, and this sets the scene for the entire fit-out."

The layout of the 12th-floor premises follows a ribbon-like formation that spans two buildings, with a rooftop garden connecting the two. Behind the reception area, several meeting rooms and a conference room run through the larger 1600m2 section, while the connected spaces in the adjacent building are largely for administrative offices.

The glazed facades are built at raked, sloping angles that draw attention to the buildings' mass. The stretch of glazing along one side of the two buildings ensures natural light floods uninterrupted right across the long, narrow interior. The large window wall takes in the scenic outlook on this side of the offices while on the other side, walls are left largely unbroken. On the inside, the attention to volume is equally pronounced.

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"We completely stripped out the ceilings of the existing interior, creating a pared-back feel," says Lim. "Dropped ceilings were reintroduced in a couple of areas, over the reception and boardroom area, but generally the concrete structure, service cables and ducting are all left naked to the eye."

While the bare surfaces, visible services and simple lighting might have created an industrial tone, the idea was more to maximise volume. The greater the sense of space, the more dramatic the appearance of the cube inserts and meeting areas placed within it.

"The principal advantage of the open-plan design is easy, informal communication for staff members. Staff members had to feel at ease, hence a playful design emphasis, and also connected to others," says Lim. "A large central area is treated as a village square for the company. It features large-scale steps at both ends, for either sitting on, or speaking out from. Following on from the village square concept, a bell hanging in this space allows the boss to summon the staff to an impromptu meeting or presentation."

Playful level changes create a variety of individual spaces along the length of the interior, from a library area to meditation spaces and private meeting spaces.

Within the open space there are several management offices designed as glass cube inserts. A larger enclosed cube, fronted on one side in back-painted glass, is known as the War Room. This secure room is used for brain-storming, and for more commercially sensitive meetings where privacy is required.

"Colour as well as form played an important part in the design," says Lim. "Yellow is DDB's brand colour, and it features at various points through the fit-out – to particularly dramatic effect in the boardroom. Elsewhere the offices feature back-painted glass partitions to separate desking, and yellow-green coloured glass doors that open onto the conference room."

However, colour contributes to the fun aspect of the offices as well. The front entry to the War Room, for example, is in a deep, translucent blue. This room is elevated and entered via what look like swimming pool steps. The blue wall, pool steps and proximity of the sea beyond the windows combine to whimsical effect.

"Almost every area of DDB's new offices provides a stimulating outlook and a sense of connection, and the rooftop terrace is no exception," says Lim. "Seen from here, the building's angled walls seem even more exaggerated. Sitting out on the terrace, sipping coffee and look straight out to sea, the view is framed by these leaning facades."

First published date: 28 September 2007

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Credit List

Location DDB, Hong Kong
Client DDB Worldwide
Interior designer CL3 Architects
Mechanical engineer CSA M&E
Electrical engineer K&K Engineering
Technology consultant Billion Asia Pacific
IT/telecommunications consultant DCL Communications
Builder Ping Kee Construction
System furniture Steel Case Hong Kong
Carpet Preview
Cabinets I.Mart Office Furniture
Lighting Zodiac Lighting