Story by Paul Taylor
Photography by Owen Raggett
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A central staircase, meeting rooms and an easy connection between offices and labs support a workplace strategy of creative collaboration and innovation
Business success today relies heavily on encouraging innovation and having the flexibility to implement changes quickly. And a major factor in achieving those outcomes is the workplace environment.
When Procter & Gamble decided to build an innovation centre in Singapore, the goal was to come up with a radical design that reflected the company's innovative spirit.
The company says the new building needed to address the challenge of a tropical climate and be sympathetic to Singapore's cultural heritage, but in a contemporary way.
"While this is a highly sophisticated building from a technological point of view, we also wanted to create an inspiring and stimulating work environment to help drive creativity and innovation."
The 32,000m2 facility is Phase 4 in the Biopolis biomedical research hub, masterplanned by architect Zaha Hadid. It is Singapore's largest private research centre, and is the first P&G centre to be built in a tropical and urban environment.
One of the results of that is the intelligent facade design which uses clear glazing and louvres to give maximum access to daylight while controlling glare and heat.
While P&G's own architecture team worked with IDC Architects on the building itself, Orbit Design was commissioned to design the interiors and integrate corporate graphics and branding.
Orbit design director Simon Drogemuller says this involved providing a host of functions – from research laboratories to training rooms and offices.
"These were to house an army of engineers, researchers and scientists who develop beauty, hair and skin products," he says.
But instead of splitting these functions into separate wings, lab and office space was allocated to each floor. The lab areas were internalised in the building core, while the open-plan work areas were placed around the perimeter.
"This open and flexible plan contributed to the innovative thrust by encouraging creative collaboration among P&G staff," says Drogemuller.
The biggest challenge in creating this open workspace was taking standard workstations and customising them to meet specific requirements. For example, much time was spent designing the partitioning between the labs and workspaces. These needed to provide storage for products and be very durable, yet still allow maximum connection and visibility between the areas.
For P&G, the centre presented an opportunity to demonstrate that the company is at the leading edge of modern office workplace strategy.
"As well as having open workspaces, the desks are not assigned," says Drogemuller. "Staff have lockers where they can store personal items, but they don't have a fixed workstation. When they arrive, they log in, choose a desk and the phone system automatically connects them to that workspace."
This gives workers the flexibility to work in positions most suited to their roles on a daily basis, or to form new teams for collaborative work, without having to make changes to the desking.
Probably the building's most impressive feature is its main staircase, located in the heart of the facility and linking all floors. It's a dominant feature of the entry atrium, and its base overhangs the reception area.
"The staircase is clad in a vertical wooden louvre carapace, which references Asian design," says Drogemuller. "This created a design motif that recurs throughout the innovation centre."
The wooden slats on the staircase add another layer of connectivity and transparency to the design, highlighting the movement of staff as they walk up and down the stairs.
The design encourages regular interaction in the multiple group meeting spaces that are arranged around the staircase and atrium. With a 6m floor-to-floor height, some of these spaces have been located on mezzanine floors in the atrium.
For Simon Drogemuller, the success of the design is in how it encourages new ways to work.
"Removing the barriers between offices and labs, and having an abundance of collaboration spaces encourages staff to work together right across organisational boundaries," he says.
First published date: 11 December 2014
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|Project||Procter & Gamble Singapore Innovation Centre|
|Interior design||Orbit Design Studio|
|Main contractor||CH2M Hill Singapore|
|Base build mechanical and electrical||Trans Equatorial Engineering|
|Civil and structural engineer||CH2M Hill Singapore|
|Mechanical and electrical engineer||CH2M Hill Singapore|
|Quantity surveyor||CH2M Hill Singapore|
|Facade consultant||HCCH Consulting|
|AV and acoustic consultant||Hewshott International|
|Lab consultant||SVR-Architects NV|
|Landscape consultant||Peridian Asia|
|Landscape contractor||Prince's Landscape and Construction|
|Interior and furniture consultant||Orbit Design Singapore|
|Timber screens||Accoya/Accsys by Titan Wood BV, supplied by MMF Timber Hub|
|Flooring||Beige terrazzo supplied by Sintal Enterprise; Shaw Vast carpet supplied by SMJ Furnishings; Mipolan Symbioz lab floor vinyl supplied by NSK Baustoffe|
|High-gloss concrete wall surfaces||Armourcoat|
|Glass panel feature wall cladding||Trend Glass|
|General lighting||Philips T5 supplied by Kenyon|
|Private lounge pendant lighting||Beat Light by Tom Dixon supplied by Kenyon|
|Foyer furniture||Coalesse Bob tables and chairs supplied by Steelcase Office Solutions|
|Breakout space furniture||Hay About a Chair supplied by BW Furniture; custom tables supplied by BW Furniture; custom sofa supplied by Glo Design International; Allermuir Pebble stools supplied by MTM Solutions|
|Huddle room furniture||Custom chairs and tables supplied by Kenyon|
|Private lounge furniture||Custom fabric finished benches supplied by Kenyon; Hay About a Chair supplied by BW Furniture; custom tables supplied by BW Furniture|
|Lab and facility room shelving||Custom, supplied by Acromec Engineers|
|Workstations||Unifor supplied by Unifor Singapore|
|Workstation seating||Humanscale Freedom supplied by Schiavello Singapore|