van der Architects(VDAJ) were selected to design and manage the project for the offices of Ernst & Young's TAS in Tokyo. The architects had an earlier experience with E&Y as they renovated their older offices three years ago.
During the first stages process it became clear that both the architect and the client shared a common ground regarding the design of the work environment. Both believed that the office goes beyond desks and chairs, and should become an attractive environment that encourages teamwork and communication.
Designing offices for a consulting company such as Ernst & Young has its particular set of challenges. The nature of consultancy work requires a certain level of flexibility to accommodate both teamwork as well as individual work.
The architects wanted to avoid designing ‘boxes within boxes’, meaning cubicles within closed rooms. They also wanted to develop their program from the nature of the work performed, rather than a short list of requested spaces and furniture. VDAJ used a proven methodology they called called WorkvitaminsTM that takes their clients through a systematic process, using cards, questionnaires and posters. This ensures that not only the functional side, but also the emotional side of the design is taken into consideration. Still according to the architect, the WorkVitaminTM methodology stretches the often limited view that people of what an office should look like.
A questionnaire polled the staff about the existing space, which the architects had designed only a few years ago. The architects realized that the majority of the staff was very happy with the current conditions. Everyone loved their Vitra Ypsilon chairs, the large 120-degree desks, the openness of the offices as well as the all-glass internal meeting rooms and private offices.
The client requested that the design of these areas should be targeting the emotional reaction from the staff as well as the clients. In their design brief they instructed the architect to create a space that “you either love or you hate.”
VDAJ decided to stick to a of black and white monochromatic scheme, restricting the addition of some colors to the meeting areas through the use of Artwork. They worked with young artists and gave them either a whole wall to fill or part of the ceiling for their creations. Conceptually VDAJ wanted to convey a meeting area like a garden, a futuristic garden with various twists and turns, a garden that had to be explored with antechambers leading to the various meeting rooms. The artists were given this theme and worked with various media to create their work, some made pencil or pen drawings, others collage, some worked in oil, some used photography and others worked digitally. The drawings with the dimensions of the walls were given to the artists and they provided back with their creations, which we then scanned and printed onto the wallpaper.
All walls in the reception area are curved and views slowly unfold. The curved walls have ocular shaped windows at eye level. These windows reveal glimpses of the meeting rooms. The opacity glass of these windows can be controlled, making it possible to change the window from clear to opaque at the flip of a switch, and the views from the reception area constantly changes depending on occupation of the rooms.
To minimize the use of corridors, the designer implements antechambers with polished stainless steel doors that lead to the meeting rooms. These antechambers constitute a psychosomatic transition between the public areas of the reception, to the more private meeting rooms. The visitor feels the visual change in the color scheme, as he senses the tactile and acoustic transition from the hard, tiled floor of the reception to the soft custom made carpets of the meeting rooms.
Inside the rooms, the furniture has been diversified, with meeting tables being custom-built, using leather and acrylic polymer (Corian) for the tables. All the rooms feature state of the art audio visual equipment, screens are built into the wall, microphones in the tables and speakers in the ceiling. The technology is there but integrated in the furniture and architecture.
Custom-made artwork was also installed in the private offices and staff meeting rooms. In total over 550 square meters of art has been installed on these walls.
As the architects conclude: “An office is more than a sum of desks and chairs. The work environment will tell more about a company and its culture than a glossy company brochure. A well-designed office like Ernst & Young TAS’ is a manifestation of those things that a company finds important and wants to translate to its employees as well as to its customers.”