Global Glimpse | January 2012
Pulsating with Energy
Red Bull's new headquarters in Amsterdam, designed by Sid Lee Architecture, are as energising as the popular drink!
Most of us associate Red Bull with the energy drink, but there is more to the brand than just that. The company is involved in racing sports like Formula 1, NASCAR and motorcycle racing and has sponsored extreme sports like the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship. It has invested in music by helping young artists, and by organising traveling workshops like the Red Bull Music Academy; in dance, it is famous for the B-Boys from the Red Bull BC One Battles.
For a company so deeply involved in arts and sports, its headquarters needed to not just scream passion but also to demonstrate the Austrian company's full-of-life attitude, courage to experiment and the ability to take charge of situations. The company's new headquarters in Amsterdam designed by Sid Lee Architecture do full justice to this brief, showcasing the company's balance between mind and body, play and work, socialisation and creative privacy.
Plan of action
The first step in the design was to segregate the public and private spaces by dividing the building into three bays - the first dedicated to public spaces, the other two reserved for the managers' offices and workstations. "To design the inner space, we aimed at retrieving Red Bull's philosophy, dividing spaces according to their use and spirit, to suggest the idea of the two opposed and complementary hemispheres of the human mind, reason versus intuition, arts versus the industry, dark versus light, the rise of the angel versus the mention of the beast", says Jean Pelland, Lead Design Architect and Senior Partner at Sid Lee Architecture.
The designers describe this project, housed in a former shipbuilding factory, as the 'architecture of ambiguity' - unpredictable and surprising. At one point, the design reminds one of mountain cliffs; at another point, a skateboard ramp comes to mind. Triangle-shaped piles, as if ripped off the body of a ship, build up semi-open spaces that can be viewed from below as niches, or from above as bridges and mezzanines across space.
The private and public spaces merge at unexpected places. In the public wing, a closed recording studio with its video screens and bar, is situated right next to an open playground. Private spaces are kept open to encourage dialogue amongst the occupants. A pervasive natural light from a series of skylights across the full span of the building produces an amazing effect. A perforated black metal box houses a meeting room that interacts with the surrounding space through its shape, texture and absence of colour. It has the mineral texture of a meteorite, and is a symbolic tribute to Red Bull Stratos, Felix Baumgartner's unprecedented jump from 120,000 ft in a bid to achieve the first supersonic free fall in history.
Of ply, metal and fine craftsmanship
The design largely uses simple plywood and raw metal plates that go with the industrial look and help bend rules of design as desired. The architectural team credits Fiction Factory, the manufacturing studio that boasts the finest traditional Dutch craftsmanship, for infusing the plywood with the brand's vibe.
The simple space designs are offset by colourful - sometimes rebellious - graphics on the walls, floors, ceilings and even furniture. For example, snakes find a place on the wall and floor of a resting room and a trompe l'oeil that features a show stage with its massive speakers is placed in a supposedly quiet room. In the managers' offices, BMX riders or skateboarders are seen jumping across walls. However, the winner has to be the graffiti on the restroom walls. Inspired by Red Bull's 'Holy Shit List', the list of the craziest things we wish to do, a ceiling, wall and floor mosaic has been created that mimics a Renaissance fresco but with a determined blasphemous approach.
A multipurpose space
Besides an energetic design, the Red Bull office offers a multipurpose environment to justify itself as much as a working area as a place to experiment with arts and sports. The modular furniture in the common room can be piled up to turn the place into a party room. The benches in the resting room have storage; walls can become blackboards, projection screens with built-in TV sets and even exhibition walls! There is so much more to this office that you have to be working here to truly experience how the design wraps itself around you in style!
Total area: 9,420 sq ft
Public area: 3,058 sq ft
Private area: 6,362 sq ft
Mezzanine: 870 sq ft
Text: Sumisha Arora
Photos: Ewout Huiber
Sid Lee Architecture, 75, Queen Street, Suite 1500, Montreal (Québec)-H3C 2N6, Canada.
Tel: 514-282-6834. www.sidleearchitecture.com
Sid Lee Amsterdam, Branding and Graphic Design, Gerard Doustraat 72-80, 1072VV, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Tel: +31-20 66 23 030. www.sidlee.com
Fiction Factory. www.fictionfactory.nl
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