Martini, Meyer's curved walls got straight to the point at Product Visionaires, a Berlin company that develops the cell phones of the future
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 5/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
From her office window, designer Alexandra Martini looks out at one of her favorite sights in Berlin, the docks near the Oberbaumbrücke over the River Spree. "It's still an industrial area, but—at the moment—it's the place to be," she says. Her neighbors include the German divisions of MTV and Universal Music Group. And just across the river, she can see one of the most recent projects completed by her firm, Martini, Meyer.
Product Visionaires, a subsidiary of Siemens, specializes in developing high-tech products for mobile communications. When it came to choosing a headquarters for an enterprise that invents such gadgets as a slider cell phone that disappears into a thin aluminum case and a pistol-shape combination phone and portable gaming device, CEO André Fischer opted for 13,000 square feet split between two floors at the top of a 1913 warehouse.
As for settling on a design firm, Fischer came across Martini and fellow principal Henrike Meyer while reading a magazine article about their interior for Berlin postproduction company Das Werk, where director Wim Wenders cuts his movies. Fischer was particularly intrigued by an upholstered wall that swept upward to become a free-floating chaise lounge.
As one of Martini, Meyer's first important commissions, Das Werk represents a flair for dramatic statement that has remained a firm hallmark. (Talk to Meyer, and she mentions a predilection for a "strong conceptual approach.")
For Product Visionaires, the two designers built their proposal around a concept they call "solid: flow," inspired by the juxtaposition of the warehouse's mass and the river's flux. Straight lines contrast with meandering shapes, density counterbalances transparency.
On both floors, the showstoppers are organically undulating walnut-veneered walls that gently ripple their way along the primary circulation paths. "People at the forefront of technology need to have something very tactile, very material, very human," Martini explains.
Taking the anthropomorphic idea a step further, architects applied blood-red plastic laminate everywhere the walnut is "cut" by doorways and mail slots. Concealed behind some walls, closet interiors are clad in the same shade, which happens to be Product Visionaires' logo color.
The "endless wave" of the walls, as Martini describes it, finds a balance in the central areas' dropped-ceiling grid, planes composed of translucent laminated-glass squares held in place by round stainless-steel rivets. They glow with backlight from white fluorescents.
Piercing the ceiling plane in reception on the lower level, a flight of lacquered steel stairs makes a strong statement of angularity—its profile is offset by the round cream-colored forms of leather-covered ottomans.
Open-plan office zones surround the sinuous central areas. These spaces provide a variety of situations meant to encourage an idea-lab atmosphere. "People here think creatively, and you don't do that only at your desk," Martini says.
On the lower floor, meeting rooms offer standard chairs and tables, while similar rooms on the upper floor are furnished with low-slung armchairs. Pairs of employees often meet in a main conference room downstairs that also provides high stools around a bar that's wired for computer hook-ups.
Amid the flexibility, color-coding adds structure. Staff can choose from green- and blue-themed meeting rooms, or one with a purple scheme, called Havana. Another with rust tones is Goa. Each comes with a name that suits the mood.
The designers kitted out a conference room known as Madrid with a collection of unusually baroque chairs with red velvet tufted upholstery. "In meetings, you're always trying to have clear, analytical, efficient discussions," Meyer says. "These chairs add emotion to that scenario."
The CEO's own riverfront corner office on the upper level enjoys remote-controlled blinds, a monitor built into the wall, its own meeting area, and an unobstructed view to the other side of the building, thanks to transparent glass walls. There's an openness that's extremely relaxing," Fischer says.
And who knows? Perhaps, if he really tried, he could even peer over to Martini and Meyer's offices across the Spree, where they're hard at work on their next project.