At its own office in Hamburg, Germany, architecture firm Bothe Richter Teherani gets right to the point
Otto Pohl -- Interior Design, 6/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Hadi Teherani is taking a stand for workplace design. "We spend the best hours of the day at the office," he says. "I see absolutely no reason to spend them in the worst environment."
In order to avoid that scenario, Bothe Richter Teherani Architekten built a 10-story headquarters overlooking a tributary of the Elbe as it flows through Hamburg, Germany. Supported by principals Jens Bothe and Kai Richter, Teherani led the project as creative principal. He then apportioned the interior to tenants, including his namesake industrial-design firm, as well as the third and fourth floors to BRT itself.
Taking cues from the building architecture, the firm's own 19,400-square-foot office combines spacious open-plan work areas and relaxation zones with a refreshing sense of humor—the better to keep employees happy during tight project deadlines. Zones are separated by glass. ("No one can hide," Teherani says, smiling.) And the figurative airiness finds its complement in two atriums that encourage natural ventilation, eliminating the need for central air-conditioning. This allowed BRT to keep the ceilings higher and the work areas quieter.
Throughout those work areas, BRT used color sparingly to reduce distractions. "I don't want to be staring at a yellow wall," Teherani says. Flooring is gray—whether the carpet under desks or the translucent PVC over silver paint in the hallways—and much of the furniture is aluminum. Frosted acrylic appears on the desk in reception and on doors to several conference rooms. Inside the conference rooms, custom tables have frosted-acrylic tops paired with legs of brushed aluminum. Blue glass insets, detailing walls and elevator interiors, provide some of the few accents.
As a contrast to this muted color scheme, BRT incorporated bursts of orange outside the areas where daily work is conducted. For several doors, such as the one to the main third-floor conference room, BRT chose a fluorescent orange frosted acrylic. The glass wall behind the coffee bar is a bright orange, as are the rest rooms' walls.
The color contrasts produce a "tension," Teherani says. To heighten the mood shift from one space to another, BRT also kept work areas dense while leaving relaxation zones open. That said, the architects employed a certain number of common elements to tie the interior together. Oversize lettering in adhesive film, applied to glass partitions, turns ordinary signage into a design statement. "Printer" it says on one room, "studio" on another. By the coffee bar, it says "chill-out zone."
"Beach zone" and "power napping" indicate the two triple-height atriums, which enjoy a river view through an unobstructed stretch of curtain wall. Here, BRT poured sand on the floor—even going so far as to add trails of green and blue "sea glass." Faux-wicker lounge chairs, lined with blue-and-white striped canvas, are just like the ones on nearby North Sea beaches. One atrium's stands of bamboo are lit at ' night to enhance the leafy greenness; in the other, jasmine flowers scent the air. To complete the mood, hidden speakers play recordings of waves and seagulls.
Employees of Teherani's industrial-design firm are welcome to enjoy the two atrium beaches, though its office is in another wing of the building. Work areas at this parallel enterprise share BRT's restrained color and materials palettes—enlivened by the addition of an automotive metaphor. Inspired by the way commuters tend to create a self-contained world in their cars, Teherani says he designed workstations as "mobile private spheres" that allow teams to rearrange themselves speedily for specific projects.
Each unit is constructed of a steel frame and acrylic panels, set on rubber castors, and each functions on just two connections: one for power and one for the computer network. Inside, a plastic-laminate work surface rises and lowers electronically. And the entire unit can be locked shut when the user goes home at the end of yet another busy day.