Antídoto de Deseño creates lively Spanish headquarters for Internet company Dinahosting
Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 11/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
It feels like a lifetime since the go-go days of the Internet boom. Just a decade ago, high-tech enterprises with suitably hip headquarters were sprouting up like so many mushrooms after a rainstorm. But that was then. Another bubble has burst, and now tech start-ups are few and far between. The innovation and creativity-on-the-cheap that flourished during that bygone era seems as distant a memory as the NASDAQ hitting 5,000. Which is why the head office of Spain's Dinahosting looks less like a throwback to the dot.com era and more like a sign of creative life in the high-tech world.
The 6-year-old Web-hosting company, located in Santiago de Compostela, hired local designers Antonia Maio and Javier Quinteiro to turn a gymnasium from the 1980's into its base of operations. The two, working together since 2006 as Antídoto de Deseño (Spanish for "design antidote"), transformed the dingy gym with yellow walls into a spirited hub of activity—with hits of bright orange, Dinahosting's signature color.
The punchy graphic quality makes sense given the designers' backgrounds. Maio trained in interior design and advertising at Escola de Arte e Superior de Deseño Mestre Mateo in Santiago de Compostela and worked as a graphic designer before starting up Antídoto. Quinteiro, educated in interiors at Unidad de Acción Formativa de Ames in nearby Bertamiráns, also designed furniture. (The two met thanks to the instructor of an ArchiCAD course.) Working as Antídoto, the pair has completed small office renovations and is working on prototypes for a line of furniture. The Dinahosting headquarters is the young firm's biggest project to date.
Dinahosting asked Maio and Quinteiro for an innovative design and open interiors built of low-maintenance materials. "From the moment we met the client, we knew they weren't looking for conventional," says Maio. She and Quinteiro left most of the 9,500-square-foot interior as an open work area for customer service, tech support, and IT employees. Four private office pods—made of shipping containers painted black and tangerine and paved in studded rubber flooring in a similar shade of orange—house Dinahosting's human-resources department and management team. "They're durable, capable of sustaining heavy use," Quinteiro says of the containers, "and give the project a distinctive personality."
Downstairs, in the former basement, are a small auditorium with seating for 100; a boardroom; a gallery-café—a boxy volume with walls wrapped in chalkboard, it reminds the designers of a hard drive—with a bar topped in stainless steel; a small office; and restrooms. There's also that staple of the dot.com days: a ping-pong table. In the Spartan conference room, also on this level, a datum line of orange strip LEDs creates an ephemeral, high-tech picture rail.
For the shipping containers, the designers initially considered recycling old trailers. But they couldn't be brought inside without cutting larger openings in the facade. Plus, once inside, manoeuvring them through the irregular grid of concrete columns would be impossible. So Antídoto assembled new containers on-site, cutting windows into their sides for light and views.
Most of the flooring is newly poured polished concrete with stainless-steel baseboards. In some spots, the designers removed the existing floor tile but left the cement adhesive, bearing the gridded imprint of the old tiles, as a memory of the building's former life. Elsewhere, the materials palette is no-nonsense and hard-wearing: partitions of glass and corrugated steel; plasterboard walls lacquered white and orange; and custom workstations of plywood tops and stainless-steel bases. "It's the first time we've used industrial materials, but not the last," admits Quinteiro.
Such materials radiate a strong physical presence, but, for Antídoto, they're a minimal means of organizing a fluid, undefined, and growing enterprise. "Two decades ago, everyone worked in an office," notes Quinteiro, "but today, technology lets us connect from anywhere." With this project, Antídoto gives form to that social mutability.
Photography by Héctor Fernández Santos-Díez.