Architects heri&salli deliver a compact, energy-efficient company headquarters suspended in a wooden grid.
Published in A10 #60 Nov/Dez 2014
At first glance, you would think this office is surrounded by scaffolding. A second look reveals a very different picture. The scaffolding is in fact the building’s supporting structure. The office building, a closed volume reminiscent of a die, hangs within this framework. It consists of wooden supports and beams, arranged in a grid measuring five by five metres. Not concealed within the volume, it highlights a ‘space of possibilities’ that extends beyond the building itself. The project is christened ‘Office Off’ by architects heri&salli. The alliteration reflects the design approach: a grid and shell that enter into dialogue with one another, yielding an usual structure. The office is the headquarters of Face of Buildings (FOB), a facade planning company. Active throughout Europe, it specializes in steel, aluminium and glass facades, yet chose something constructed entirely of wood for its own premises.It was only in the course of planning that it became clear that a wooden construction would simplify many detailed solutions. The client, in the form of a board member and four shareholders who have all played an active role in driving the project forward, used this as an opportunity to gain individual understanding of the rules governing wooden construction, to be able to support future customers in planning wooden facades. For Heribert Wolfmayr and Josef Saller, the commission was, in fact, the reason they set up business together ten years ago. The first draft – a sloping plane situated in the countryside – was too large and cost-intensive to be realized. ‘We had many dreams, and channelled all our wishes into this first draft, as did the client,’ explains Wolfmayr. The pair commenced work on a second draft in 2011, for which the client issued more specific instructions. Due to energy considerations, the office building should be more compact, three storeys high, and cover an area of approximately 700-800 m2. The second draft was also bold and unusual. The actual building hangs like a crumpled piece of paper within the regular grid of wooden uprights. Wooden shingles cover the structure’s exterior, while visible wooden walls determine the atmosphere of the interior. Individual cubes extend the folded volume to the outer limits of the supporting framework, bringing a great deal of light into the space. The office is entered via a wooden ramp. Directly behind the main door, a three-storey space opens, enabling visitors to view the entire volume of the structure. On the ground floor is the meeting room and a break room. The latter is larger than the first, which says a lot about the company’s philosophy. A swimming pool in the courtyard, an in-house fitness studio in the adjacent building and a climbing wall that will soon be installed in the stairwell are further building blocks intended to contribute to a healthy work-life balance. The first and second floors house workstations grouped around a central core, a solid wood structure with an installation shaft, toilets and a lift. Large windows alternate with wooden wall surfaces, most of which are inclined. A relatively simple floor plan has resulted in a beautiful and varied sequence of rooms.Thanks to the photovoltaic system on the roof, the building is self-sufficient in terms of energy. A great deal of courage and commitment from both architect and client have gone into realizing this project. It is a wonderful, energy-efficient example that office buildings do not always have to be cuboid. It is a shame, however, that the same architectural commitment did not extend to the adjacent building, which appears all too banal alongside this dynamic wooden sculpture.