Architects: KINZO Berlin
Location: Berlin, Germany
Responsible Partner: Karim El-Ishmawi, Martin Jacobs
Area: 4000.0 sqm
Project Year: 2014
Photographs: Werner Huthmacher
Project Leader: Timo Nerger
Cooperation: Manfred Kaiser, Laura Liberal, Stefanie Pesel, Ina Podzimek, David Schumm, Susanne Trumpf, Nora Zimmermann
Room Acoustics: Akustikbüro Rahe & Kraft GmbH
Lightning Design: Dinnebier + Blieske
From the architect. The new headquarters of internationally renowned online platform SoundCloud cover three levels and approx. 4,000 square metres of an old brewery building close to the former Berlin Wall. The complex, designed to serve as a future incubator for up-and-coming start-ups, will become the one-stop office for all 180 Berlin employees of the foremost hub for musical exchange on the net. Anticipating future expansion of the rapidly growing SoundCloud platform, the spacious offices could potentially accommodate up to 350 desks.
To provide the company and its new HQ with a matching spatial identity and the right architectural framework for the platform’s novel business and working structures, SoundCloud asked KINZO to turn its new hub into a space that exudes and encourages innovation and creativity. The platform envisaged a welcome beacon in Berlin’s office landscape that both shapes the company and evolves with SoundCloud over the years. Against this background, KINZO’s conversion redefines the rules of office design with its tangible reflection of a virtual community.
While KINZO’s design interventions retain the former factory’s industrial charm, they also emphasise the location’s characteristics to create just the right space for such a young and expanding business.
From open work spaces and café-meets-reception area to various themed rooms – each space at the new SoundCloud HQ promotes flexible use scenarios and the platform’s ingrained culture of constant creative exchange. Thanks to subtle accents and interventions, introduced according to need, the mood shifts from urban exchange to private retreat, from bustling public space to cosy living room.
In order to preserve the location’s factory feel, KINZO decided to retain the brewery’s raw appeal, leaving the building’s original brickwork and ceiling details exposed. Underscoring this aesthetic, all technical installations are clearly on display, snaking across the naked surfaces in an ornamental- meets-functional pattern that juxtaposes old and new.
The only substantial alteration to the structure’s original architecture can be found between the two lower-most levels: Here, a two-storey atrium and staircase now serves as the main hub of communication for the new SoundCloud universe. Versatile to the core, both space and fittings can adapt according to requirement – thanks to the flexible architecture, potential uses range from reception and bar to cinema, panel discussion and beyond.
At the same time – and in line with the platform’s ultimate aim – sound (or acoustics) remain the red thread of KINZO’s overall design concept.
A vital and oft-neglected aspect of any space, due to its functional, work-related and identity-defining significance, sound naturally takes pride of place in all SoundCloud-related considerations.
Here, KINZO once again experiments with further and playful uses to make the most of acoustic materi- als beyond their sound-optimising properties. Imbued with new life and meaning, they might resurface as cladding for the specially designed drop lights (“Krautleuchten”) or as abstracted sound waves and light diffusors nesting underneath the ceilings of shared spaces. After all, KINZO likes to give all material dual starring roles.
In this spirit, KINZO stays true to its holistic design approach with the SoundCloud HQ conversion and turns a heterogeneous use structure into a sound and cohesive concept. Drawing on their shared Berlin roots, the architects managed to supply the thriving start-up with just the right architectural foundations for future growth and (r)evolution.