- ANTAO group
Main ArchitectsCao Yuying, Zhan Min
Main DesignerZhan Min
DesignersCheng Qingying，Liu Yang，Ye Hao
Cost7.5 million RMB
Text description provided by the architects. If you are a first-time visitor to No .16, Hangzhou Jingwei International Creative Industry Park, you may worry about getting into the wrong place as it not at all looks like a fabled design company working overtime day and night. If you meet acquaintance, who reassures you that it is Antao’s new headquarters, you will then start questioning yourself: have you ever really enjoyed the fun of “working” in the past years?
A New Sky
Antao showed its unique vision and ambition in terms of site selection for the new headquarters: it did not rent any Grade A Office at bustling lots, or a petty bourgeoisie office space in community, but launched an overall renovation to a dilapidated factory building abandoned for years. In their words, such action may best reflect the Company’s ambition to improve urban space.
Looking at Hangzhou’s city pattern, the southern riverside section and the western Xixi section have become the city’s vital areas of expansion. However, the region north of the Desheng Elevated Road has not yet been updated. On one side of Shiqiao Road, the former Hangzhou Textile Machinery Factory is now redefined as “Jingwei International Creative Industry Park”. It is only 7 km, or 15 minutes drive from Hangzhou East Station, enjoying an extremely advantageous location indeed energized by Antao’s moving in in 2017, despite that the matching facilities are not yet fully developed.
“Here we serve our staff as clients by looking into their needs, removing the cubicles and weakening the workplace hierarchical system so as to create a relaxed work environment where communications happen easily.” – From the moment that the relocation decision was made, Antao Group set the goals of the new headquarters construction in three key words – “open, interactive, and energetic”. From site selection, material selection, design, color scheming, customization to implementation, and after more than two hundred days of work, it finally turned this cast factory abandoned for decades into a flagship of design and ideas.
Space & Style
Most of the time, the difficulties faced by architects are to make enough space within a cramped construction area, while the opposite is that when building space is much larger than the current demand, a huge challenge also exists especially when designing your own space. In the process of designing this new headquarters, the biggest challenge for Antao Group was how to redefine the huge space of over 3,000 square meters to create an interdependent public area and work space, in order to meet the current demand of 200 employees, and meanwhile reserve enough space for the Company's long-term transformation and strategic development, with tight control over cost budget.
After trying and comparing a number of options, the bosses of Antao Group made a surprising decision: making the first floor with the highest floor height and the most convenient transport a complete public area; making staff’s work space on the second and third floors built into a steel structure, including a 300 square meter enclosed atrium. This space is able to receive the most natural light through the roof of the factory building.
The main entrance of the building is located on the east side. In order to maintain the permeability and integrity of the first floor, the stairs connecting the main entrance and the second and third-floor work areas are modestly designed on the side of the building not easily found, leading to the atrium on the second floor. At the entrance one can glimpse the courtyard at the west end.
Employees of Antao seem to have to walk more during working hours. We step up along dozens of stairs to reach the atrium on the second floor. As we pass a dynamic space connected by a rest seat, bar and fitness area, we see still nothing of a work space. So we have to stop and look back to take in the dramatic surprise. The 10-meter-high wall at the back of the entrance was painted into an entertaining “plant planet”, suggesting the specialism of the Company - landscape design, as well as the real meaning of cultural and creative industries.
Turning round to the other side of the atrium, we get nearer and nearer to a large conference room and the workplaces behind it. This is obviously the busiest place during the day, as we can find a conference space, long open table, models and drawings scattered in every corner of the work area, where the only partition (if only) between them are a variety of potted plants, baskets and green plants. The “plant lunches” originally developed by Antao team become the micro-landscapes on the desktop.
Along the wooden staircase at the atrium we can continue walking to the third floor, which is the nearest place from the skylight and sunshine, and the core of the entire renovation design experience, hidden with a lot of surprising details. When we cross the bustling three-story work area and reach the west side of the building, we will find an iron track coming into the eye - a train passes by slowly every half an hour on average as a backdrop or backing to the busy work area. Instead of arranging any work positions, the west boundary is reserved for a massive free space enclosed by green vegetation and seats. The afternoon sunshine through the window allows people staying comfortable and easy-creative.
Not too much deliberate play was given to the facade design of the building. The cement wall in metal mesh seems to take on a hazy coat that shows subtle changes in color at different times of the day, which also implies a continued industrial style in the new era. The transparent glass entrance at the first floor maintains the face of modern architecture. Simple style without extra decoration remains on the wall and the roof of interior space. Moreover, the architect retains the original crane truss and mechanical devices in the plant as a memory of the industrial age in last century. Also, to fit the “industrial” style design, office furniture in steel and wood texture were chosen to look amiable and practical, set off by the rich green plants background.
There is an increasingly obvious trend in the enterprise organizational form of the twenty-first century: evolving from the “pyramid-model” to the “multi-polar union” organizational structure. Such trend leads the design, cultural and other intellectual services industry. And office building space as an external manifestation of organizational form is increasingly showing diverse and dynamic characteristics: more public space, more contact and interaction, more life experience... Different from the industrial era in the 20th century when people tend to pursue “efficiency-first” and “management-first”, the work space in the 21st century should be understood more as the balance between “work efficiency” and “staff experience”, or we would rather sacrifice the former a little for the sake of the latter.
From the Facebook headquarters (designed by Frank Gehry, 2014) in California, U.S to the Antao Planet 16th (a nickname of Antao’s headquarters) in Hangzhou, a consistency regardless of national boundaries is seen: employees do not have to strictly stick to their cube-farms – they can bring their mobile device and choose any space for private pondering or multi-person meeting; partitions are no longer needed to separate offices from other spaces, while translucent glasses and green vegetation can be used instead so that people can see each other and feel a professional atmosphere; there is no longer a more than eight hours’ boundary between work and life, which instead integrate into each other, so that work becomes a part of life. We can choose to begin work at any time, as long as we ensure smooth connection with our customers and collaborators.
Antao re-named their new home “Planet 16th”. This subtle nickname is full of respect for the earth: city, architecture, and landscape are all rooted in the earth. Earth is the key-object of design work, and also the object of our protection. In the past two decades when rapid progress was made in China’s urbanization process, destruction of the environment to varying degrees seemed inevitable. However, Antao’s new headquarters tries to express its reflection and respect for the earth - the cradle of human beings, as well as its excitement and imagination towards the exciting unknown.