Text description provided by the architects. The Chinese office is facing dramatic changes. Unpredictable organizations, new types of work and the impact of technology alter the 21st century office in a major way. For the headquarters of car company MINTH, MORE designed a radical new office typology.
The transition from ‘made in China’ to ‘designed in China’, forces companies to rethink their activities and work methods. Collaboration and interaction foster innovation, and should be at the core of 21st century office work. Simultaneously, work has changed from desktop, to laptop to mobile. All this requires - for an office environment - to absorb these changes and turn them into opportunities.
In 2009, China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest auto market. MINTH Group is a key player in this expanding and changing industry - a leading supplier of exterior auto parts with a growing impact globally. The Jiaxing-based company built a new office to house their 800 staff headquarters, in an area that was a farm field only 10 years ago – from no tech to high tech in a decade.
MINTH has experienced a similar lightning speed in its development since its start in 1992 – from the production of car parts to the design and production of electric vehicles. How to design a headquarters in such a dynamic yet unpredictable environment?
Collaboration and interaction foster innovation, and should be at the core of 21st century office work. Simultaneously, work has changed from desktop, to laptop to mobile. All this requires - for an office environment – to absorb these changes and turn them into opportunities.
MORE proposed a radical design strategy, not based on program, but at embracing change. The key driver is the unpredictability of the environment and the ability of the office to adapt. The design maximizes the contrast between the fixed items (screens, storage, pantries, printers, etc.) and the flexible ones (people) through a system of walls: the barcode.
The ‘bars’ in this scheme are fixed; the space in between can densify over time – depending on the development of the activities of the company, creating a crossover between the traditional cell office and the office landscape typologies.
Having a closed aluminum side for storage and an open translucent side for sharing information, the bars create a diverse setting; an aggregation of ‘rooms’ that can change and alter. The shifted bars allow for views and communication between project teams and departments. By placing the bars in a north-south direction, sunlight enters deep into the building.
The project is organized around the central lobby, which can be understood as the very heart of the building. A gentle stairs, which connects the lobby with the training center on the second floor, can be used for public events, gatherings and informal meetings – various sorts of collectivity.
The project contains several ‘specials’ to stimulate collectivity. The circular lecture room allows a speaker to stand in the middle of his audience, and the listeners to see each other. The VIP rooms on the second floor are entirely made out of wood – contrasting the industrial materials in the rest of the building. The green lobby creates a lush environment with plants where workers can unwind. The so-called ‘war rooms’ create confidential brainstorms in a ‘James Bond-like’ setting. Informal areas with dedicated designed furniture create space for spontaneous meetings.
The ceiling in the whole building is made of white steel mesh panels with all installations – HVAC, sprinkler, smoke detectors, baffles, lighting etc. – integrated above them. On every floor, the orientation of the LED lights differs, to generate a unique identity per floor.
The industrial materials – steel, glass, aluminum – and the flawless, grid-like organization, are a clear reference to MINTH’s industrial background. Yet, they clearly define this firm’s spirit in being a leading high tech company.