- Creative Director : Nigel Jooren
- Design Director : Ferran Massip
- Site Manager : Jonas De Vreese
- Interior Architect : Jolien De Baets
- Architects : Fiona Deziron, Antoine Le Gouyer, Thomas Cotton, Miguel Sousa
- Architects Assistants : Koen Maertens
- General Contractor : Alheembouw
- City : Wielsbeke
- Country : Belgium
Text description provided by the architects. How do you create a future-proof corporate HQ for hundreds of employees, a car park, and a new green space on a fairly modest plot of land? In 2018 OYO won the pitch (and is nominated for the BREEAM EXCELLENT accreditation) by asking and answering this question for Agristo, one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of potato products in the world.
Our concept involved concentrating all 3 elements into 1 structure, maximizing the available space for development, and at the same time separating this from busy factory workflows. To do this, the design had to break with conventional square/rectangular layouts. We created an organic shape to take full advantage of the designated plot and manipulated the volumetry to provide all staff with natural light throughout the day.
Secondly, seeing the company’s desire for a “green space” for what it really was (an investment in employee wellbeing) OYO decided to make green spaces an important and considered feature of the building itself. Terraces on each level of the building provide employees with equal and easy access to the outdoors, getting everyone closer to nature. Flora also encircles the building, providing more visible greenery and encouraging greater biodiversity.
Thirdly, OYO showed Agristo that in the future mobility would change. In 10yrs time the strategy around company cars would likely be different, and fewer people would be driving their own car to work – making a large dedicated parking structure obsolete. True to our mantra “sustainability is adaptability”, the parking lot was placed within the lower levels of the structure but designed in a way that means these lower levels can easily be transformed into office space to support future business growth.
The structure’s synergy with the existing factory building was also considered, with ecosystem thinking leading to an efficient idea for heating and cooling the new building. Heat traps were included in our designs to funnel excess cool/hot air from Agristo’s industrial fridges/ovens to the new structure. This kind of thinking illustrates how adaptive design and sustainable practices were woven into every aspect of the design – which is why the building will become one of the first in the country to achieve the BREEAM EXCELLENT accreditation.
But arguably the most impressive aspect of the building’s design is its interior which has been created with diverse spatial purposes in mind. It’s not really an office. It is a space with multiple areas designed to facilitate focus, collaboration, relaxation, or socialization. Placed strategically throughout the building, these areas encourage the circulation of staff and cross-departmental collaboration. And yes, the after-hours bar helps this a bit too…
Despite Agristo’s size, it’s still a family-run business and it likes to think of its employees as family members. It believes it has a genuine responsibility to look after its staff, which it sees as an extension of that family. That’s why we designed a singular human-centered structure that encourages people to move between different spaces, ignore departmental silos and come together. Its huge atrium fills the building with natural light and makes staff feel a part of something large. And today, its bar, cafes, focus areas, collaboration stations, and green terraces add up to a natural and healthy home for the Agristo family.