“Importing the identity of one company into another never gives good results”. Architect D. Stinchi
14 agosto, 2015 / By Kraftwelt
TENDIEZ TALKS / DESIGN TRENDS IN 10 MINUTES – Centro Cultural Recoleta / TUESDAY JULY 7th, 2015
Experiences in technological offices
Whenever Hernán (Barbero Sarzabal) asks me to participate in such talks, different kinds of ideas and questions arise about the relevance of our profession and the market where we develop as architecture companies.
A few weeks ago, I was summoned by the SCA (Central Society of Architects) to participate –along other architecture companies– in a roundtable discussion on “New trends in Corporate Architecture”. Opening the debate on what is coming, a colleague pointed out that the new trends have to do with the typology of Google offices… This outline triggered long talks with my partner Claudio Fraga days after that.
Is Google really the upcoming prototype of technological office or is technology a tool in the service of architecture and perhaps Google’s model is only suitable for that company?
With this concept in mind, and having to prepare a talk on technological offices, we took it as a starting point to analyze our professional role and reaffirm the precepts on which Kraftwelt’s work is based.
Technological development and Architecture
In Kraftwelt, we believe that technological development has led to new forms of work organization, which enabled the possibility to rearrange and create new spaces for different business functions.
As they are not bound to traditional concepts, the new spaces designed included numerous suggestions as regards project resources, completely changing the paradigms of design, where the traditional workspaces were replaced by technology, defining a new and infinite universe projected on a screen.
In the same way that technology has impacted on space, it has affected interpersonal communications. Communication is now preferably achieved through text or images, and direct contact between people decreased drastically.
All these technological changes experienced in the last decade impacted on companies forcing them to review their methods and ways to develop and prefect not only their productivity, but also the new employee profiles defined by social changes.
Accordingly, such change urged many companies to revise foundational concepts, based on “these days’ trends”, redefining basic concepts in search of a new IDENTITY.
As we see it, today there are two possible paths in our profession connected when designing workspaces: building on the use of technology to suggest new options for creative and up-to-date spaces, or emphasizing foundational concepts capturing identity values and reworking them conceptually before materializing them. We understand that these two paths are complementary.
In our experience, there are cases where the customer raises the need for reworking their identity with a very clear idea in mind. In other cases, our task is critical in determining criteria and concepts to help them identify their goals.
The task of searching and defining identities is key to the task of designing a conceptual framework and achieving the ultimate goals, our work focusing on reinterpreting existing concepts in terms of form, function and space.
Understanding the origins of the company, their production methods, their criteria to bond with the social and political contexts are all fundamental to our task. This research, which leads to deep insight, is at the core of our work methodology. By considering these factors, we are able to redefine material and conceptual aspects towards changing identities, based on new ideas which are always incorporated into familiar and recognizable concepts for companies.
This task seems logical and simple at first sight, but it is extremely complex as it depends on the participants involved representing the company and the client. Therefore, we aim to communicate with higher ranks within companies, which not always occupy technical positions, as it is there that we can find clearer criteria, concepts and aims.
In a completely global context, the search for identity within such parameters of technological progress is Kraftwelt’s ultimate goal and main bond with its customers.
Creativity and the use of technological resources are considered only after the identity of a company has been interpreted. Every company needs to express their identity through their architecture, and all are different even if the resources and implementation techniques are similar. Importing an identity (expressed through architecture) from one company to another never gives good results.
Fabio Roszczeewski (Director of RE Ericsson Latam) makes it clear on the occasion of the Workplace Conference Argentina 2015, when he says: “……companies that decide to implement a flexible culture without knowing their own culture head straight to failure……”.
A good paradigmatic example of our history can be found in the Johnson offices, designed by Wright, where the customer’s needs were well interpreted, an identity is achieved, and this, in turn, increased their bottom-line.
In 1935, Herbert “Hib” Johnson, the youngest of the Johnsons, was 36 and wanted to give the family business a modern image by building new offices. To achieve this, he wanted Wright to participate in the project. Write refused at first, as he considered the site for the project entirely inappropriate, and Hib Johnson did not want to give up his idea to create a small housing complex with offices, located in the middle of a green area far from the city. It was Wright’s wife, Olgivanna Wright, who managed to talk him into it, because although Wright kept his world fame, he was in a very unproductive professional stage, with very few actual orders and a great bulk of intellectual and research work on urban issues, which had led him close to bankruptcy.
The company asked Wright to interpret the idea of the American dream, where the worker is happy in his job, he feels fulfilled both professionally and personally, people relate with one another, and they feel equals, together, like one big family.
It seems that Wright got his way, because some years later, Hib Johnson himself admitted that thanks to the new offices design and the environment that Wright had managed to create the business performance had improved by up to 25%.
“Identity tells us what architecture needs”
Here are some exemplifying cases that our company has witnessed in relation to what we express in the following essay:
While Retail architecture and Gastronomy in particular are not valued in the arts, we understand that we are presented with a real and tangible example of what their users need, leaving the idealistic view of the invisible “Principal”.
For years we have been accompanying Wendy’s in their global developments. Together, we have conducted the design and construction of their stores in Argentina, Chile and Ecuador, currently developing the brand’s entry into the Brazilian market.
Every time we enter a new city, we take long enough to understand the market, from the demographic to the social, cultural, relational, access, customs and images perspectives. By understanding how citizens live and move around the city, we can customize the design to the specificities of the market.
Based on this premise and witnessing Wendy’s Corporate growing sales in the international market and their stall in the domestic market, we were invited to expose our International design criteria in order to incorporate them into the domestic market.
This is another case of company identity. Cognizant is an Indian-based but globally present company that specializes in software programming and implementation in SAP format, with offices in London, New York and Sao Paulo.
For their case, we thought of an office system similar to Google (considering the fact that the two companies share many characteristics). In the first meetings with the main representatives of the company, they made it clear that they knew what their work premises and identity were, and they were able to define the profile of their employees, the characteristics of their common areas, where two very different cultures –western (Argentina) and eastern (Indian)– would meet and share work habits, have meals, socially interact, etc.
As regards office structure, we did not go as far as Google’s design, but they let us work with colors, materials, textures, creating a scheme where offices were identified by color and creating recreation areas in common spaces (dining-room and terrace), giving their employees a special perk.
As a result of this experience, it was possible to achieve a friendly work environment, with lots of natural light, great flexibility and top-of-the-art technology.
Case 3: Maerks Sealand
This case is the opposite of the former. Maersk Sealand is a number-one company in the shipping business and foreign trade based in Denmark. The traditional identity of the company limited us to an image with an almost monochrome brown palette. Although we came up with different proposals, the identity of the company was very clear, and we supported them under the premises that it could lead to the creation of a friendly atmosphere meeting their work needs. Ratifying what we have been mentioning before, this was an instance of a technically correct but traditional office design.
This is the case of a real estate development in Tigre (Rincon de Milberg area), where the developers (F&F) asked us to design an office building for a known user (residents of private neighborhoods in the area of Milberg), harmonizing with the river landscape and providing easy construction within the parameters of the business. They defined the identity of the potential client: environmentally friendly and within the logic of a real estate project. The result was fantastic, and it was welcomed both by the neighbors as the local authorities.
As mentioned in the TEN Diez talk at the Recoleta Cultural Center, when new technologies make the work areas break through all limits, we have to reinvent ourselves as professional architects accompanying the companies in the search for their changing identities through architectural proposals that meet their current and future business. Technology is another tool, not a trend.KWA
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Claudio Fraga / Daniel Stinchi / Kraftwelt Argentina©2015