Office Interior for Ascendis Medical
Following the appointment by developer, Orpen Group, to design the landmark building, located at the main corner intersection of their new office/warehouse development, Boundary Park, the tenant for the building, Ascendis Medical, simultaneously elected to appoint AOJ to do the design of their office interior. The offices total 6 500m² and house Ascendis’ head office, which is the consolidation of three facilities previously located on separate sites within the Kya Sands/Northriding area of Johannesburg.
The design of the office component of the building places the office footprint in an irregular U-shape around an open courtyard which increases the outdoor facing perimeter façade. This in turn boosts the amount of natural daylight entering the building. The provision of natural daylight within office interiors has been shown to improve both the productivity and the well-being of staff and the layout for the offices on the interior makes maximum use of this additional natural daylight that the footprint of the office component allows for.
An intricate glass corner entrance is the most striking architectural element of the building; shaped to improve passive solar control of the triple volume entrance foyer. When entering the building, you transition from the outside to the office interior through a triangular plaza where, if you look up, you see a reflection of yourself as a result of a tilt in the glass facade. There is a sense of grandeur as you pass through the 3m high entrance portal and into the immense triple volume of the reception space. “As you stand there and you look up, you get a sense of the size of the building,” says Alessio Lacovig of AOJ.
Multi-layered elliptical ceiling details, timber cladding and a large custom-made laser cut and bent steel reception desk, designed by AOJ, catch the eye as you enter the building. “The reception desk was unintentionally designed into one of the 3D visualisations of the building. With its unusual form we never actually anticipated that it would make it all the way to being built but Ascendis liked it so much that they commissioned Zippy Office Furniture to have it custom made for them; it is a showpiece which, with its triangular facets, speaks to the architectural language of the glazed façade,” notes AOJ’s Mike Rassmann. The timber clad feature walls, with acoustic panelling disperse sound in the space and add a sense of warmth which contrasts with the ‘high tech’ nature of the interiors.
Behind the timber clad feature wall, a staircase with glass balustrades wraps upward to the three floors of the office interior. As the staircase ascends, the slabs move further apart and expose more of the staircase so that the volume as a floorplate noticeably starts to change and open up to both the glass and the interior.
In line with Ascendis’ brand and business the interior can be described as clean and minimalist. The architects used white as a base colour to work from, and along with muted grey tones, the rest of the colour palette, chiefly blue, red and green, is pulled from the Ascendis logo to reinforce brand identity within the interiors.
As a means of futureproofing the office interior – for imminent changes and expansion, AOJ kept the structure as minimal as possible, with only two rows of columns within the 17m width of the floor plate. Furthermore, limiting the bulkheads only to areas, that will in all likelihood remain unchanged, will allow the surrounding spaces to be rearranged as needed. In addition to this the voids between the underside of the slabs and the ceilings are generous, allowing any extra services that may be needed in the future to be fitted with ease.
LED lighting was fitted throughout the building, with the architects investigating best practice in terms of the quality of the lighting needed and the number of lights, while stepped ceilings were created in areas which required extra height, for instance in the open plan areas and as you move towards the middle of the building. “The proportions of the space work very well,” explains Lacovig, “lower ceilings for more dedicated private spaces, such as the striking blue and white meeting room ceilings, and higher ceilings where the office is busier for a bigger sense of space, both horizontally and vertically.”
Windows were designed to have opening sections to comply with natural ventilation requirements, however the reality of office interiors of this scale is that everyone prefers a slightly different temperature. “You may feel cold today and warm tomorrow, while your co-worker next to you is a different story. You cannot get away from that. As such, we installed a VRV system for heating and cooling needs which reduces the amount of units you need on the roof and the amount of ducting. It is a very efficient and economical system, as well as being efficient in terms of space.”
“Ascendis have recognised the trend to work from home – even prior to COVID-19 – thus for many of the departments, hot desking was included,” explains Rassmann. “There are also breakaway meeting pods, essentially less formal versions of meeting spaces, so the offices have the flexibility built in where people don’t have to work at the same desk every day; they can work from home if they want to, and if they need to be in the office, they can come in and sit anywhere. From early on we wanted open spaces which could then actually be adapted as the tenant needed.”
Lacovig continues; “Through the design process to the approval process, and then through talking to various department heads, this started to change and Ascendis required more dedicated offices. It is something that pops up quite often; the organisation wants hot desking but there are certain staff who need and want their own spaces within a building. We adapted the design to cater for them and kept as much of the natural lighting from the outer facades of the building as possible coming into the middle.” AOJ gave over some of the open plan spaces to the offices, but ensured that the offices had glass walls to let light in and positioned them around the meeting spaces where natural light is not as critical.
Vinyl was initially intended for the majority of the flooring, yet due to maintenance concerns, a large format porcelain tile was used. “Within the flooring we incorporated many aspects from the building’s facade, such as the diagonal lines, design patterns, and different shading by making use of a tile that came in a range of white, dark grey and light grey,” says Rassmann. Some of the technical areas required a very specific type of anti-static floor, and hence a vinyl floor had to be used, while the meeting spaces and breakaway spaces in the foyer were decked out with carpet.
As specified by the tenant’s CEO, up-market bathrooms were fitted, incorporating large glass partitions and mirror elements as well as different lighting elements. “We also designed some of the tiling in the bathrooms to pick up on the diagonal motifs of the exterior building design, says Lacovig. All the bathrooms are also naturally ventilated via vertical ducts in the building. For the kitchenettes, Ascendis prefers that their staff do not eat at their desks and that they rather eat in the canteen. As such, the majority of the kitchenettes do not have place prepare food, and operate as coffee/refreshment stations, while also incorporating facilities for recycling and washing dishes.
For the furniture, it was the client’s directive to reuse as much of its existing furniture as possible. Zippy Office Furniture was appointed to upgrade Ascendis’ existing furniture, resizing the desks and refitting elements like the legs, drawer runners and handles. This reuse of existing furniture not only saved Ascendis money but is also a sustainable way to furnish an office interior.
The courtyard was an integral part of AOJ’s design from the outset. “A courtyard in an office building gives you the ability to have a wider office floorplate, because you can have natural light entering the workspace from more sides,” Lacovig points out. “The courtyard creates a social space, and also makes the building energy efficient and more comfortable for the end user,” he says.
The courtyard is directly linked with the main foyer reception of the building on one side and the staff canteen on the other. This proximity allows this social space to be used for informal meetings between staff and visitors alike. A covered glass structure creates a walkway that ensures moving to the canteen from the reception is comfortable even in bad weather and also provides sheltered seating space. Large north facing stacking doors can be used to open the canteen space onto the courtyard on more temperate days, making this space appropriate for larger gatherings if needed.
The third floor consists of additional office space for growth and a 100-seater auditorium with meeting rooms as part of a training centre, allowing the company to expand without relocating in the future. On the west corner of the same floor, a bar and outdoor terrace offers a place for staff and visitors to socialise while taking in the surrounding views and setting sun.
Through marrying design elements of the exterior with the office interior of the building, AOJ have created a building which, unlike many others designed by separate practices, speaks the same design language inside and out.
August 5, 2020