Free Flow­ing

In the shell of a cav­ernous for­mer ware­house, a Tai­wanese de­sign firm crafts an ap­pro­pri­ately fluid of­fice en­vi­ron­ment for a maker of wa­ter dis­pensers

Azure - - CONTENTS - By Michael Webb

In Tai­wan, de­sign firm Water­from crafts an ap­pro­pri­ately fluid of­fice space for a maker of wa­ter dis­pensers

Tai­wan has re­cently gar­nered in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion for high-pro­file cul­tural cen­tres by Toyo Ito & As­so­ci­ates, OMA and Me­canoo, but lo­cal ar­chi­tects are also do­ing good, if less showy, work. A ware­house con­ver­sion by the Taipei firm Water­from De­sign, for in­stance, is a model of fru­gal cre­ativ­ity. The client was For­est Spring En­ter­prise, which man­u­fac­tures wa­ter dis­pensers and re­lated equip­ment. The chal­lenge was to trans­form a 30-year-old stor­age fa­cil­ity into a light-filled of­fice. Over­all, it was a happy mar­riage be­tween a client whose busi­ness is wa­ter pu­rifi­ca­tion and a firm that takes its name and in­spi­ra­tion from wa­ter. In­deed, the stu­dio’s mis­sion state­ment likens de­sign it­self to wa­ter, ex­tolling the “sim­ple and pure, or­ganic and ever-chang­ing. We main­tain the be­lief that aes­thet­ics come from ap­prox­i­mat­ing what is nat­u­ral.” That ideal – of har­mony be­tween hu­mankind and na­ture – un­der­lies the For­est Spring En­ter­prise project, in­spir­ing Water­from to in­fuse a cav­ernous steel­framed shed with a sense of flu­id­ity. The com­pany’s pre­vi­ous of­fice space, lo­cated next door, had been cramped and dys­func­tional, iso­lat­ing each de­part­ment from the oth­ers. Af­ter a sur­vey of the 890-square-me­tre ware­house, Water­from con­cluded that the build­ing had the height and width to pro­vide gen­er­ous work and so­cial spa­ces for up to 60 staff mem­bers on two lev­els; For­est Spring En­ter­prise con­se­quently de­cided to con­vert the fa­cil­ity into of­fices and to trans­fer its em­ploy­ees there. Work­ing on a tight bud­get, Water­from re­tained most of the orig­i­nal struc­ture, pre­serv­ing its in­dus­trial char­ac­ter. A ma­jor chal­lenge was en­sur­ing that the build­ing would with­stand the ty­phoons and earthquakes that pe­ri­od­i­cally hap­pen on the is­land. As the ware­house had been win­dow­less, the ar­chi­tects cre­ated a new fa­cade of chan­nel glass that dif­fuses nat­u­ral light while pro­vid­ing ther­mal in­su­la­tion. There is a new en­trance por­tico, and the man­u­fac­tur­ing wing – which ex­tends out at a right an­gle to the rec­ti­lin­ear of­fice – was en­livened with bold colour stripes. The ar­chi­tects also added a guard house (whose

pro­ject­ing roof em­braces a tree) and a re­cy­cling fa­cil­ity that is made less con­spic­u­ous by its trans­par­ent plas­tic cur­tains. Th­ese small ad­di­tions play off the larger struc­tures. For the in­te­rior, Water­from took its cues from the fil­ters that the client pro­duces, lay­er­ing the open-plan vol­ume with pat­tern and tex­ture. A rough el­e­gance dis­tin­guishes the con­crete desk in the re­cep­tion lobby, while translu­cent screens de­fine the re­cep­tion area and meet­ing rooms. A lab­o­ra­tory is en­closed with glass, putting the sci­en­tists on dis­play while pro­tect­ing their ex­per­i­ments. There is a lin­ear rhythm in the suc­ces­sion of desks, pipes and beams, and colour is used spar­ingly: yel­low for the rail­ings of the mez­za­nine gallery, red for the metal tower that il­lu­mi­nates a long work sur­face, red and blue for plas­tic chairs. Th­ese vi­brant ac­cents jump out from the soft grey of the con­crete floor and the ex­posed steel of the struc­tural frame and over­head ducts. For­est Spring En­ter­prise is lo­cated in the provin­cial city of Chi­ayi, far re­moved from the high-speed train links be­tween Taipei and Kaoh­si­ung. It was there­fore im­por­tant to cre­ate an ap­peal­ing work­place in or­der to at­tract and re­tain tal­ent, to in­crease ef­fi­ciency and to boost the brand’s im­age. Af­ter the con­ver­sion was com­pleted, Water­from asked the client how the staff was re­spond­ing to the new space. It was told, “They love it! And they’re stay­ing longer in the of­fice.”

Pho­to­graphs _Kuo-min Lee

BELOW: Blue task chairs pop against the tex­tured, largely grey pal­ette of a meet­ing area. Var­i­ous func­tional zones are spread across two floors.

ABOVE: Translu­cent screens de­mar­cate the re­cep­tion area and meet­ing rooms.

RIGHT: Yel­low metal rail­ings line nearly the en­tire length of the build­ing’s sec­ond floor.

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