Lighting is so integral in setting tone and creating ambiance that it seems logical for a global company specializing in commercial lighting systems to create just the right mood in its new research and development center. Such was the goal of XAL, who called on Austrian firm INNOCAD to make the most of an aging 1950s warehouse—essentially a dark bunker—next to their headquarters in Graz, Austria. The 20,500-square-foot renovation is a composition of sophisticated open office space and laboratories. “The innovation and advanced technology of the brand is supported and displayed beautifully by design,” comments Dina Griffin, AIA, IIDA, NOMA, one of the competition judges.
Indeed, the building is an exercise in branding, from its façade down to its interior lighting. “INNOCAD perfectly combines two qualities: creativity and professionalism,” says XAL Managing Director Michael Engel. “While they are open-minded, spirited, and daring, they also listen to the needs of the client.” The two companies have a history together that goes back several years, starting in a tradeshow booth in 2008. For that booth, INNOCAD’s design was based on barcode patterning with the tagline “See the Light,” which XAL subsequently adopted as its brand identity.
For the XAL competence center (XALcc), INNOCAD began by removing the interior walls, cutting windows into the exterior, and adding an atrium. The façade has an economical makeover, sheathed in perforated aluminum that creates a dramatic barcode pattern on the exterior while simultaneously screening the windows to minimize glare inside.
Within the volume, a simple, efficient floor plan divides the space into three zones. The atrium and meeting area are at the center, with the laboratory wing to one side and open workspaces on the other. “We liked the warehouse’s industrial quality, with its concrete columns and beams, but we wanted to turn it into a modern space with daylight,” says INNOCAD principal Martin Lesjak.
The main conference room is glass walled and surrounded by curtains composed of ball-chain, creating visual separation while maintaining some translucency. It receives natural light from the atrium and is suffused with a subtle glow from XAL’s Gap lighting system, concealed within subtle slits in the ceiling.
The offices are a standout for their openness and light, but also for an unseen quality: peace and quiet. “The workspace lets us have a team of about 70 engineers working closely together with a lot of communication and innovation,” says Engel. “We are running other open-plan offices, but none reaches the quality of XALcc. Given the number of people working there, it really is very quiet.”
One of the key ways INNOCAD dealt with noise was to cover two main walls in boldly striped BuzziSkin, an acoustic felt made from recycled plastic. Phone booths mounted on the wall and two pairs of standalone BuzziHub nooks, all lined in the same sound-absorbing material, allow individuals to have phone conversations without disturbing others. In addition, the floor is covered in high-pile commercial carpeting. “Acoustic dampening is one of the most important parts of the open space concept,” says Lesjak. “We know people are less efficient when acoustics are bad.”
INNOCAD also worked with XAL to create custom acoustic ceiling panels that incorporate the company’s LED lighting, and XAL plans on adding the design to its acoustical product line: a sign that the center is already generating fresh ideas.
: INNOCAD Architektur.
Architecture project team
: DI Patick Handler; DI Jörg Kindermann; DI Martin Lesjak;
DI Michael Petar.
Dr. Tomberger Ziviltechniker (construction physics); Die Haustechniker (VAC); Norbert Rabl Ziviltechniker (fire prevention).
: Petschnigg Manfred ZT fur Baüwesen.
: BuzziSpace; Knauf.
: Object Carpet.
: Inside; Kartell; Svoboda.
Tables, storage systems
: Budjar; Form in Grün; Viellieber.
: Wilfling Reklame.