Interiors Awards 2015: Office: Small

Photography by Edward Hendricks

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Architect’s Office
Designer: Park + Associates
Client: Park + Associates 
Location: Singapore

“The architects’ design is acknowledging the structure while confidently creating new spaces with new relationships. A beautiful example of the “anti-office” look, the interior takes full advantage of the existing structure and provides an inspiring and sophisticated backdrop for a firm of creatives.” -Jury

The architects of Park + Associates, based in Singapore, executed a radical redesign of a 1960s vintage high school’s library interior for their own offices. The design is a distinct balance between a subtle archeology of the relatively recent past and an aggressive intervention that establishes a remarkable new sense of place. 

Park + Associates was the first of a handful of creative tenants—including galleries, interior designers, architects, and media and advertising agencies—in the redeveloped building that had been abandoned for more than a decade. The architects describe the solution for their own studio as “a reaction against the rigidity of the typical bureau” and dub the 80-employee space an “anti-office.” Situated under nine parallel barrel vaults that run from north to south through the building’s fifth floor, the 8,200-square-foot interior is configured as a series of discrete—and sometimes eccentric—episodes that embody the firm’s decidedly individual approach to every project.

“Our design direction was to treat each area as a separate mini project and to allow the visitor to experience it when they are led through the spaces,” says Christina Thean, Park + Associates design director. 

The Park + Associates entrance occupies the westernmost vaulted space on the fourth floor, where an unfolded series of nonstructural black plate metal arches that are nearly 27 feet tall create a memorable arcade within the existing building’s concrete framework. “We wanted to make the first encounter a space that makes people slow down and ponder—an experience akin to that of an old cathedral,” explains Lim Koon Park, principal architect.

Adjacent to the light-filled entrance, a large conference area opens to a lushly vegetated space to the north. A stair of black folded metal—deployed as an elegant object within the space—leads up to the main office on the fifth floor. There, visitors encounter a series of compressed spaces where 8-foot-tall dropped ceilings obscure the barrel vaults and the decor is dark. The interiors within this zone are varied and include a highly decorated reception and guest lounge area, and an adjacent coffee and wine pantry. In these warm, intimate places, clients and designers can meet and mingle in an informal way. The low, dark spaces provide a distinct transition from the entry to the bright, well-lit spaces of the double-height studios that occupy three-and-a-half vaulted bays.

Workspaces for the principal architect and two directors are located in three corners of the open office and have very different configurations. Park, the principal architect, occupies the most traditional office, tucked within the northwest corner overlooking the entry, and the project director is in the studio’s southeast corner with a more typical workstation. Thean, the design director, required acoustic separation from the main workspace and chose to erect an aedicular frame of steel and oiled plywood in the northeast corner of the open platform. From this little house within the office, she is very much a part of the studio environment while occupying a whimsical bit of architectural theater.

The largest portion of the program is dedicated to open workspace. Under the four vaults that had once soared above the school’s library, the new natural light-filled interior captures the midcentury spirit of the original building. The east end of the office houses support areas, including the firm’s library and what’s called The Stage, a place for furniture and accessories to be displayed and stored. The variety of experiences promotes informal gatherings that, according to Thean, inspire staff to produce better work. But the heart of the design is the enduring strength of the original midcentury building’s vaulted “bones” and the designers’ ability to embrace them as the most uplifting part of their new offices.