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A Tool for Businesses Seeking Sleek, Chic Offices


Imaginative interior architecture can play a huge role in terms of fostering collaboration and creative thinking — and can help define a company’s culture. Think of the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. and its clever mix of open spaces and tent-like sanctuaries, and how this cool corporate headquarters is helping to define Google itself as The Place to Work. Now, a gorgeous new book Contemporary World Interiors, just published by Phaidon Press and written by design curator and writer Susan Yelavich, explores swanky office, retail, educational, hospital, hotel, and residential interior décor of the past 25 years. While newer projects from the past couple of years, such as the Googleplex, aren’t in the book –- given the advance deadlines of book publishing –- the 500+ page tome can serve as an eye-popping tool for managers looking for to reconfigure corporate digs for more productivity or employee engagement. Or for companies seeking hip new architects to hire for innovative retail spaces.

One particularly sweeping trend Yelavich notes is the increasing influence of residential settings in commercial and corporate environments – as well as in both clinical and civic spaces. “Indeed, it could be argued that transforming work into play is design’s ultimate task,” Yelavich writes in her smart introduction. The value of presenting stylish interior design of the past quarter century rather than focusing only on the newest and hippest spaces is that we can start to see what environments have stood the test of time — and thus serve as worthwhile investments.

Yelavich presents a number of cool corporate environments, from hedge-fund D.E. Shaw & Co.’s spare, contemplative offices, designed by Steven Holl (1992), to Nike’s super-hip, i-Pod-sleek London offices (2003), designed by Jump Studios. And Yelavich presents work by the usual “starchitects” — Frank Gehry’s operatic interior for the DZ Bank Building in Berlin (1995-2001, below), is a true stunner, as is Zaha Hadid’s sleek BMW plant and central offices in Leipzig, also in Germany (2005).

But then there are the surprises. Meyer and van Shooten Architects’ Shoebaloo store in Amsterdam (2003), for example, looks like an interior straight out of a sci-fi movie, with glossy, voluptuous white surfaces, chic, translucent display shelves, and a mirrored floor. And King & Roselli Architects’ Es Hotel in Rome (2003), with a glowing-donut of a reception desk and tiny yet sleek and sophisticated in-room workstations, is an intriguing study in efficient and appealing small-space design. With more than 900 color images, the book is serious eye-candy. And with Yelavich’s meticulous analysis and research, the encyclopedic volume’s also a valuable reference guide for businesses.

(Photograph by Roland Halbe)


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