Advertising agency Ogilvy (design: Witteveen Visch Architecten)
Client: Ogilvy Group Nederland bv
Brief: Advertising agency Ogilvy opens its offices in an industrial estate
Project team: George Witteveen, Ramin Visch, Bas van Mierlo, Simon Jongma, Peter van de Geer(akoestiek)
Status: realized 2002
Area: 6.300 m²
Further information: Lensvelt de Architect interieurprijs 2002 nomination
Push-peddlers in a former cycle factory
Advertising agency Ogilvy opens its offices in an industrial estate
By definition an advertising agency that is proud of its creativity will not want to open up premises in any 'normal' neatly-raked business park. Nothing is more deadly to one´s image than a boring, commercially viable, common-or-garden rented office building. Disused warehouses, canal houses, churches, the catacombs of a football stadium and old factory premises offer a 'unique' artistic bohemian environment in which publicity people can flourish anywhere in the world. Ogilvy´s new premises in Amsterdam are no exception to this rule.
Since April the 180 or so personnel of Ogilvy (a branch of British advertising group, WPP) have set up office in the former factory hall of Simplex cycle manufacturers on the De Schinkel industrial terrain on the south-west corner of the A10 highway. The entire staff now occupy a single colossal open space of 115 x 50 metres. Under the high shed roofs interior partitions and offices are noticeably absent. The only interruption in this working space the size of a covered football field consists of four large patios.
The initial idea for the reallocation of the former cycle factory was to split it up into commercially viable combinations of offices and manufacturing areas. Commissioned by property developer TCN Property Projects, the architectural firm of Neutelings Riedijk designed three new small office buildings to be completed this summer, to supplement the existing office wings of Simplex. On the advice of Witteveen and Visch, whom Ogilvy appointed as its architects/interior designers, the firm bought up all the factory areas of the complex in one go and had it upgraded to office space, thus giving the complex an entirely different set-up. Contrary to the original plan, the multi-occupancy building, now dubbed the 'A Factory', did not get any showrooms or stock rooms at all, but was exclusively reserved for office-type functions. To make the former factory halls of the cycle factory suitable for housing a publicity firm, architect Georg Witteveen and interior designer Ramin Visch devised a strategy of 'light urbanism'. In other words, there was to be no fixed allocation of the interior space with a permanent infrastructure of corridors and services; instead a more or less provisional exploration of the floor area was adopted, using detachable elements.
It is an infill strategy that is admittedly not new, but it has rarely been implemented on such a scale and with such an architectural design. In many regards the Ogilvy office really does have the character of a covered exterior space. Here and there one see some little pavilion-type buildings between the long rows of work tables. There are two 'glass boxes' on pillars for meeting rooms that remind one distinctly of the famous glass houses of Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson in their design and detailing. And there are four 'black boxes' of untreated steel, with raised work floors but invisible from below, built on cocoons containing small offices. And two wooden sheds with red boards form an entrance portal and company kitchen respectively.
For that matter, there is nothing provisional about the way that Witteveen and Visch have developed the concept of 'light urbanism' in a covered exterior area; rather it testifies to a strong desire for technical perfection. The pavilions are exceptionally neat and minimalist in their detail. Moreover they are not placed free-standing under the roof, but have good solid foundations underneath the concrete floor. The concrete floor itself is anything but authentic, as it is located 35 centimetres above the original factory floor to provide room for invisible floor insulation, services and cable ducts. Reverberation is avoided by applying a strong sound-absorbent layer on the underside of the shed roofs.
The concept of Witteveen and Visch was not based on any false romanticism about an authentic factory building, but on the idea of an adequate, 'open' working environment for the entirely non-hierarchical organizational structure of a huge advertising agency. The users themselves are responsible for the degree of cult in the interior. In this way many of the staff of Ogilvy cover the great distances in the former cycle factory, by means of Push-peddlers parked next to their worktables. It´s up to you to be creative, after all.
(text: Egbert Koster/Het Financieel Dagblad 2002)