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#Architecture

These Award-winning Offices Teleport You to a Seaport

Article March 11, 2019  |  Text by Markéta Miková Text by Markéta Miková

Hurry up! In a moment we’ll be sailing out for a cruise around the working spaces of SinnerSchrader, a digital agency in Prague’s Vysočany district. These offices, built where the former Institute for Motor Vehicle Research once stood, have won two prestigious awards in recent weeks.

The northern German city of Hamburg is enchanting. The horn-blasts of the giant ships that have been bringing goods here from all corners of the world for centuries break against waves and a labyrinth of historical storehouses and warehouses. This complex rising up straight from the Elbe was built from red brick and boasts tall, narrow windows. You can feel the trustworthiness and self-assurance of the businessmen in the foremost city of the old Hanseatic League.

And all of these feelings rushed into me when I gazed at the building on Drahobejlova street in Vysočany. It stands lower than its surroundings, its facade is made of unplastered red bricks, and its tall industrial windows are painted black. In the past, a motor vehicle research institute stood here, but the replica of its historical doorbell bears no name. “SinnerSchrader” is written in small text next to the door handle. Nothing more.

A STABLE ORDER

The architect Jan Kurz greets me at the door; he designed the new headquarters for the SinnerSchrader digital agency along with his workmates from Studio Kurz Architekti. He will be my guide through its interior, which has won awards in both the Office of the Year competition and the Meeting Room of the Year competition.

“These spaces are very distinctive. They have stably fixed lightwells, structure, and order, which we simply had to preserve. That’s precisely why none of the meeting rooms and meeting boxes reach all the way to the ceiling. They end at a height of 2.5 meters, so that the original metal construction can come to the fore,” Kurz describes.

INDUSTRIAL TRADITION

When you step into these offices, don’t expect a traditional reception; instead you’ll find three hanging chairs, available to both employees and their visitors. A few small greyhounds—respected team members—will welcome you with joyful barks.

You’ll head down a diagonal passageway that leads through all of the spaces. “We had fun here with the use of ship containers, which we converted into meeting rooms. They line the diagonal traverse, which runs among the offices and ends on the terrace, where one more container-based meeting room will still be built. On their walls, we made use of trapezoidal sheet-metal and polycarbonate—unambiguous references to this site’s industrial tradition. Meanwhile acoustic sheets are scattered around the ceiling; these reduce the offices’ noise levels effectively,” Kurz adds.

SinnerSchrader’s main headquarters are located in Hamburg, and the inspiration for the materials solution that the architects used for the Prague branch comes precisely from there.

A QUESTION OF FLOWERS

The authors of the architectural solution took the fact that they were working for a creative agency—and that right angles and plasterboard soffits were thus out of the question—as their starting point. They produced their design for the new offices based on consultations with the leadership of both the Hamburg and Prague headquarters—but above all with SinnerSchrader’s employees, who played with the spaces at an afternoon workshop. The architects gave them large paper boards that represented tables, and the employees created trial arrangements of them within the spaces. They also drew layout proposals onto the ground with colored tape—helping the architects realize they didn’t need so many meeting rooms.

The interior of SinnerSchrader’s Prague branch, to which the company moved in last year from the Holešovice district, feels clean. No coats hung around, no paper piles, everything’s stored into lockers. I note that the only thing missing here is flowers. Kurz—a major nature fan himself because he lives on a farm in the Novohradské hills—asks me to reconsider that. “I’d only recommend flowers for clients’ offices if they’ll be using a greenery service, because irregular watering, poor lighting, or placement too close to the heating or cooling is enough to kill a cactus,” he replied.

Photo by BoysPlayNice