d+a – Invensys

d+a Issue 015.2003 Aug/Sep 2003

linear logic
In line as one of the largest independent suppliers of total power solutions in the world, the Invensys Group Companies launched its $70m building at Changi Business Park in November last year. As the Asian-Pacific headquarters for production management, the six-storey 165,000 ft2 faculty houses the eight businesses that make up Invensys Singapore Pte Ltd, whose diverse interests span from industrial processing to data-networking systems to telecommunications. Armed with the interior project brief, HYLA Architects, under the direction of Han Loke Kwang, managed to integrate the respective needs of the satellite companies and unify the brand name using strong visual links and repetition of rectilinear spaces.

Public faces and places
As a customer service contact centre, impressions count. Not surprisingly, the first floor lobby is infused with elements that are telling of the company’s philosophy and dedication to quality. The atrium is a wide-open space, a democratic space if you will, with a three-storey high ceiling and is clad in two types of granites. The opposite wall is sheathed with blue tinted glass that extends from behind the reception counter to the ceiling above, illuminating the seamless flow of the space. This wall of rich indigo blue, bearing the company’s corporate colours and logo, punctuates the entrance into the building. When evening falls, its blue glow can be seen at a distance outside, hence extending the influence of the interior to the exterior. This emphasis on public spaces and faces of the building is best expressed on the fifth floor, where clients and guests are often received. Consequently, there is an emphasis on informal meeting areas and soft furnishings, such as the Interface Lounge that is more like a hotel lounge and café than an office pantry area.

Moving past the reception area, whose indigo blue walls echo those seen four floors below, clients are ushered through narrow corridors that open up into an uninterrupted space that has been obviously designed for comfort and casual meetings. Due to a conscious effort in the design intent, the length of the lounge is visually divided – with the dining area fitted with bright white lights, interspersed with white tables and lime green chairs while the ‘living room’ area maintains a more sexy colour palette to suit different moods, replete with soft lighting, plush chaise sofas and a large plasma TV.

Democratic Spaces
Being a large firm, the concepts of collaboration and equality play vital roles that can greatly enrich the quality and performance of its employees. As such, HYLA has designed the smoking area with as much thought and attention to detail as the rest of the enclosed spaces – a landscaped outdoor patio complete with trickling-water features and white sail-cloth canopies, it is partitioned from the interior by a glass wall that runs lengthwise, and contributes to the overall chill-out atmosphere of the lounge. Placed at an axis to the lobby on a floor that contains the legal, human resource and financial offices and the training rooms, the patio offers a visual link from those seats of power to the rank-and-file, providing a neutral space for interaction.

This notion of egalitarianism is further carried forth in a minimal number of enclosed offices. This departure from hierarchy is laudable and an apt solution in neutralising potential wrangling of seniority and priority in a corporation that is made up of numerous, previously independent, companies.

Synthesis of form and function
In the training and demo rooms, custom-made sliding white board panels and projector screens can be hidden or drawn out when needed. This fluid exchange of amenities showcases a synthesis of form and function, and can be seen in other details such as the ergonomic Ahrends office systems and custom-fit Krion lighting. To unify the overall design, rooms are fitted with an inverted L-shaped beechwood panel that stretches from the doorway up to the ceiling to create an aesthetic link to the outside corridors, which are veneered with the same beech material.

In the back offices, unlike most commercial interior projects, Invensys’ floor plans are unusually large with workstations commanding the most surface area. In order to negate the static atmosphere of a sea of cubicles, HYLA have carved the spaces into smaller rectilinear sections by the inclusion of ceiling to floor cabinets for a more personable feel. These storage walls in beech wood are not only practical solutions but also serve to further highlight the vertical rhythm of the spaces, and allow gaps through for colleagues to maintain visual contact.

The volumes of the back offices are accented by bursts of robust colours in the mini vestibules and on secondary walls. This seemingly simple use of colour emboldens the spaces and gives visual and spatial interest to an otherwise straightforward programme – and hence, helps to stimulate the office environment.

Designed in a futuristic industrial theme that complements the company’s trade and site, the Invensys office design is exemplary of the current trend in commercial interiors of a shift towards democratic and informal spaces. And it is heartening that even amidst the current economic gloom, some MNCs are still looking to position themselves in Singapore to tap into its connectivity in Asia’s fast-growing markets.

Writer: Lisa Teo
Photographs: Albert Lim