What does it take to create the headquarters for Atterbury itself? Turns out a lift with a “wow” factor is but one of the many elements… Tony Hofman from Hofman Architects, the firm behind the design of Die Klubhuis, shares some of the special tricks of the trade.
Your client will move in very soon. What are the very last tweaks that need to be finalised before the first boxes and people arrive?
Right now it’s a proper hive of activity as everyone rushes to the finishing line! There are many things happening all at once: there’s the last timber cladding around the main staircase, the final touches to the lift installation… attending to snag lists and general cleaning is ongoing. The testing and hand-over of all electrical, mechanical and security equipment is in process to ensure that everything is functional and working the way that it should.
In the meantime, the interior installations have all been virtually completed and were handed over last week.
It is essential that all major items, especially in the interior of the building, be attended to before the first people with their boxes arrive. We want to ensure that all of the snags and remedial work has been attended to before occupation, so that the client has a positive experience of their new building from the very first day that they move in. At this stage our major challenge is to get all the snags listed and sorted out before the end of September.
How would you describe the look and feel of the new Atterbury HQ?
We like to call this look and feel “contemporary industrial” or even “retro industrial”. The idea was to create a look and feel of an old industrial building that was repurposed as an upmarket office space. To achieve this, we designed the building as a series of steel portal frame-curved roof segments, attached to each other with concrete box gutters.
The steel roof sections received a beautiful timber-slatted ceiling along the inside curve of the roof, to create the majestic volume and to accentuate the shape of the roof from the inside. Everything else was designed to fit inside and complement the character of this given shape of the “industrial” building.
What was the biggest challenge for your team in terms of the client brief, and how did you tackle and solve that?
The biggest challenge was to accommodate all the electrical and mechanical services suspended below the timber-slatted ceiling. All the services were retrofitted exposed, suspended below the timber ceiling. It was quite a juggling act to coordinate these exposed services in such a way that it is both functional and aesthetically pleasing, and contributing to the overall industrial look and feel of the space.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting aspect of this new space? What sets it apart?
I believe it’s the unique blend of interior and exterior spaces. Just looking down 18th Street from either side of the building creates an open welcoming feeling, almost as if the building is inviting you to come inside. The main entrance under the large steel roof portal creates an outside public space which is visually connected to the triple-volume atrium inside the entrance lobby. The main staircase surrounds the open lift shaft which keeps you visually connected to both the inside and the outside public areas. And the exciting activity created by the glass-enclosed running track of Planet Fitness that runs through this outside public square further enhances one’s experience of the building.
Apart from the unique dynamic between the inside and outside, the most exciting (and challenging) aspect of this building is the lift. The instruction was to create something exceptional, that would have people going, “Wow! Did you see that lift!”? Within the theme of repurposed industrial space, we created an open lift car clad with steel mesh, within a lift shaft also clad in steel mesh. This gives the feeling of an open lift, as if you’re riding up and down within the shaft inside the main staircase. We also added a purpose-made lift dial to indicate floors, adding to the old-world experience.
Was there any unique techniques or methods that you tried for the first time in this building?
The entire concept was quite unique, which presented some challenges in detailing. We therefore employed unconventional construction methods that we have never encountered before. For instance, to achieve the special shapes of the exterior walls, some of the walls were constructed of polystyrene, covered with fibre-cement plaster. This provided a lightweight exterior wall with particularly good insulation properties, which could be installed quickly compared to conventional bricks and mortar. It also gave us more freedom to play with the shapes that currently gives the building its unique character.
What learnings are you taking away from this project?
It takes quite a special team of innovative collaboration to bring this kind of project to successful completion. Because nothing is “standard” or conventional, all the members of the professional team, together with the main contractor and his subcontractors were challenged to have an open mind and to think creatively, out of the box, to bring all the pieces of the project together. There was quite a lot of sorting out on site, putting our heads together to produce the best possible solution to some unique problems, as construction progressed.
Tell us more about the interior décor of the building.
The interiors complement the theme of a repurposed “contemporary industrial” building. There are some special features such as in situ terrazzo flooring with accents of black textured floor tiles, edging the spaces and indicating directions of flow in the entrance lobby.
The colour palette is of warm exposed concrete greys contrasted with black industrial steel. The use of recycled timber adds some natural warmth to the spaces. And I have to repeat it: the lift is particularly special!