Sept | Oct 1995
Residential in Feel. Corporate in function. This is Scandinavia Warehouses' reception lounge
Light is wielded like a tangible material, following the 30's modernist credo of a bright and open workplace. Mies van Der Rohe chairs are the choice of institutional furniture
The conference room. Green Tint glass panels and Flemish-bond concrete blocks, invite and block out natural light respectively
Photography : Peter Chua
The Reception desk
B L O N D A M B I T I O N [ cover story ]
Light, bright and voluminous
IQ says this is the leading edge in office design
An experimental lab somewhere in the Alpine mountains? More like the office wing of a warehouse complex in Singapore's Clementi Distripark! For those unaccustomed to such lavish spread of space, Scandinavia Warehouses, which rests on a built-up area of 7,920 sq. meters, inspires the imagination to wander. Its generous scale, ample proportions and large volume is rare in space-scarce Singapore.
The company is a leading player in the logistics and distribution industry. It boasts a multi-million-dollar computerized storage retrieval system with a capacity for 18,700 pallet positions.
The opening reference to wintry North Europe, however, is not altogether infelicitous. The client's request was two-prong. First, to create a look that retains the name of their enterprise 'Scandinavia'; and second, that the design must be simple and encoded into the function of the space which includes a reception area, a conference room, managerial and executive staff offices, support work-stations and a lounge.
To address the client's brief, the designers at Poole Associates researched into Scandinavian architecture and found that the idiom of the 30's modern movement was the solution they were looking for. The movement was born of a machine aesthetics that shunned decoration. New materials and building methods were used to make brighter, more open and functional spaces. It was hoped that a democratic design credo would improve for all, conditions in the workplace. The modernist campaign was lead by the Germans, the 'headquarters' was the Berlin-based Bauhaus - a veritable power keg of a design lab founded in 1919. The movement's industrial girth, however, was tempered when it reached Scandinavia, where it blended with the provenance's craft tradition that was already in existence. The result: a friendlier, more humanistic expression of modernism. Among its best-known stalwarts were Bruno Matheson, Borge Mogenson, Kaare Klint, and the undisputed guru of Nordic design, Alvar Aalto. The goals, the functions, the design intentions of the Scandinavian modern movement were therefore cogent with Poole Associates' master plan for their client. The designers summarized the salient features as simple forms; abundant daylight; natural, textured materials; frugal color scheme; and with a supporting cast of modern classic furniture. Against a backdrop of unerring horizontal and vertical planes, the overall effect is robust, coherent and, most of all, balm to the senses.
The layout recalls the grid system of a 1930's northern European office. Located on the third level of the complex, one steps out of the lift into a space that unfolds some 50m from the initial point at the reception to the far end at the workstations. In between the two points, along the main circulation route, one passes the conference room, the lounge and the executive work compartments. Blond Maple wood flooring cohere the various sanctums together. The passage's formal linearity is broken by a row of rotund columns, a series of futuristic Louis Poulsen pendant lamps, and as if serving as a point of focus, an Alvar Aalto zebra-print lounge chair studded at a corner.
At the lobby, the reception desk counter is corralled by intersecting planes of glass blocks, silver-white Grecian marble, and raw concrete bricks. The juxtaposition of high and low-grade materials is irreverent, but forges an original study in textures. Opposite this section, an apron of sisal matting demarcates the waiting area. A set of Alvar Aalto chairs keeps one ensconced while waiting to be called upon for the appointment.
Another well-conceived area is the lounge. As management hosts frequent corporate functions, they wanted a convenient venue within the complex itself where they can invite clients for drinks. The spacious room is presided by a Mies van der Rohe 'Dessau' coffee table, and surrounding it, an L-shaped customized sofa that sits seven people, Aalto chairs with natural webbing, and van der Rohe chairs with tubular chrome legs - the institutional chair that has been picked for the conference room and the staff meeting area.
Clearly, the concept of Scandinavia Warehouses' administrative office proves that industry and aesthetics are not incompatible, that if there should be a gulf between the two spheres, it exists only in the minds of the parochial. For a local management to concur with the designer's blueprint is rare, daring. The result: an architecture that is modern and humanistic, and that puts it unreservedly at the cutting edge of Singapore's commercial interior design. Now, the only thing missing is a view of a coniferous forest...
No. 7 Clementi Loop, Singapore
Project Design Team :
Poole Associates Private Limited
Ed Poole, Andrew Jones, Rey Tadifa
T 65 | 6536 | 3928
Contractor : Mason Works Pte Ltd
T 6225 | 3545
The Lounge. Green Tint glass panels are held together by white mullions. The glass panels pull in plentiful light from the outside, through the office compartments, into the main passageway and into the space in question. Surrounding the Mies van der Rohe Dessau table is an L-shaped sofa customised by X-Tra Designs, van der Rohe tubular chair with chrome legs, and the Alvar Aalto Artek lounge chair with natural webbing, all anchored on a field of sisal carpet. A Louis Poulsen floor lamp stands in the left hand