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The Office in Polish-Spanish version

02 of March '23
Technical data
Name: The Office
Investor: Cedrob S.A.
Location: Poland, Niepołomice, 7 Mokra St.
Project: James & Mau
Authors: Jaime Gaztelu, Diego Llorente
Collaboration: Patrycja Pokrzywa, Jolanta Szczurek, Wojciech Buchta, Vanessa Szydlowska, Robert Zapala
Interior architecture: James & Mau Arquitectura
Landscape architecture: James & Mau Arquitectura
Construction: Karol Kaczmarek Construction Office
General contractor:
Mromont

Calendar:

  • design
  • implementation



2017
2022

Areas:

  • land
  • buildings
  • usable
  • total


44 617 m²
517 m²
660 m²
691,6 m²

Cubic capacity:

2 628,08 m³

General contractor: Mromont
Cost: 4,320,000 PLN

With the design of the House in Mława, architects from the Polish-Spanish studio James & Mau conquered the Polish architectural scene — they won the SARP Award of the Year, among others, and Robert Konieczny, in his annual summary in the pages of A&B, hailed their realization as one of the hits of 2022! What will they surprise us with this time?

The Office in Niepołomice, near Krakow, is the latest project by the James & Mau studio. The small building housing Cedrob's offices is surrounded by a not very picturesque area of industrial halls and truck parking lots. However, the architects focused on what is best on this plot — a small birch forest, from which they started working on the project, and on framing the views appropriately.

ceglany mur oddziela biurowiec od strefy przemysłowej

A brick wall separates the office building from the industrial zone

photo: Jakub Certowicz

One can see some reminiscences of the House in Mława in The Office — attention is drawn to the horizontal, clear layout of the block, the focus on the honesty of the materials used and the shaping of the projection with respect for the existing greenery.

The building, as the architects emphasize, is devoid of systemic solutions — everything has been meticulously designed individually for this object. From the outside, the block is covered with a façade of elegant dark bricks contrasting with the greenery of the trees, while inside we see a structure of raw ceramic blocks with invisible joints. The decision not to plaster the building materials meant that the individual elements had to be extremely artful, and the architects also decided to hide the installations — the interior was to be raw, but not industrial — the employees were to feel at home here.

surowe wnętrze kontrastuje z wykończeniem elewacji

The raw interior contrasts with the finish of the facade

photo: Jakub Certowicz

Diego Llorente and Jaime Gaztelu of the James & Mau studio talk about how architecture can affect our well-being, why trees are better than blinds, and how to make office employees feel at home in the office


Ola Kloc: When we last spoke, you talked about the changes you observed among the employees of the company for which you created the office building — how do you think architecture and space can influence users?

Diego Llorente: The change has indeed been tremendous. The space where they worked before was very small. So the first change was in the space itself — we turned 50 square meters, where fifteen crowded people worked, into 600 meters with the capacity to accommodate thirty-five employees.

Jaime Gaztelu: The size of the office was one factor, but the quality of the work space also left much to be desired. So the amount of space and the quality of the space changed, they went from 0 to 100. How it affected people is amazing. When we went to the first meeting four years ago, you could get the impression that people were sad... I think the architecture has restored their dignity. This is not the company's headquarters, the employees already felt a bit removed, left behind in southern Poland. And now they actually feel better, better dressed, feel appreciated, happy to go to work. This is impressive. This also translates into greater work efficiency for both them and the employer.

długi korytarz wieńczy brzozowy lasek

A long corridor is crowned by a birch forest

Photo: Jakub Certowicz

Diego: Another important aspect is the interior design. We talked a lot about how the concept of work has changed, there are no longer these giant offices where you go in suits, it seems that people work much better if they feel at home. So we didn't create an open office space, but proposed dividing the interior into small interconnected rooms, and introduced furniture and floor lamps that create a homey atmosphere.

Jaime: We chose carpets more suitable for home, and the office staff chose paintings and plants. We told them to place them as they would do in their apartments. They chose typical house plants in nice clay pots.

Diego: We asked them to choose just such pots, because they blend nicely with the brick wall made of ceramic blocks (Porotherm). I wasn't convinced to leave the decisions in their hands, but Jaime convinced me. He said we have to trust them, because if we want them to feel at home, they should be able to decide such things. Now I think it's important that they could choose certain elements, they did it very well.

zespół firmy wypełnił wnętrza roślinami

The company's team filled the interiors with plants

Photo: Jakub Certowicz


Ola: The décor certainly has an impact on the well-being of the users of a space, but tell us, please, what architectural treatments have you used to enhance the quality of life for employees?

Diego: Buffers, which are perhaps the most distinctive element of the project, played a big role. The entire eastern facade is glazed, letting in the morning sun, so we created zones in this part that are arranged in a „T” shape. The client wasn't convinced, asking why he should pay for two spaces, each 30 square meters in size, with a utility program he didn't ask for.

rzut parteru

ground floor plan

© James & Mau Arquitectura


Ola: What is their purpose?

Diego: On the one hand, from the bioclimatic point of view, they protect from the cold in winter and the heat in summer, on the other hand, they are a space for relaxation — you can have a phone conversation there, talk calmly with a client, eat, rest a while. And indeed the company's employees make great use of this space, they have placed most of the plants there.

Jaime: This is one of the elements. Another is the existing birch forest, which is the vestibule to the building. We tried to embrace it with new architecture. It generates a psychological filter to protect us from the hostile environment of the surroundings in which the office is located, because we have to remember that we are in an industrial area where large trucks pass through. This first forest makes you forget a little bit where you are. We repeated this forest twice — in the office and residential parts.

architekci otoczyli istniejący lasek brzozowy

The architects surrounded the existing birch forest

Photo: Jakub Certowicz

All of the utility programs we were asked to do were reflected in the architecture, both in terms of size and orientation that allowed us to work with natural light. We also made use of sun protection slats, which give the facade a distinctive aesthetic.

The relationship between the various rooms and functions has also been thought through — there is an office area, a leisure area, and varying degrees of privacy as needed. And what Diego mentioned — a buffer, i.e. a place with a different aesthetic, a more pleasant atmosphere, where closer to the garden and surrounded by plants one can relax or talk without disturbing co-workers. I think it affects everyone well.

listwy nie tylko chronią przed słońcem, ale też nadają elewacji charakterystyczną estetykę

The slats not only protect from the sun, but also give the facade a distinctive aesthetic

Photo: Jakub Certowicz

Diego: When we first arrived there and saw the surroundings, we thought that no one would want to work in such a context. So the main design decision was to create a wall, a wall that limits this space and abstracts it from what's around. So a wall appeared, next to another wall, which surrounded this undersized forest. It was also important that people, wanting to get inside, should pass through this forest. This was difficult, because people tend to take shortcuts. So we placed a bench that makes it impossible to walk diagonally so that when people go to work every day, they have to walk between the trees instead of walking between the buildings. I think this affects the way they work.

ławka ma kierować przechodniów w stronę ścieżki

The bench is supposed to direct passersby toward the path

Photo: Jakub Certowicz


Ola: And they actually walk this longer path?

Diego: Yes, they actually use it.

Ola: You say about the building that it is bioclimatic architecture with high energy efficiency — with what solutions did you achieve this? Tell us, please, more about the buffers mentioned.

Jaime: The buffers, in addition to being a kind of recreational space, serve as a heat buffer — in the winter, if the sun is shining, they heat up. So you leave the outside windows closed and open the inside windows, bringing heat inside. The space thus behaves like a radiator. In summer, on the other hand, you don't open the interior windows, but open the exterior windows, so you ventilate the space, which becomes a loggia, and limit the light coming in. So in summer it's an air conditioner, and in winter it's a radiator.

Diego: We also introduced mechanical ventilation with recuperation. To protect the interiors on the first floor from overheating, we considered the possibility of external blinds, but of course architecturally this would change the design, so we planted more trees to provide shade. On the east side of the building, we repeated the same forest as on the entrance side, and as birch trees lose their leaves seasonally — we didn't limit the light in winter, and in summer, when the trees are full of leaves, they make the building less heated.

architekci posadzili więcej drzew, aby zapewnić cień

The architects planted more trees to provide shade

Photo: Jakub Certowicz

Ola: These are big trees.

Diego: Yes, we wanted the effect to be immediate. There have already been summer days with high temperatures and we didn't want employees to have to use air conditioning. We wanted the conditions inside to be good all year round. So we conducted sunlight analyses to see how tall the trees should be. We planted trees of different heights — the tallest are 12 meters, and there are some that are 4 meters. It was a technologically complicated process — trees of such height cannot be bought in Poland, so two trailers came from the Netherlands.

Ola: How did you convince the investor to do this? It doesn't sound like the cheapest solution.

Diego: Well, putting up roller blinds is not cheap either [laughs]. We compared the cost of installing external blinds and planting trees... in the end we adjusted to the budget and didn't take all the trees we planned.

Jaime: I think the trees were a bit more expensive, but they have a lot of advantages — not only do they protect from the sun, but they also create a spectacular landscape.

Diego: And even more — they create a microclimate.

Jaime: Exactly, they create a microclimate outside that affects the whole environment, they lower the temperature, they generate some humidity.

Diego: Going outside is more pleasant now.

elewacja wschodnia

eastern elevation

Photo: Jakub Certowicz


Ola: The building has two faces — on the one hand, it seems almost tightly enclosed by a brick wall, and on the other, the glazing of the facade is obscured only by narrow aluminum razor blades. Tell us, please, a little more about what is the reason for this solution of the massing?

Jaime: It actually has one face closed to the warehouse and three faces open to the gardens — one that already existed and the other two that we created. The starting point was to close off to the hall and an environment full of trucks. The only attractive thing was the forest, so that's where the design process started — as we moved away from the trees in the building design, we realized that we needed to create another forest so that everyone in the office could use it. And over time, another forest appeared — another face — on the side of the apartments.

Diego: Unfortunately, the existing forest was north-facing, what's more at the shorter elevation, so its function is primarily to highlight the entrance. But it's also visible from the entire corridor on the ground floor. It would be a shame if there were no such view from other parts of the building. Inside, you forget you're in an industrial zone, thanks to the quality provided by the ceramic blocks and the views of the woods we've created.

Ola: Thank you for the interview.


Ola Kloc

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