New headquarters blends tradition with contemporary design
Chervon International Trading Company is a growing manufacturer of power tools in China; much of which is exported to Europe, the United States and Latin America.
The flourishing company required space for its expanding operations and sought an image that was contemporary and enduring to gain the confidence of foreign clients that come to China to learn about Chervon’s business, how their tools are made and their quality control process. This new headquarters building, located in the Nanjing Economic Development District on the outskirts of the city, provides the opportunity to consolidate the major corporate structure of the business into a single building.
The 30,700 sq m building houses five major corporate departments in its five wings: Management, Sales, Research and Development, Testing and Training. The building accommodates approximately 800 employees and includes office space, meeting areas, showrooms, a kitchen/cafeteria and executive dining facilities. The R&D department includes product testing labs, design/modelling areas, a workshop and a product sample room.
The main reason for the new building was to provide a more appropriate facility for Chervon to entertain and explain the process and quality of their products in order to help expand their business within the tool export market in China. The goal of the project was not only to produce a new and memorable architectural image, but also to design a compelling visitor path to help explain Chervon’s business to its future and current clients.
The project was more than a corporate headquarters. By including research and testing under the same roof along with office space, Chervon’s sales process is optimized for gaining future clients by providing a more dynamic and informative tour route which helps explain the company’s operations, products and potential, as well as the ability to expedite the production and modification of prototypes during client visits.
Research is done on site to display the company’s dedication to improve the materials and mechanisms of their tools. The tools are also tested in the building to prove that they meet various governmental requirements and codes so that the client can sell the products in various countries. The client’s business exemplifies the process of globalisation, with global markets combining with local engineering and labour.
The architecture represents this process by emphasising the intersection of the contemporary and traditional. It symbolises this intersection of global and local by reinventing the vernacular in a contemporary context, thus maintaining the local identity while expressing a forward-looking appearance. Massing and exterior-interior spatial flow are intended to enhance the client experience.
To achieve this, Chinese garden design influenced the building configuration and landscaped spaces of the corporate headquarters. Taking its inspiration from the traditional zigzag garden path, the building bends to form two exterior spaces. A public courtyard contains a series of ponds and landscaping that welcome visiting clients and leads to a glazed two-story lobby. This pavilion is pierced by an asymmetrical pyramid containing a sky-lit ramp which circulates around a water feature. The ramp connects the entry to the client meeting rooms on the second floor – a sequential path designed for the client experience.
The metallic finishes of this element are unique to the other materials of the building and symbolize the metal tooling process of the client’s business. A second courtyard, facing west and surrounded by employee functions, provides private meditative spaces at a more human scale. A narrow circulation spine cuts north/south through the site, linking the five building wings and the courtyards, while at times bridging over water like the traditional garden path.
The two types of paths present in the building suggest the company’s two cultural aspects, one represented by the traditional non-direct contemplative zigzag and the other by the direct, practical line of the contemporary world. The organisational parti of courtyards linked on an axis has precedent in Chinese monastery design.
The building mass steps to the south to allow for light penetration into the courtyards. The roof forms one continuous slope from north to south, from six stories to two, and from public court to more intimate garden. In places it floats above the building as a trellis or overhang, whereas at others it seems to be part of the solid stone-clad block of the building.
The roof itself is landscaped and unifies the massing of the five wings. Water is used extensively as a visual and environmental element in the courtyards as in traditional Chinese gardens. Thus, the sloping solid mass of the building combined with water symbolizes the tradition of the 'mountain-water garden,' and is part of the experience of the client path.
The central wing of the facility houses the personnel and training areas. This wing demonstrates the company’s investment in its employees’ professional and physical health by providing a large cafeteria, an exercise room, seminar rooms, a two-story multipurpose room and guest rooms for training personnel from other locations. Above it, the roof is stilted to shelter an exterior running track around a garden, a calisthenics area and a basketball court to encourage the physical well-being of its workers.
This central wing acts as the transition between the public and the private courtyards. Facades respond to solar orientation to limit energy consumption and to communicate Chervon’s commitment to sustainability to its clients. East and west facades, which receive the maximum solar exposure, are stone planes, punctured by vertical windows protected by projecting solar fins. Larger glass planes occur on the north and south facades and are shielded by units of horizontal sunscreens which allow natural light into the work spaces to provide a more sustainable work environment.
The construction of the new facility has helped to facilitate the expansion of Chervon in the global market place by providing a facility for introducing new clients to its business. Prior to the new headquarters, Chervon only produced tools which were sold and labeled under a supplier’s brand. As intended, the project has provided a launching pad for 'Devon,' Chervon’s own brand of products and proprietary tool technology. The project has contributed to Chervon’s increase in revenue and market share within the tool export market.
The construction of the new headquarters has helped to facilitate the expansion of Chervon in the global marketplace by providing a facility for introducing new clients to its business, as well as a workplace of international standards for Chervon staff.
Prior to the new facility, Chervon's executives, researchers and sales staff were scattered between several buildings in industrial facilities. The new building has consolidated these components of the company under one roof, which has provided a stronger cohesion within the company structure, as well as a facility that promotes their competence and dedication to quality to existing and potential clients. The client indicates that the Chervon staff 'appreciate this design very much and are so proud to work in such a masterpiece of art.'
Since moving into the new facility, Chervon International Trading Company has experienced several tangible positive effects on their business. The company has developed many new business relationships, including several leading retailers and brands which they now manufacture for. This has led to a 60% increase in annual revenue for the company since moving into the building. The increased revenue has resulted in a corresponding increase in jobs for the local community, as well as tax revenue for local authorities.
The client estimates that the green roof alone saves approximately 77,600 kwh per year in energy costs, or 2% of their annual consumption.
Since moving into the new facility, Chervon International Trading Company has experienced a 60% increase in annual revenue. This has been achieved with a 55% increase in productive staff (non-R&D). As planned, the new facility also provided an adequate launching pad for 'Devon', Chervon's own brand of products and proprietary tool technology, as well as the routine launching of new products that have been designed and developed in the building.