Double down...

New ofice building offers twice the space on a tight budget

by James 28 October 2010
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    Lack of space and an inefficient environmental construction made it necessary for the Austrian Service for Torrent and Avalanche control to be refurbished and extended to nearly twice its original size. The client also had three key requirements; firstly, on an economical level, existing facilities in the old part of the building (e.g. heating and sanitation) had to be used for the new building; secondly, all construction work, albeit executed in two phases, had to be done while the offices were still able to run their businesses; yet above all, aesthetically the extension had to fit to the old part in a harmonious way.

    The extension was designed as a floating box clad in dark wood that matches the height of the eaves of the existing building. Inside, the box is composed of a two-storey, single-loaded corridor construction. All the floors and corridors are built at the same height as the floors of the existing building to not only allow for an easy transition between the two building parts, but also to visually signify the new 'backbone' of the department that now makes orientation, circulation and communication very simple and straightforward. Naturally, these corridors merge at the interface between the new and old building to form a new double height entrance foyer. It is accessible via a ramp and a bridge that goes over a small water basin. These are a subtle, yet effective reference to the function of the building which deals with torrents and avalanche control.

    A lot of care has been given to the choice of materials, especially in terms of their colour and texture as they are all deliberately chosen to enhance the user experience and fit into the context. The dark wood cladding of the new extension refers to being part of the forestry ministry and stands in deliberate contrast to its old counterpart which has a white plaster finish. The same wood is also used on the walls inside the foyer. Here, they delicately mark the division between the public and the private places of the office whose rooms have an exposed concrete surface. Lastly, the corridors themselves are fitted with sequences of rooms that differ from each other so that the user can experience different atmospheres and views inside and outside the building.


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