MVRDV cuts the mustard

Wednesday 04 May 2011

Transformative project at Dijon Mustard Laboratory viewed as exemplary scheme that can be replicated elsewhere to great effect

Rotterdam-based design studio MVRDV has secured a contract to transform the interior and exterior of a recently completed building currently out of use. Initially used as a Unilever Dijon Mustard Laboratory, the stark white complex was completed in 2004 but it was soon discovered that the overly spacious internal layout made it unfit for purpose as a traditional workspace.

Hosting 600 young call centre operators on a daily basis, the redesign of the former laboratory into a Teletech Call Centre has been inspired by the way in which young people approach their work from home. The design studio explains: “The space needs to appeal to the operators to work the way they like, the space will be informal and furnished with homely objects to provide a fun and creative working environment.”

Natural light will also play a large part in the redesign, as a large sheet of glass, numerous skylights and a generous atrium encourage the inflow of sunlight in an effort to establish a ‘community feeling’ within the communal volume. Aside from this great office workspace will be an education centre, gallery and projects incubator.

The irregular working hours under which the call centre staff operate mean that during rush hours – in the morning, afternoon and early evening – the building is fully occupied, yet at other times is comparatively quiet. During these periods of high capacity, certain areas of the building will be used which would be otherwise unsuitable as an office environment.

MVRDV views this project as a visionary scheme which may be replicated elsewhere. The practice explains that it: “sees this transformation as an exemplary project for contemporary European architecture in times of the current crisis. How to reuse a building which is structurally in good shape but not suitable for a traditional transformation and use?

“The more reuse of the existing is possible the more budget is liberated for interventions. The unusual building evokes an unusual use and in the end will adjust perfectly to the Teletech work rhythm. The budget makes literal reuse necessary and leads to less replacements and a better sustainable profile of the transformation act.”

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