On a wing and a prayer

Dualities explored throughout offbeat Red Bull office in Amsterdam

by James 16 November 2011
  • of

    In competition with two other firms, the teams at Sid Lee Architecture and Sid Lee Amsterdam convinced Red Bull managers to set up their new headquarters in an urban and offbeat site evocative of both street art culture and the intensity of extreme sports. North of Amsterdam, in an obsolete shipbuilding environment, the Noord district has been under complete redevelopment, attracting artists and major arts and media companies such as MTV Europe. That’s where Red Bull Amsterdam agreed to settle, in an old heritage shipbuilding factory.

    To design the inner space, Sid Lee Architecture aimed at retrieving Red Bull’s philosophy, to suggest the idea of the two opposed and complementary sides of the human mind: reason versus intuition, industry versus arts, dark versus light, the rise of the angel (Red Bull gives you wings...) versus the brutality of the bull… The interior architecture with multiple layers of meaning conveys this dual personality. In the architecture we offer, nothing is clearly set; all is a matter of perception.

    This architecture of ambiguity led us even further, playing with brutal volumes and broken lines that refuse verticality and horizontality. The architects built up this language through a formal dynamism of architectural elements and the primitive, almost geological simplicity of the whole. The space thus created questions in the usual perspectives and marks. In order to strengthen the material brutality, we largely used simple plywood and raw metal plates. In opposition to this intentional simplicity of space layouts, walls and floors were covered with playful graphic works, stemming from Red Bull’s culture and developed by the Sid Lee Amsterdam team.

    Therefore, the architects insisted on paying a very special tribute to Fiction Factory, the manufacturing studio that made this project possible. In line with traditional Dutch workmanship, Fiction Factory was more of a partner to Sid Lee Architecture than a mere supplier. Fiction Factory has showed the firm that it is possible to make plywood literally come alive, creating the most complex geometric shapes with it. Beyond technical skills, this project required intelligence and sensitivity to understand the underlying architectural metaphor and sometimes to capture it beyond all expectations. The architects also want to thank Jora Vision for keeping a watchful eye on the overall production process.

    The street and extreme sports cultures are illustrated in Red Bull’s ethic, characterised by a will to perform and not to respect rules. In collaboration with Sid Lee Amsterdam’s graphic designers, the Sid Lee Architecture team chose to express this philosophy trough a ubiquitous graphic covering of vertical and horizontal surfaces: ceilings, walls, floors - and even furniture! They also wished to highlight Red Bull’s universe of play and sport performances, instead of simply expressing the rebel side of the company.

    These performance-driven graffiti show up in the most exuberant expression in the restroom. Inspired by Red Bull’s ‘Holy Shit List’, the list of the craziest things we wish to do, a ceiling, wall and floor mosaic mimics a Renaissance fresco, with a determined blasphemous approach.

    Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

    Contact The Team