Site & context
During the last decade, the site of Umicore Precious Metals Refining in Hoboken was rehabilitated and technologically renewed, but the image still remained outdated. Conix Architects was appointed to implement Umicore’s new corporate identity on the site and to improve the overall image.
A total concept approach was used, including the masterplanning of the industrial site, an adapted routing, the creation of green areas, maintenance and cleaning of the valuable buildings, finishing of the façades of less interesting buildings, screens and signalisation, with the new office building as the eyecatcher.
‘Closing the loop’
Our concept creates one movement, which starts from the entrance of the site and leads to the administrative area. We called this movement ‘closing the loop’, referring to Umicore’s core business and mission statement: recycling in a sustainable manner. Today, this movement is partly executed as one large folded zinc plate, leading to the heart of the site. The expressive form of the new office building, which contrasts with the existing rational context, gives a real boost to the surroundings.
For this new office building and the adjacent renovated building, we not only conceived the architecture, but also the interior design, signalisation and office furniture. For the aesthetic supervision of the project, a ‘site-concept team’ was composed, consisting of managers and employees of Umicore and (interior) architects of Conix Architects. This team watched over the uniformity of materials, colours …
The new office building accommodates administrative and public functions like the main entrance, an auditorium, a central presentation-, encounter- and reception area and meeting rooms. The formal language of the building, characterised by rigid volumes with a large clearness and openness, was also maintained in the interior.
The central entrance with reception desk embraces the unique atmosphere of the building and lets the interior and exterior spaces melt together. The waiting chairs provide a colour accent, while the sloping white reception desk guides visitors to the badge control, elevators and meeting rooms.
The landscape offices are situated in the middle of the existing building. In contrast to the darker corridor and secondary spaces, we used very light finishing materials to increase the spaciousness. The grey casthouse floor runs as a central axis through the existing building and office spaces. Colourful accents in the loose furniture (pouffes, coat racks and chairs) break the mainly grey-white contrast, resulting in a playful yet cohesive interior.
The interior of the auditorium, with 100 tailor-made upholstered seats, makes a movement opposite to the façade, giving attendees the feeling they find themselves in a cocoon.
Special attention was paid to acoustics and finishing details, to counterbalance the settlements of the building that are to be expected. The building is fit-out with acoustic ceilings with integrated line lighting. Casthouse floors are combined with veneer parquet on the management level and woven vinyl in the working areas. In function of Umicore’s corporate philosophy, we deliberately choose for sustainable materials, that are maintenance-friendly (e.g. finishing materials like floor covering, …). The varnished steel stair railings are integrated in a slit in the wall, while the HVAC-techniques are hidden in the ceiling and walls. All columns in the adjacent building are wrapped and noisy machines are located in a separate storage next to the kitchen units.
The specifically designed office signalisation reinforces the interior concept. The concept for the signalisation is based on Umicore’s core business: each level was named after a precious metal. On each floor, a deduced colour of the metal is used in the indications of levels, meeting rooms, corridors, carpets and walls. Green, yellow, aubergine, red and blue provide colour accents on each level. In the entrance zone some corporate values (Transparency, Teamwork, Commitment, Fun, Respect, …) are applied on a vertical column (the only straight column in the entire building). In the managers’ offices, these are also written on the wall to familiarise visitors and clients with the values of Umicore. Each meeting room received a number and on the glass walls, symbols of precious metals of Mendeljev’s table, that are recycled by Umicore, are applied.
For the spaceplanning we also did a proposal, after which we designed a tailor-made solution in collaboration with SV – Unifor for the staff members’ desks and operational desks. Given the multifunctional use of the staff members’ desks (desk/meeting table), we used high-quality, representative materials like polished aluminium and veneer. The operational desks fulfil both aesthetic and ergonomic demands. Bearing Umicore’s clean desk policy in mind, each desk has a separate storage compartment for personal items, executed in varnished MDF.
The interior of the new office building of Umicore Hoboken illustrates the importance of corporate architecture to support and enhance a company’s identity. Functionality, aesthetics and durability go hand in hand in this unique and daring project.