The birth of the beast
In 2009, with offices located in the surroundings of the Dutch capital, Red Bull Amsterdam wanted to move to a more urban location that would better reflect its culture and involvement in the arts and sports. Let us remember that the Austrian company goes much further than simply selling its famous energy drink. Since its beginnings, it has been involved in racing sports (Formula 1,NASCAR, motorcycle racing) and has been massively sponsoring extreme sports, like the Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship. The company has also invested a great deal in music, helping young artists or creating traveling workshops like the Red Bull Music Academy, and in dance, particularly with its famous B-Boys from the Red Bull BC One Battles.
In competition with two other architecture 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, facing a timeless crane and an old disused Russian submarine…
Inside this shipbuilding factory, with its three adjacent bays, we focused on expressing the dichotomy of space, shifting from public spaces to private ones, from black to white and from white to black.
Our idea was to combine the almost brutal simplicity of an industrial place with Red Bull’s mystical invitation to perform.
The interior architecture with multiple layers of meaning conveys this dual personality, reminding the user of mountain cliffs one moment and skate board ramps the next. These triangle-shaped piles, as if ripped off the body of a ship, build up semi-open spaces that can be viewed from below, as niches, or from above, as bridges and mezzanines across space. In the architecture we offer, nothing is clearly set; all is a matter of interpretation.
Thus, this interior architecture shows the duality between mind and body, play and work, socialization and creative privacy, which defines
Red Bull’s philosophy. And we started expressing this ambivalence through an opposition between public and private spaces.
The first of the three bays of the building is utterly dedicated to public spaces, whereas the two others contain the managers’ offices and workstations.
The beast: public spaces
This simple-looking dichotomy hides an additional ambivalence, as one single space can include various other spaces that differ as much by nature (open or not) as by function. In public spaces, a closed recording studio is next to an open playground, with its video screens and bar,while farther, niche-shaped resting spaces swing between introspective and open shapes.
In the same spirit, private spaces were kept open, in order to start a dialogue between collective workstations in the middle, and managers’ offices and functional spaces all around them. The whole place is unified with a pervasive natural light that comes from a series of skylights across the full span of the building which produces an amazing natural lighting effect.
Located in the middle of the working area, a massive architectural object emerges as a symbol of this
architecture of ambiguity. This perforated black metal box interacts with the surrounding space through its shape, texture and absence of color. Inspired by the shape of the roof, the volume of this meeting room is like a photo-negative of the building structure itself. It has the mineral texture (caused by natural and artificial light effects through its perforations) of a meteorite that would have fallen through the atmosphere and absorbed the spirit of the place where it landed. It is as much a kind of symbolic extraction from an open space as a tribute to Red Bull Stratos, Felix Baumgartner’s unprecedented performance consisting in jumping from 120,000 feet to try to achieve the firstsupersonic free fall in history.
This architecture of ambiguity led us even further, playing with brutal volumes and broken lines that refuse verticality and horizontality. We 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 our 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.
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