The only Indian entry to be shortlisted in the Architecture category, for the upcoming Dezeen Awards, this building serves the dual purpose of being a factory as well as the corporate base for Hanoi-based Star Engineers.
The very first premise that architect Deepak Guggari of Studio VDGA and his team had to bear in mind and work with was the fact that the building that needed to be designed would be serving as a corporate office as well as a factory set-up. This meant, temperamentally and characteristically, the design would have to cater to two distinctive personality types. Considering the same, both the spaces were planned inclusively, with a series of courts interwoven into the work zones to breathe freshness and life into the ambience.
In fact, a look across the office would fetch you a pleasing view of the landscaping and water feature, instead of the blind partitions and simply decorative interiors.
Guggari and his team started with dividing the whole building into front and back bays — the diving feature, a long brick wall. So technically, the front bay housing the corporate office is actually adjoining the factory floor beyond, with the brick wall separating the two. In fact, the brick wall is a recurring design element. In the reception area, it makes a bold statement as the distinctive backdrop of the wooden reception desk.
“Brick is the main element of interior design in this office space. Various forms and hues of brick make for a unique element in the interior spaces. The twisted brick wall forms the reception backdrop and it drew inspiration from a visit to a local brick kiln in Hanoi,” explains Guggari.
The garden court beyond basks in the brilliant shadows cast by the vertical brick offsets in an otherwise simple and unobtrusive brick wall. As you arrive at the passage crossing the office, you see the series of garden courts along the way — the architects have ensured that you do not lose sight of these courts from any spot in the building. All the workspaces, cubicles and partition walls are designed in transparent glass, making the areas seem interwoven and encouraging interaction with the inter-mediating garden-like spaces.
The overall building structure is a simple form-finished concrete envelope, lined with long colourful perforated metal screens adorned with attractive greenery and landscaping, in keeping with the tropical environs of Hanoi. Grid planning while carving out the quintessential courtyards is the strength of the design here. No matter where you are in the building, it’s these garden-scapes that seem to follow and stay with you. There’s nothing loud or jarring about the design at any point, and we are told that the design team specifically explored a rustic and discreet material palette to align the client’s requirements contextually to the site location.
Keeping in mind the warm and sub-tropical weather conditions of Hanoi, the entire building needed an ambience that would do justice to its inhabitants and be pleasant during both the hot summer as well as the dull winter. The internal garden courts, with their skylights, do their bit with respect to the look and keep the happiness quotient of the place high enough that there’s enough natural light pouring into the office areas even when the weather is hazy.
The long perforated screen or ’the breathing wall’, as they call it, adorned with greenery in and out on the front façade, cuts off the glare in the summer. This screen also negates the use of blinds or curtains in offices along the frontside, making the working areas eco-friendly in their own way. The painted panels stand out in stark contrast against an otherwise restrained concrete-finished façade.
“The demand for understated interiors in the tropical-temperate climatic zone of Vietnam allowed us to fully utilise the beauty of earthy materials. The strong sunlight beautifully enhances the material palette. Be it the vacuum de-watered floor, the brick-wall or the raw metal, light reflects brilliantly through them,” points out Guggari.
The building wrapped in concrete offers a subtle contrast to the fierce red of the brick. A floating MS staircase along with the customised stretched metal ropes used in place of the railing impart a much-needed lightness to the circulating areas. There has been no use of boastful materials throughout the project, and most of the raw material and palette have been locally sourced while fully exploiting the abundantly available resources and the local labour. Interestingly, as Guggari pointed out, the usual suspects of interiors such as cladding, carpentry, POP false ceiling, painting and flooring work have had absolutely no role to play in this project, and hence, have been completely eliminated. Point noted!