by Vladimir BelogolovskyOct 13, 2023
Dutch architectural practice UNStudio has unveiled its design for the international software development company JetBrains' office in St. Petersburg. The project will convert the organisation's existing campus into a state-of-the-art, immersive, multi-modal hub for employees to meet, engage in discussion, mediate, and innovate. All these activities will occur against a picturesque backdrop that hosts views of the nearby Gulf of Finland on Russia's northwestern coast. The proposal's primary feature is a new building towards the north of the software developer's current offices. Through an impressive architectural language, the Amsterdam-based studio hopes to attract outstanding talent by expressing JetBrains' distinctive identity to its diverse workforce.
Founded in 2000, JetBrains is known for developing an extended family of integrated development environments (IDE) for various programming languages, and designing Kotlin - the present officially preferred language for Google's Android operating system. The company has nine offices spread across Europe, the US, and Russia, including their global headquarters in Prague. Two eight-storey towers, settled along the River Nava's banks, currently serve as the base for their operations in St. Petersburg. They moved into these premises back in 2019.
With an extensive repertoire of completed projects in the realms of office buildings and workspace design, UNStudio boasts of an in-depth understanding of what constituted an optimal work environment. Being well-versed about the positive impact such a space could have on the well-being, creativity, and productivity of its users, the studio had initially secured the commission after emerging as the winners of an international competition held in late 2019. Their entry presented a 'consummate business card' for JetBrains' current global standing.
Ben van Berkel, the founder and Principal Architect at UNStudio, remarks, “JetBrains is a highly innovative company. They are ambitious, possess a deep understanding of their workforce, and have a very contemporary approach to the future of work. This meant that we were able to bring everything that we have learned from designing contemporary workspaces to this design and could create a warm, green, transparent, open, and inviting office that stimulates total interaction”.
The design team's understanding that physical and psychological well-being were synonymous in these situations was bolstered by the intent of forging a sense of community that was paramount to encouraging communication, knowledge exchange, interaction, and creativity within the spaces they conceived. In this vein, the design focuses on the cumulative well-being of all employees as well as the visitors who periodically pass through the building's spaces, while incorporating JetBrains' unique approach to work culture. The driving force behind the process is the idea of creating 'comfortable, connective, and versatile' spaces.
At the heart of this design philosophy is a vast, vertically stepped indoor atrium. Alongside swooping staircases and long bridges spanning over open areas, the atrium's interior design also features biophilic pockets and surfaces, interwoven with green design elements to serve as a background for all the activities hosted in the space. Functioning as a vestibule, an imposing lobby establishes the first line of sight towards the atrium from the building's interior. It also houses cloakroom facilities, showers, and exercise areas.
Addressing the building's internal circulation, van Berkel notes, “We pay a great deal of attention to how people move through buildings. The possibility to take endless walks through the building is created, where there is a great deal of transparency, also towards the surrounding landscape.”
Auditoriums, breakout spaces, meeting rooms, and the central restaurant are all arranged across the atrium's stepped levels. Furthermore, this flowing, bountiful open space provides unhindered, expansive vistas of the Gulf of Finland while being linked to outdoor terraces as well as a courtyard. Its spatial design tends to appeal to the conditions of physical, mental, social, and environmental well-being that cement their role as the core of the new JetBrains community.
The atrium's expansiveness is a counterpoint to the office floors, which are more individual and team-centric, rather than endeavours in open planning. However, van Berkel explains, "Office spaces are designed in such a way that they do not create simple linear corridors leading to dead ends, instead, each corridor has a route that introduces a kind of landscape into the building”. Additionally, custom-made healthy workstations were designed for a thousand newly housed employees.
An outdoor courtyard at the podium level provides a welcoming overflow zone associated with an active gallery that provides connectivity to the existing offices. As per UNStudio's proposal, the gallery will either be utilised as a winter garden or orangery, for plants that can be shifted outdoors during the summer.
The form of the building has multiple terraces with exterior landscaping. By negating heat gain and furnishing interior spaces with daylight, the facade design prioritises sustainability. A zigzagged, highly transparent glazing system was selected for the atrium, extending for five floors in certain sections. Cantilevers provide relief from direct sunlight along with soft acoustic shading devices on the glazed skin's interior. The upper and lower volumes of the facade employ a rational grid system of unitised elements with protruding glazed ceramic elements that provide shade, reflect light, and imbibe a tactility that mirrors and morphs along with the skies over St. Petersburg and the waters of the Gulf.
UNStudio worked on the design throughout 2020 after the competition's conclusion earlier, with construction work expected to commence later this year. Whilst providing JetBrains employees with efficient and adaptive workspaces, the new campus intends to inculcate a sense of belonging among its inhabitants as well as the local community in St. Petersburg.
Name: New JetBrains Office
Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Client: JetBrains Realty LLC
Building surface (GFA): 38,145m²
Programme: Office Campus Extension
Status: Tender to Construction
UNStudio: Ben van Berkel, Frans van Vuure with Alexandr Kalachev and Melinda Matuz, Natalya Kuznetsova, Caterina Micucci, Leon Hansmann, Alexandra Lukianova, Michele de Simone, Raul Forsoni, Saba Nabavi Tafreshi, Derrick Diporedjo, Eva Poulopoulou, Jose Sanmartin, Jahan Tahamtan, Rachel Picot, Alina Tueran.
Engineering: Ramboll Dubai Façade
Landscape Design: LoosVanVliet
Lighting Design: Atelier Ten
(Text by Jerry Joe Elengical, intern at STIRworld.com)