Aim Architecture, who conceived Shanghai’s Glass Office, called the project a sea of reflectivity, defining what they also called a double reality, as the building made of glass reflects, time and again, one reality — the sales offices and meeting rooms — while still maintaining another reality — the mirrored ceiling and glass flooring. These realities can become very confusing, so there are some breaks in this reflective office world, through the use of the flooring becoming, in Aim Architecture’s words, “ islands of stone and carpet.” This flooring then redefines the bearings of office-worker reality in this world of reflective transparency.
The Glass Office is a new office building in the SOHO Fuxing Plaza, a large mixed-use development in downtown Shanghai. The Glass Office was completed last September, and many businesses have now moved in. Upon looking at the images, the idea of transparency (and of offices with no true boundaries, or closed doors, or cubicles) is among the new thoughts about such an office experience that emerge.
For those who are used to working in enclosed spaces — office cubicles, and the like — the Glass Office might be a perfect panacea to occasional claustrophobia. On the other hand, when considering the unforgiving transparency of clear glass, there is also no place to hide, or nap or be alone, pondering the office imponderables. The use of glass underscores the essence of an office community, where everyone sees everyone else, both close up and from a distance.
The office entryway is a white corridor with reflecting light strips, allowing for the impression of unlimited space. This part of the Glass Office is actually a showroom, so the designers may allow the potential tenants to see the spaces that could be created without boundaries. Light and surfaces reflect throughout the space, even further diffused by half see-through mirrors. Walking through the entryway would be a singular experience in itself, but upon entering the office, even more surprises ensue.
The compelling design idea that can first be seen is the exposure of the building infrastructure, most of the time concealed. For many, the exposure of conduits, ventilation ducts, cylinders and water pipes seem so anomalous, as these are usually not the most visually arresting of objects. But then, looking up or down, at the ceiling or on the floor, these forms and contours do indeed create unusual design dimensions that have not been considered before. The designs these functional things create together are sometimes more interesting than traditional ceiling covers or, for flooring, the ubiquitous beige office carpets.
With the Glass Office, other, more human benefits may emerge. Even though entering and working in this office may be disorienting at first, those who have worked in glass offices report that the benefits of transparency allow better communication, collaboration and creativity, lower real estate and energy costs, and because of the natural and reflected light, better moods of employees.
Though there are many other glass office buildings in China and elsewhere, this Glass Office is the only one thus far in the SOHO Fuxing Plaza, a high-end commercial area in Shanghai, a place where such a design idea translates well to the positive human experience within the work environment. Using a transparency that has the possibility of generating more creativity, and community, it may be one idea that becomes more popular in China in the near future. As Wendy Saunders, principal of Aim Architecture, said recently, “The full glass approach allows us to create a complexity that emerges from a simple choice, which makes this project bold, and spatially exciting.”
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