The BP office habitat

by Edwin Larkens on March 5, 2012

The imaginary and the real; designing and building the BP office – [part 6]

A building plays an important role in the daily lives of its inhabitants. BP started to think about new office facilities to strongly improve the quality of their working environment. They wanted to offer their employees a surrounding which would stimulate, feel comfortable and create a strong sense of working together towards a shared goal. GROUP A became part of the team to investigate and develop the ideal office environment for BP. This process of intense collaboration resulted in a open layout based on the different activities within the office. The open office landscape stimulates communication between the employees and provides a compact working environment. Each individual employee has a personal desk within this landscape.

A series of steel boxes offers a range of meeting spaces and special concentration spaces for one person. These cubicles can be used freely. They offer privacy when needed and play an important role in keeping the noise level within the open space to a comfortable level. The steel sides block the longer views over the length of the floors while the glazed sides allow the shorter views over the width of the floors. The partially open structure of the boxes breaks up the large office landscape into smaller zones while spatial continuity is maintained.

The working environment outside the refinery office is being echoed by the interior of the BP office building. The used materials are durable and robust like steel and wood. The heavy concrete structure is largely uncovered and shows the building’s solidity. The acoustics are a crucial factor for the quality and success of an open office landscape. Whereever possible the surfaces are being used to soften the noise level. Sound absorbing insulation is placed behind the fabric railing, the wooden wall and the perforated steel panels of walls and ceilings. Additionally special acoustic carpet is applied. Between the desks soft panels are being used to smother the sound directly at the source.

The dense office floors are balanced by the tranquil environment of the atrium space at the heart of the building. This space is mostly left empty with only an informal seating arrangement. The curved shape gives the over one hundred meter long space an intimate quality. The meandering wall subtely divides the space in different zones. The atrium ties all the spaces of the building together and gives the building a big heart.

Building completed: May 2011

Links to other posts in this series about the BP office:

Post 1 – Introduction: the exterior and the interior

Post 2 – The origins of the atrium wall

Post 3 – Geometric puzzles

Post 4 – Bridging the atrium

Post 5 – Making a hill

Post 7 – Reflections and refractions

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