Offices are innately boring. Companies can add all the slides and massage chairs they want, but at the end of the work day, nobody’s clamoring to stay behind to enjoy these “perks.” But that doesn’t have to mean settling for strictly utilitarian design, or splashing a logo all over everything just to keep it from looking just like every other office space in town. Infusing a workspace with a sense of visual interest and identity can be as simple as incorporating a unique graphic element into the design.
Japanese architecture and design studio Waterfrom Design did just that for “Ideal Gas Lab,” the new Taiwan offices of Jing He Science, a company selling high-tech gas. They set out to break the stereotypical idea of what an office looks like while emphasizing the company’s branding and keeping everything simple and budget-friendly. Naturally, they started by focusing on elements frequently associated with gas: steel cylinders and pipes.
Used primarily as the supports for the desks, the tanks are painted a vivid orange, simultaneously highlighted by the black and white walls and softened by the mint green tint of the wood floors. Their origin and original purpose are immediately evident, but there’s not a logo in site, and the effect doesn’t feel overdone. The tanks reference a recognizable corporate identity, and upcycling them in this way extends the timeline of their usability.
The studio explains: “With pressure of environment and change of temperature, the substance can be transformed into different states: static solid state, fluent liquid state, and gaseous state which is both static and fluent. This is not the opening remark of a physics class. It is the start of [the] design of a brand-new office, a technology company which sells high-tech gas. When the inspiration is based on ‘science’ instead of ‘office.'”
“We rely on the laboratory, which is most associated with products, factory, daily test tubes, cast iron, black iron, gas pipes, and unique steel cylinders which carry technological gas. Unified orange on steel cylinders, lake water color on solid flooring, and gradient baking finish from bright to dark colors and from orange to black show the existence of gas at different temperatures. We consider one stem and one leaf as the micro-world of change of substance. The cycle resembles the transfer among solid state, liquid state, and gaseous state of substances in nature.”
This approach can also be used to liven up designs that might otherwise fall prey to the insidious bland sameness of cultural homogenization. All over the world, cities are developing at a rapid pace, which often means demolishing old structures and interiors to make way for the mass-produced new. But a city that’s virtually indistinguishable from any other has lost its soul, and interiors full of nothing but IKEA furniture are painfully uninteresting.
Preserving or reclaiming a few contextual elements into design might mean upcycling objects in an unexpected way, like Waterfrom Design did here, or referencing local cultural traditions and motifs. Either way, it roots the aesthetics of a space within a specific place, history, or purpose, making it a heck of a lot more memorable in the process.