The complex that today houses the administrative office of 751 D-Park was one of the industrial projects funded by the state back in the 1950s. The site area is very large – it was formerly a gas plant – and located to the north-east of Beijing. Being part of China’s first five-year plan, the plant became hugely important, at peak times delivering one third of the country’s overall gas yield.
At some point in time, the importance of the region declined, and it took until the 21st century for it to discover new potential as more and more innovative companies began to consider it the right location for their urbane activities. In the meantime, 751 D-Park has become "home" to a large number of creative minds. You could go as far as to say it has become a cultural hub.
As can be seen and felt across the entire site, the harsh industrial environment of days gone by still features big time on the top floor in one of the threestorey redbrick buildings. What used to be the control centre for all gas operations is now an ultra-modern, daylit office space. Formerly harsh and static, today smooth and flexible as far as the quality of the work environment is concerned.
The true showpiece in the main space in the complex is a large table that appears to wind its way through the series of long office spaces that the overall floor area has been divided into, separated by appropriately designed partitions. But it is not only its size, flexibility of use, and what it is made of – varnished chipboard – that makes the unusual desk so striking, but its "partner", a row lighting system in the form of a pendant luminaire suspended from the ceiling, which winds its way through the spaces in sync with the desk, thus underscoring the atmosphere of partnership and team spirit. The flow of the seemingly never-ending light source, and the pleasant light it delivers through the frosted white glass diffuser, is inspiring and lends the industrial architecture and the working atmosphere a certain lightness and dynamic.
This combination of stable, earthbound desk and slimline, ceiling-mounted luminaire is the key feature of the office space. The office layout gives rise to clearly defined zones within flexible work areas, which in turn ensure an element of order in the lively office environment. In addition, the offices receive ample daylight,
not due to extensive glazing or skylights, but – given that the room is basically long and narrow – natural light penetrates the space from both sides through the rows of windows set in the long walls. The white walls and softly reflective flooring enhance the spread of daylight throughout the space. In contrast, light brown chipboard was chosen for the office furniture, storage areas and shelving, room dividers and the room-in-room system. The latter is located at the southern end of the office floor, and accommodates a conference room which in the main receives daylight from the main room through its glazed walls. Artificial light is provided by rectangular recessed ceiling luminaires.
Above this conference room there is a rest area, laid out with tatami mats. The balustrade does not reach quite as high as the ceiling, but the rest area receives daylight through the windows below and has two directional spotlights for darker times of the day or year.
Besides the downlights mounted in the chipboard suspended ceilings in the alcoves and in the transition zones between the individual office spaces, trackmounted spotlights, which can be focussed on work areas or shelving units, complete the lighting scheme for the office space.
Even if at first glance the material used to create the omnipresent pendant luminaire appears to be somewhat coarse, the designers specifically opted for this solution because they felt they owed it to the industrial architecture. They thus aligned their modern intervention to the history of the location. And it works. The interior design and the lighting design – forms, layout, material – correspond so consistently with the furnishings that we can presume they have the same DNA...
The mixture of old industrial flair and creative renovation design has been successfully implemented in the 751 D-Park studios. On the one hand, the architecture of the (in part) listed building has been left intact, and on the other hand, some of the individual elements from the site’s proud past have been reinvented for modern-day use. A control panel, now renovated and repainted, has been transformed into a cloakroom with lockers, the terrazzo flooring likewise restored. Such design ideas kept the costs for renovation and conversion low.
The 751 project shows how well old and new can be merged, and how the restrictive qualities – also as far
as light is concerned – of old and, above all, rough industrial architecture, which had lain dormant for many years, can be converted into something attractive and inspiring with the aid of a good idea ... it need not always be a five-year plan put into place to regulate everything efficiently ... coupled with state-of-the-art technology, which can be cost-effective at the same time. The design of this office space has revealed even more: how a luminaire design can add that "special something" to the entire floor space, and communicate the level of creativity the space inspires in its users. Especially when the way the striking spatial conditions have been reinterpreted through the design marries so well with the unique furnishings.
Architecture and design: hyperSity office – Shi Yang, Zhang Guoling