Great project and cool name with Superhero's Hideout today designed by Simon Bush-King Architects. An interior that doesn't immediately leap out and say 'budget' which is the word that puts every designer through their paces. Designing a clever space that can be disassembled and relocated, genius. The designers 'making tight design decisions that create an impact while solving more than one problem with each move'. A great sense of the character of the client and designer with this inspirational interior. More insight into the design and designers with Q&A below.
Our clients, digital agency Superheroes have been growing on the back of some viral hits such as this & this. Requiring room for new sidekicks and their cape collection they found a fantastic, light filled space for their new hideout. However a short lease of 3 years dictated a budget which was a ¼ that of a 'normal' low budget for fit-out work. To put it another way their budget would cover 120m2 of their 480m2 studio.
Carpet bomb or targeted strike
Our approach developed our client’s wishes, visual expression and construction method in unison. We accepted that corners create charter. Locating three much needed meeting rooms in the corners of the large open space we introduced flexible spaces in between for the myriad of tasks that defy description in studio work environments, the casual chat, quick review or private phone call.
The search for a strong expression and cheap construction method led us to OSB (oriented strand board) and a CNC machine. 100 sheets were cut using 21 century technology and assembled like it were the Middle Ages with pine dowels joining each of the custom made frames for the meeting rooms and most of the furniture. Double glazed windows fit within each frame and are also held together with wooden dowels. There are only a handful of screws in the whole project that has been built to be disassembled should the office move in a few years.
50 hanging plants along with movable whiteboards and storage units divide the space into project areas. A long table under the central atrium is the focus of the studio where a stage curtain offers a range of ways to use the space from dividing one side from the other to a totally enclosed meeting room. A tight budget and brief give way to a spot of whimsy along the back wall where an ice-cream cone turns a Llama into a unicorn from which a caped superhero precariously dangles.
The studio adopts a simple, clean expression using elements of Superheroes own identity. However for us, the real lesson from this project was how to retain rigour while stretching a budget.
How would you describe your design studio and your approach?
We are a small firm in our third year, I guess you could say we are just finding our feet. After three years we have become comfortable operating in an uncertain climate where opportunity comes in different forms. We work primarily at two scales Urban and Interior. This is bizarre, we know but works surprisingly well. We do a lot of renovation work, and small office and retail design while I also use my background in urbanism by working on large scale urban projects. For the Urban projects we tend to work with the same clients who we have a good relationship with and the projects tend to be long term -1-3 years. Interior based projects tend to be based in the Netherlands although I have one project back home in New Zealand (a single family home) -these are great as the scale, detail and time frames are immediate. The close connection to a client, a site, context and materials is satisfying contrast to our urban work. Thinking across scales keeps us fresh in both disciplines. As a small firm we build teams based on each project and have a sold network for this - we find a lot of other people are working in a similar fashion these days.
What is your background in design?
I graduated from Victoria University Wellington in 2005 and worked as an Urban Designer in Wellington City for 4 years. I moved to Amsterdam in 2008 and worked for a few offices here (Mecanoo, Stereo) before beginning to take on my own projects in 2010.
What do you like most about the project?
I'm happy with the result of the project and have loved our clients and others positive reception. However my favourite element is the construction system we developed - geeky I know but it helped us to develop a project that met our clients programmatic needs with a strong visual expression within a very tight budget. We plan on extending the system in other projects.
What is currently inspiring your work
We draw pretty widely when it comes to influences in our work. We try to lay all the cards on the table at the beginning of a project to understand how to get the most from the unique context of each project. For instance we are really getting into a colour study on white and the different ways the colour is rendered for an interior project.
What did you learn along the way?
Superheroes taught us a lot about making tight design decisions that create an impact while solving more than one problem with each move. The budget was very tight so we were always trying to do more with less. This brought about a construction strategy where we used a very cheap material (OSB) but an exacting construction method using a CNC machine. This enabled us to make some finely detailed elements that changed the nature of an otherwise cheap or usually hidden product. With more effort in the design stage we had a system that was assembled by hand using repeated elements. We didnt quite make a 100% screw and glue free project but it is close to it -with the frames able to be disassembled if the studio needs to move in a few years.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have a few residential projects at different scales of development from the drawing board to on-site while our biggest project is a tourism and hospitality development near Shanghai.
Is there a project that you would love to do and haven't as yet?
I love housing typologies and would like to get into multi-unit housing. The quality of our cities and lives are dictated so much by where and how we live yet we often end up building the same way we have for the last 100 years. It is also hugely challenging area to work in being at the cross roads where single families come up against real estate development, politics and urban planing.
Client Superheroes BV
Architect Simon Bush-King Architecture & Urbanism
Budget smell of a slightly oily rag
Complete Jan 2014
Material 100 sheets of OSB, Birch concrete plywood, Double glazing units
Photography by Alan Jensen