Birkenstock Australia HQ
1. Project Overview
Birkenstock Australia HQ has been about translating the brand’s core values into a spatial experience, into sustainable architecture. The new HQ premises were to intuitively illustrate the brand’s commitment to quality, to craftmanship, to sustainability, to honesty and integrity.
There was a variety of uses to be considered, that together make up the headquarter premises : Retail, e-tail, wholesale, offices and showrooms, workshop and warehouse (with a new Mezzanine storey inserted) were all to be shown as different faces of the same company, identifiable but with a coherent sustainable design concept behind them.
An originally beautiful heritage building – unfortunately almost derelict – as our starting point: Over a hundred years ago, the building was – coincidentally – conceived for a boot manufacturer, but it had undergone lots of modifications over time, until it remained unoccupied in recent years.
2. Clientsʼ comments
“Melbourne Design Studios capture the essence of what we stand for as a brand – quality, comfort and sustainability. They’ve taken our requirements and suggestions and shaken them up and poured out amazing new ideas.
We wanted a space to inspire our customers and encourage them to explore our store. Our new building does this. It draws you in and allows you to discover interesting aspects that reflect the Birkenstock brand. The customer feedback we’ve received is 100 per cent positive.
Our initial worry was that this project could potentially take up too much of our core time and energy, but MDS have guided us and managed the project very efficiently for us. We are very happy with the way Marc and his team have been looking after all aspects of the job for us, and we would strongly recommend them to anyone with a similar HQ or fitout task.”
Winner of the bdav’s Grand Prize “Building Design of the Year” 2014 ! Winner Interior Design Category BDAV Awards 2014 ! Winner Alterations & Additions Category BDAV Awards 2014 ! Winner for Best Use of Timber BDAV 2014 ! Winner bpn sustainability awards 2013 ! Winner Melbourne Design Awards 2013 & 2012 ! Premier’s Design Awards 2013 (Finalist) ! Australian Interior Design Awards 2014 (Commendation) ! Shortlisted for IDEA 2014 !
3. Project Brief
Based on an initial feasibility study, Birkenstock Australia engaged us to design their new headquarters in a beautiful 2-storey heritage building in Clifton Hill. Asking for sustainable architecture that displays the companyʼs honest structure, the clients wanted to set new benchmarks for sustainable office environments and for the future of retail.
A new central core within the retail space connects retail, wholesale, storage and online business. Staff amenities, for example, are half-up half-down between the levels, so that retail staff and wholesale staff get to ʻmeet in the middleʼ during their working day, avoiding potential development of different ʻcompany culturesʼ within the firm. By using the shopfront as a main entrance for all, everyone experiences the ʻfront of houseʼ, where the shoe meets the end customer. The new-built workshop out the back and the shopfront both play with handcrafted details on timber slatted screens, as a reference to the crafty workmanship that stands behind the Birkenstock brand.
5. Project Innovation, or ʻthe buzz we like to createʼ
Based on international research we have specified selected plant species and made them an integral part of the design throughout the development : These plants work as ʻair purifiersʼ, cleansing the indoor air by removing unhealthy particles or low VOCs and improving indoor air quality.
A great example for these is the design of the team clusters. Removing traditional blockout screens between desks to encourage project communication, each two desks share a slightly higher, double-sided, private locker unit with integrated planting. These ʻair-purifiersʼ allow privacy and interaction at the same time. There is also a reconfigured aeroplane trolley for each team member, holding their individual filing, stationary etc : When working at their desks, staff can dock on their individual trollies to the dedicated space at the planting/locker unit.
The open plan offices encourage team work instead of hierarchical structures. The layout allows employees to move around and to work in different positions at different places in the room. There is a separate ʻquiet roomʼ that can be used for private meetings or if someone needs to retreat with their work for a few hours. The desks are laid out around a central ʻislandʼ. This area invites team members to congregate, for a team discussion or for a quick chat over a freshly-made coffee at the Barista end of the unit. This area can also be used as a high desk to encourage staff to work in different healthy positions rather than just having to sit at their desk all day. The re-configured aeroplane trolleys are docked in under the central unit when not in use, or can be taken with them when staff work from a different space, allowing true flexibility.
6. Design Challenge
Creating a ʻgreen environmentʼ within an existing building is obviously much more challenging than on a new-built. We set out to make this heritage building carbon neutral, and at this stage, it looks like we will be able to achieve that. Weʼll update you once the building is occupied. Together with the integrated indoor planting, the use of passive systems for heating, cooling, daylight strategies etc, the Birkenstock building will become a truly sustainable headquarter.
A cleverly crafted slatted timber facade screen shades and protects the glass behind, but it also allows ventilation when the glass behind is open. With elements like this, weʼve been able to reduce the heating and cooling load of the building substantially. Periscope-like highlights in the upstairs office space bring natural southern daylight to the desks, reducing the need for artificial lighting. The north-facing back of these ʻperiscopesʼ is designed to hold Photovoltaic units and Solar HWS. All materials have been selected on their ʻgreen credentialsʼ, most of them feature on ʻecospecifierʼ.
8. Project Facts : Year – Type – Size
2011-2013 – Commercial / Sustainable Headquarters / Office Fitout / Retail Experience - Total area approx 500 sqm
Published in ‘Green Magazine’ online (02/10/2013), ‘Architecture & Design’ (22/09/12), online melbournedesignawards.com.au/mda2012/finalist_list.asp