The all-glass office: For the business with nothing to hide
Dutch firm MVRDV recently completed an unusual project in Hong Kong that involved the gutting of an existing factory interior and its replacement with all-glass office spaces. Featuring glass walls, glass floors, and glass tables, 133 Wai Yip Street is conceived as a new working space for the business with nothing to hide.
While glass architecture is not too unusual in itself, the 13-floor 133 Wai Yip Street building goes to remarkable lengths in the pursuit of transparency. All unnecessary trimmings were removed in favor of white paint, glass, and stainless steel, lending the illusion of more interior space than there actually is.
In MVRDV's model office (Arch-Innovativ was also involved in the project), music booms out of glass-encased speakers and computers rest on glass computer stands. Glass elevators also move through glass elevator shafts, and even the emergency fire-stairs are encased in (fire-retardant) glass.
"We are moving into a transparent society, businesses are becoming more open with the public, and people care more about what goes on behind closed doors," reckons MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas. "In that way, a clear workspace leaves nothing questionable, nothing hidden; it generates trust. But also it is an opportunity for the building to become a reminder of the industrial history of the neighborhood, monumentalized in a casing of glass."
MVRDV also installed larger windows on the building's rear facade, filling the interior with light. The first three floors are now given over to retail and restaurants, plus a rooftop space is available to those working inside.
MVRDV says that the building uses around 17 percent less energy annually than the average Hong Kong office. It also has a 15 percent lower peak electricity demand. We asked the firm for more information on this and were told that measures taken to increase efficiency included the use of low-e (efficient) windows and an efficient mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning unit.
MVRDV has a great track record working with glass and the firm has been experimenting with glazed architecture for some time, producing the sublime Glass Farm and Markthal, among others. That said, you can't help but wonder about the practicality of working in a glass office – the glare and fingerprints alone could drive you to distraction.