How can a structurally sound building, which isn’t suitable for restoration or a new traditional use, be reutilized? This problem, which the architects at MVRDV dealt with in their design of the new Teletech call centre in Dijon, is widespread in Europe, where empty buildings can be found everywhere waiting to be given new life, but where funding for conversions is severely limited by the current economic crisis.
The response of the Dutch studio was dictated by the nature of the building in question. There were no historically or architecturally important features that needed preservation, since the building was completed in 2004 but closed in 2009. Its condition was good but it was unsuitable for providing traditional work areas because of the sheer size of its spaces. Added to this, the budget was such that major changes were not possible. The architects, however, got the best out of the small budget by reducing changes to the existing structure to a minimum and therefore devoting as much money as possible to redesigning how its interiors are used.
The building, which was previously used by Unilever for producing Amora brand mustard, was converted to a call centre operated by French firm Teletech. It can be held up as a model conversion in a time of financial crisis as well as a new way of conceiving spaces and ways of working.
The working day at a call centre is irregular, with intense activity at certain times, when staff occupy areas of the building that at other times are left vacant. The strategy adopted in response to this was to create flexible spaces for the centre’s 600 workers, who can move freely around within its large space to find the place that best suits their style of work. Thus, separate, quiet spaces can be found as well as open spaces. The design of the interior took its lead from the way young people like to work, using a laptop while sitting on the bed or sofa. This has resulted in an unusual, informal and creative work environment that makes use of a range of domestic objects.
In their free time, staff have access to a training centre, gym, gallery, and a project incubator. Large skylights allow natural light to enter the building. A huge atrium, a mezzanine floor and an area in front of a large window have been designed to create a sense of community – these were the elements to which most of the budget was devoted. The façade remained unchanged apart from the application of decorative QR codes, which indicate the nature of Teletech’s business and therefore act as an element of communication as well as a sign of the change that has taken place.
Location: Dijon, France
Client: SPLAAD - Société Publique Locale d'Aménagement de l'Agglomération Dijonnaise
Gross Floor Area: 6.000 m2
Cost of Construction: 3.600.000 Euros
Architects: MVRDV with Arkos Concepteurs Associés, Seturec Architecture
Design Team: Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries with Fokke Moerel, Bertrand Schippan, Catherine Drieux, Rune Veile, Macieje Zawadzki and David Sebastian
Structure: Et Bat
Building Services/Installations: Agicces
Quality Control: Dekra
Acoustic: Acoustique France
Photo by : © Philippe Ruault
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