The lush landscape that rises 45 m high and covers 500 sq-m, is situated halfway up the high-rise office building named Central Park. Populated by 50 trees and shrubs, 1,500 plants and even a babbling stream, the indoor park has one goal in mind: to provide office workers with fresh air and a change of scenery, promoting stress reduction during busy work days. Situated in the central city district of Utrecht Central Station, the project developers sought to create a 90 meter high-rise that included a key statement to draw businesses to the building and gain global recognition. GROUP A interpreted this idea, envisioning it as a green haven in the centre of the high-rise, ensuing its name Central Park. The biophilic statement was designed by MOSS with the brief to provide a space for employees to seek refuge within and amongst nature. Central Park sets aside all conventions of a typical workplace. The concept reconstructs the idea of a typical urban model, characterized by building blocks that are spread around a conventional park. The “Central Park” concept translates this logic into a vertical format: rethinking how we build our future cities. In this case, the green area is located in the centre of the building providing space for play and regeneration, creating a sense of togetherness for all occupants of the building. The two-story park is equipped with workspace, a meeting center and a bar. Guided by the planting scheme, the 12th floor mezzanine organically unfolds around the freestanding core offering panoramic views of the park and the city. The sculpturally designed edges at the top and bottom of the indoor park follow the undulations of the landscape and extend from the outside to the inside. The park is still designated for work but simultaneously offers a unique experience that draws one back into the space. This central section of the building is not only different as a result of the impact of green but its unique architectural build-up also creates a noticeable statement from both inside and outside the building. The receding central section is entirely made up of glass that is formed in wave-like shapes, differing from the rest of the building and contributing to the element of biophilia. These sinuous shapes, strikingly contrast the geometric forms of the rest of the building. The benefits of the design is supported by scientific data revealing the positive effects nature has on both our physical and mental health. Plants have a direct influence on employees as those exposed to plants in their daily work lives report a 15% higher level of wellbeing, are 6% more productive, and are 15% more creative (Interface (2015). The garden is in itself a biophilic feature, but it goes beyond merely integrating a selection of plants. The concept creates a deeper connection to nature by paying attention to the details, for example certain plants were selected with unique leaf structures, a flowing stream was introduced amongst the greenery to enhance the auditory and olfactory senses and even using flowering plants to maintain interest over time thus mimicking the processes of pristine nature. With employee mental health and wellbeing being at the forefront of the public debate, an indoor park offers an answer to employers looking for ways to motivate employees to return to the office. The Central Park design offers the office user an antidote to the office blues at the end of the afternoon: to linger in the park. A place to escape from your daily routine.
GROUP A is a Dutch studio for architecture, interior and urban design founded in 1996. Led by founding partners Maarten van Bremen, Folkert van Hagen and Adam Visser the group exists of 31 architects and 4 staff members.
In the past twenty-five years they have realized a wide range of projects. From offices to housing and from mobility assignments to transformations. In their work, the disciplines of urban planning, architecture and interior design are inextricably linked. This way they create sustainable environments where people live, work and reside comfortably.
They take responsibility for the entire process, from design to completion. Optimism and pragmatism, with a focus on the social process, characterize the way they do this. With a committed and ambitious team, they design smart solutions by overseeing the whole scope, zooming in on details and keeping the user in mind at all times.