Sometimes, but only sometimes, things are much more straightforward than they look. Others are and even look as though they are. Here you have us in a former factory complex originally used by furriers and now – or more precisely, for quite some time now – has become a hive crawling with designers, architects, graphic artists, photographers and, wait for it, knowledge managers. The last profession in the list is indeed a ray of hope for this territory of ours of hopeless administrators, with those they manage being even worse. In the midst of such a rabble, a mess not even a pimp can understand, we receive an assignment which isn’t one as such, but will bring us fame and recognition. What we mean is a fame of the short-lived type at the family dinner table which we won’t make a penny from.
Well, let’s get back to what we were saying. If things aren’t straightforward sometimes, just sometimes, you have to make them straightforward.
We are standing on the top floor of a building in a turn-of-the-century factory complex. Due to its original use this is a space large, rectangular space with ceilings several metres high, windows in the two long walls running from east to west and a floor which has more pot holes than Barcelona beach after a trendy, all-night rave. As we are such smart asses and the right amount of pretension is just for show to the outside world, we are left with what is of interest to us. What we don’t like, we concrete over.
The first task was to create a new floor over the existing one, this time an even surface, a characteristic generally well appreciated by the majority of the population. The second was a drastic, but faultless decision – divide the space into as many different areas of use as we’d been asked to. Thus an area for graphic design was created and second one for a photographer’s studio, both separated by a raised platform towards the photographer’s studio. This raised platform institutionalised such a popular, but badly paid profession, also considered one of the worst due to its condition of a constant voyeur, or snooper.
But that’s where our hopes were dashed. Without getting told off, we realised that nothing was so straightforward. A response, however, had to be given to the basic needs of the new functions. Segregable spaces were required, areas which could be made private and offer visual control of those entering…. but every cloud has a silver lining. That’s if it had ever been bad and not the result of our slothful inertia. We started mumbling tavern songs. We adjusted the stand a little and, now with just the right touch of pretension, a bulb lights us up. Well, it was more of a flash, and what it did was dazzle us. Damn it.
Two basic areas needed to be created – for graphics and photography – but with the aim of conserving the sense of spaciousness. The main strategy consisted in defining the different work areas in a subtle way, providing them with the required infrastructure without interfering with the extensive perception of the space. To do so, one, two, three movements were proposed.
One – The floor in the main room is paved with wood in three rectangular areas. The electricity and IT sockets are begging to colonised by tables. These tables are large, metal structures on which lit computer screens are placed. Although not being used as a work tool, they give the impression of activity, something pleasing to the clients’ eye. The absence of infrastructures in the central strip determines it be kept as a broad walkway which leads from the entrance to the photography studio.
The imperative need to have spaces with more privacy for meetings and to cosset the hierarchical structure meant the petrified wood flooring would fold upwards to surround and privatise. The wall coverings from the cubicles which emerged were finished with glass panels, so as not to obstruct the light coming in from the windows and to still be able to see the original factory walls. It’s a little as if you lift up the carpet and crawl underneath, whether to debate thorny issues, or because you are tired of the hassles from your colleague at the work desk. Providing it’s not full of the filth people tend to sweep away far from the sight of others, of course.
Two. A pair of curtains. It seemed to a subtle enough way to partially segregate areas – not permanently, not completely, but as desired. Two ellipses made of velvet hang from the ceiling. One of them protects you from the gaze of newcomers once they have crossed the entrance threshold. Likewise, it helps such visitors to discover the space little by little – there is always the suspicion that there must be something behind a curtain and even more so behind one hanging from such a height. Very few can resist the temptation to gently draw back the velvet and venture into the space behind. Well, the idea of “venturing” is relative, because there isn’t really much danger as such. On the other side the central wooden aisle stretches out obstacle-free with the cubicles and worktables side by side. At the end there is the hint of what appears to be an attempt at a second velvet ellipse.
Here is number three, the stands. As the photography studio calls for different light and sound conditions to those required by graphic design work and administration, there is a definite segregation between the two spaces. Use is made of this need to build stands, which turns their back on the first space and blatantly look at the photographed subjects. The second ellipse appears once more in this second space, giving a certain sense of intimacy to the mirrors where the photogenic subjects, make-up and clothing are prepared. Once dressed up, they come out to be immortalised, shamelessly dressed, as is the custom at present, while they are observed from the slope with none too few rather more basic thoughts.
Three, four and maaaaambo. Ah ha!