From the outside, the new headquarters of Wörwag—a maker of industrial paints and coatings based in Stuttgart, Germany—resembles a glowing, elongated Rubik’s Cube. Even if you didn’t know the company specialized in color, one glance at the rainbow-banded building would offer a pretty substantial clue.
“We have a saying, ‘Identity is the new facility,’” Ippolito continues. “Workplace design is not only about organizing processes but also about branding. If you don’t translate the company’s DNA into a space, it’s just a bunch of nicely arranged tables.”
That effort begins in the lobby, the drywall panels of its folded-plate ceiling painted various shades of yellow—“an active color that has a sense of focus and clarity,” Fleitz notes. Behind the reception desk, backlit shelves showcase dozens of brightly painted car parts, bicycle frames, and other bits of machinery that illustrate a wide range of Wörwag coating applications.
“The idea was, Can I get a finance employee to meet one from production and they learn something from one another?” Fleitz explains. “That’s when innovation happens. It’s a strong statement that the company chooses to put this kind of space front and center.”
Comprising textile-covered acoustic panels arranged in a folded plate similar to those in the lobby and cafeteria, each floating ceiling acts like a pitched roof above the open workstations lining perimeter walls, providing a feeling of privacy and a unique visual identity, “as in, Come find me in lemon-yellow,” Ippolito jokes.
These elements reflect Ippolito and Fleitz’s theories about workplace culture and how it informs their design decisions: “We always talk about it like an onion,” Ippolito states. “The first layer is, ‘I’m proud to be part of the company.’ The next is, ‘I’m proud to be in the building,’ and then, ‘my department, my team, and my desk.’ We try to enable that sense of belonging on every level.” Even in an open-plan setup, he says, “You have to make people feel special, so they don’t feel like a number.”
“Wörwag isn’t Farrow & Ball,” Ippolito points out. “The staff are largely engineers—pragmatic types—as are their clients. We needed to create an atmosphere that had a closeness and a sensuality, but it couldn’t be too soft, because they don’t think like that. We had to find a balance between them to hit the right tone.” Similar considerations led the designers to outfit the cafeteria and reception lounge with angular standing screens, hard-edged black elements that help mitigate the softness of the window treatments and upholstered furnishings.
Even with those nods to industrial precision, the Wörwag headquarters achieves a level of personality and authenticity that its old home—which Ippolito describes as an uninspiring “single-office, traditional work environment”—never did. Although it happens to be just across the street from the rainbow cube, in every other sense, it’s light-years away.
Project Team: Arsen Aliverdiev; Nadine Batz; Christian Kirschenmann; Claudia Lira; Verena Schiffl; Simranpreet Singh; Anke Wankmüller; Andrea Martinez; Chris Mischke; Justine Fregoni; Elene Jikia; Vladislav Kostadinov: Ippolito Fleitz Group. Gurk Architekten: Building Architect. Stockhammer Ingenieure: Electrical Engineer. Greipl+Roche: Structural Engineer. Dobergo: Woodwork. Bauprojektmanagement: Project Manager. Lüddecke Akustikbau-Raumtechnik: General Contractor.