British firm Caruso St John transforms an industrial warehouse into a serenely simple research and design space for Kvadrat Soft Cells.
When Danish textile brand Kvadrat acquired a historic warehouse located in the harbour district of Nodrhavn in Copenhagen, the interior had been subject to decades of overhauls and makeovers. Layers of carpeting, partitions and a suspended ceiling marred the 300-square-metre, two-storey interior, giving it a disjointed flow.
To transform the space into a design workshop for the brand’s Soft Cells acoustic panels division, the company brought British firm Caruso St John. The architects’ first move was to strip away all of these unfortunate interventions, along with old wires and pipes, bringing the site back to its original concrete bones.
Wanting to maintain the building’s historic character, the design team simply cleaned and polished the concrete floor to remove any traces of glue and dirt, and to reveal the textural quality of the material. The walls were also cleaned and treated to a wash of white paint.
Next, the architects devised a clever and adaptable system of sliding doors to create a flexible workspace for the Soft Cells team of 10 (comprised of project managers, designers, engineers and architects), restricting the palette to a single material – oiled spruce wood sheets. Made up of dozens of panels, in a variety of sizes, the insertion divides the lofty space into three parts on the main level, plus a second storey mezzanine with two meeting rooms.
The sliding doors let the workers open and close off the spaces as needed to perform everything from prototyping, design development and acoustic simulations to private meetings and video conferences. Along one wall, deep-set windows flood the space with sunlight and their original walnut casings create subtle tension with the restricted use of soft wood and pale concrete.
Naturally, Soft Cells panels were installed on some of the walls and the ceilings, contributing to the airy and serene environment. Towering six-metre-tall open shelving – also made of spruce – provide ample storage and contribute an appropriate design and research lab aesthetic. The overall result is one that feels intensely modern, while at the same time nodding to the building’s industrial roots.