“We try to look for the best story that can be told.” This is how i29 principals Jeroen Dellensen and Jasper Jansen, based in Duivendrecht, the Netherlands, describe their approach. For the Combiwerk Delft building, designed by VMX Architects, i29 explored the narrative theme of the Combination Work initiative, a training and employment program that helps citizens with disabilities reintegrate into the workforce. The firm’s colour-coded interior puts a positive spin on the metaphorical boxes people with perceived limitations can be placed in, and speaks to the nuances and vibrancy of individuals and their unique stories.
In the new building, in centrally located production halls, Combiwerk’s employees and trainees perform packaging, assembly, housekeeping and postal service jobs. For its part, i29 created the open concept office areas, as well as a restaurant and other public spaces. The spatial arrangement is made visible and intelligible through strategic colour typography, a minimalist implementation of bright, bold colour blocks. The layout was informed by how the office would best serve the different end users. The colour choices, however, were ultimately intuitive, taking the shape of islands in bright shades of blue, green, orange and red, surrounded by grey carpeting and walls.
All of the furniture in the office areas, including the desks, cabinetry and file drawers, were bought second-hand and refurbished; the chairs were refashioned in collaboration with Weder, another social works company. This “recycled office” concept originated with i29’s design for the Gummo advertising agency in Amsterdam, with its grey-painted used furnishings, and has recently led to the firm’s AsGoodAsNew line of vintage furnishings and accessories. In Combiwerk, the furniture melds into the colour scheme with a trompe l’oeil effect. “In an almost fairy tale-like way,” say the designers, “the building contains secret gardens full of vitality, which could be read as a reference to the contrast between external appearances and inner richness.”