JWT’s Playful Yet Productive Amsterdam Office

Greenhouse-inspired meeting room inside the 'Think' space
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Reception area
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One of the graphic hallways
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'Think' space
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Fabio Novembre's chairs in the 'Think' space
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'Do' space
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Silhouette of a Dutch writer using his Wiki-text
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'Make' space
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JWT's motto
Greenhouse-inspired meeting room inside the 'Think' space
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Dutch designers Alrik Koudenburg and RJW Elsinga have converted the advertising giant’s Amsterdam space into a whimsical work environment with vibrant illustrations, robot sculptures and even a greenhouse.

If you’ve ever had the chance to peek inside any of JWT’s offices around the world, some featuring cave-like meeting rooms covered in pulp paper and colourful tents as confab areas, you’ve witnessed just how eclectic they can get. Now, in the renovation for its Amsterdam outpost, the ad agency ups the ante, using its motto – “Seriously Surprising” – as the foundation for the revamp.

Dutch designers Alrik Koudenburg and RJW Elsinga had one goal: make work feel like play. Collaborating with agency principles Ralph Wisbrun and Bas Korsten, they devised three distinct departments under the themes of Think, Do and Make.

Housed in the historic 1882 Hirsch & Cie building (formerly a luxury department store), the 1,850-square-metre office is immediately eye-catching at the entrance, where a mural of an upside-down castle against a hilly landscape frames the wooden reception desk.

For the Think space, Koudenburg & Elsinga planted an all-glass meeting room in the centre, surrounding it with large, lush greenery. The room includes booths for collaborative work, a library and a podium overlooking the bustling neighbourhood of Leidse Square. And the super-natural feel is further enhanced by the furniture, finishes and artwork, including Moroso’s Soft Wood sofas upholstered in a hyperrealistic wood print, a smattering of tree stump side tables, carpet tile in various shades of emerald and brown, and drawings by such artists as Dutch collective Kamp Horst.

Busy city life inspired the Do space, a buzzing beehive where staff put ideas into production. Bold blue, punchy red and soft grey make up the room’s palette, while the main attractions are the floor-to-ceiling wood structures that take cues from paper parasols. Graphic motifs, depicting superhero comics and Lichtenstein-esque scenes, adorn the walls throughout the office. An illustrated silhouette of renowned Dutch writer Harry Mulisch composed from his Wiki-page text covers the boardroom’s glass wall.

The Make room, a factory for the digital team, was conceptualized around the idea of a life-sized toolbox. The space consists of a studio for design, visualisation and film-making, and is animated by robot-shaped cabinets in CMYK colours that rise almost three metres high and keep the department orderly.

To round out the office, Koudenburg and Elsinga incorporated furniture classics from the Eameses and Friso Kramer, lighting fixtures by Louis Poulsen and Tom Dixon, and Fabio Novembre’s cheeky Nemo face chairs for Driade. The pièce de resistance: a giant bunny – three metres tall and CNC-cut from cardboard – that houses the agency’s accolades.

“We didn’t want to apply a singular design-concept to the entire space, as the surprise effect would wear off too soon,” says the design duo. “Instead, we created a wild mix of inspiring experiences which – in addition to achieving the ‘smile’ we were after – complements and supports the agency’s approach. This diversity helps to create a home-like environment.”

For more inspiring offices, pick up the June issue of AZURE on newsstands May 6.

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