A manufacturer of flavour and fragrance additives, Huabao’s goal was to reflect its rise to global prominence with a headquarters campus made from the repurposed buildings of its 1980s factory site in Shanghai. A new headquarters building would be the centrepiece of the plan.
To realise this vision, the site’s existing office building was transformed inside and out. The original façade was replaced with glass curtain walls, stone cladding and distinctive perforated screen wraps. Inside, the maze-like layout was supplanted by collaborative open-plan spaces that evoke Huabao’s brand essence through a simple, elegant palette of natural colours and materials.
A new façade for a radically updated exterior
We proposed a design solution that would comprehensively address Huabao’s needs. The building’s new exterior would have its conceptual roots in nature, thus referencing the elemental character of Huabao’s business in flavours and fragrances, even though the site and its surroundings were anything but leafy.
Our designers created a stunning new façade composed of metal ribbons to provide a hint of nature both outside and inside the building. Installed over an inner glazed façade, the ribbons’ perforated pattern mimics the sun-dappled effect of sunlight filtering through foliage.
The slight undulations of the ribbons as they move across the building also serve another purpose: “One area of concern for us was the discovery that the building had subsided in some areas, drooping by as much as eight to nine inches over the length of the structure. The façade ribbons camouflage the building’s irregularities in a very dynamic, organic way,” said Nabil Sabet.
Going from cellularised to open
The building’s original, maze-like interior layout presented a further challenge. To begin its transformation into something more flexible, collaborative and contemporary, the team ‘gutted’ the building, wiping the slate clean for renewal.
“At one point, the building was a skeleton – you could see right through it. There were all the issues of an old building to deal with,” said the Project Director. The team used three-dimensional modelling throughout the construction period, updating the model with ‘real’ structural situations. This enabled the team to update the design to accommodate the building’s subsidence concurrently with construction. The firm’s functional need for flexible spaces were met with open-plan work areas that could easily accommodate different team mixes or a fluctuating headcount. These barrier-free environments would also enable staff members to communicate and collaborate more readily with each other.
Bringing exterior themes into the building
Just as with the new exterior, the redesigned interiors would also have their conceptual roots in nature. “We had to ‘create’ nature, bring elements of it to the exterior façade, and then bring it back inside the building,” said Sabet.
Inside, the ground floor contains a soaring, cylindrical main entrance and reception, and meeting room and training room spaces. Crucially, this part of the building had to be designed with integration into phase two construction in mind, as it involved the future addition of a new entrance structure shared with an adjacent building. Thus, part of what is currently an external headquarters wall would later become an interior wall of a new entrance area.
Moving upwards, the headquarters’ first floor largely consists of open work areas for mid-level management. Offices for executives, the chairman, finance department staff and executive support staff are located on the second floor. The third and uppermost floor contains the company’s library and archive, and a prayer room.
Echoes of the façade’s ‘dappled’ motif were carried in strategic areas of the interior. For example, the dappled pattern seen on the wooden backdrop all behind reception is repeated on the corridors’ antique Chinese wood accents. From the corridors, the perforations cast sun-spattered shadows onto the offices’ colour-backed glass walls.
- Area 350,914 sq-ft
- Completion date 2013
- Location Shanghai, China