Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability

Mars Chocolate,
Beijing

The project at a glance:
  • New headquarters building replaces combined factory/office structure but retains links with factory and other campus buildings
  • Headquarters building serves as a gateway to larger campus – the first point of contact for all staff arriving at work
  • Distinctive ‘chocolate bar’ architecture evolved as an expression of the essence of Mars’ business and culture
  • Flowing circulation scheme converging on glazed atrium/community space with ‘swirling’ spiral staircase
  • Two open-plan office levels with clustered, team-centric ‘beehive’ seating, shared staff amenities and open collaboration zones
  • Geothermal system, solar panels, low-e glazing for sustainability
Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section
Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

A statement of purpose, designed for a unique working culture

Creating and enabling links between teams, departments and buildings were the vital objectives for the Mars project, where the accent is on collaboration and every employee is foremost an ‘associate’.

From executives to workers on the factory floor, everyone at Mars are encouraged to connect and share ideas with colleagues to build a strong team culture and deliver an ever-popular line of products.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

Much of the new headquarters is defined by the need to maintain and create these clear lines of communication between Associates. The project brief evolved further after Mars retained workplace design specialist M Moser Associates for the project.

As well as evolving the headquarters’ architecture concept, the M Moser team provided strategic planning, concept MEP engineering, and a master plan for the entire campus. This holistic approach ensured the seamless integration of every element of the project.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

Conceptually, the new headquarters building would serve as a gateway to the campus, both in the aesthetic sense of expressing the essence of Mars product and principles with a touch of local culture, and in the functional sense of being the first point of contact on the campus for every Associate arriving to work.

Inside, the two levels of office space would be largely open and uninterrupted to encourage communication and circulation while allowing a wide degree of flexibility. To preserve the sense of ‘flow’ throughout the campus, the headquarters would be physically linked to the existing factory and a laboratory facility.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

A distinct flavour of architecture

What emerged from Mars’ and M Moser’s mix of ingredients is truly compelling, even at first glance. Seemingly sculpted from a solid bar of chocolate, and yet evoking the presence of a traditional Chinese pavilion, the building appears to rise out of its placid landscaped surroundings.

Up close, one notices how the irregular ridges of the pre-cast façade material mimic the texture and ‘cast’ of a chocolate bar. An upper terrace carved from the building’s southwest-facing side provides an outdoor break space for Associates.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

Together, the sculpted landscape and patterned linear windows create evocative framed views from the inside out. Inside, circulation routes around the floors and from floor to floor are distinctly organic, propelling Associates from reception to office to factory to cafeteria.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

Flowing circulation toward a collaborative community space

The focal point of the circulation scheme is a swirling circular staircase located within a large glazed atrium. The feature provides an entry for natural light and air to reach the deepest reaches of the office and, like a traditional Chinese courtyard, serves as a vertical community space. It is used as a venue for informal meetings, gatherings of associates for morning briefings, and regular taste tests of the previous night’s production.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

On the two office floors, workstations are arranged to form a team-oriented ‘beehive’ seating pattern, with each ‘cell’ arrayed around an informal collaborative zone. The work areas are complemented with shared locker rooms, a cafeteria and amenity spaces, yet another way the design supports the needs of Associates while ensuring they cross paths and exchange ideas.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

Sustainability – a building in harmony with its surroundings

In keeping with Mars’ commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by year 2040, sustainability was an integral part of the building’s design. Even its alignment contributes to its ‘green’ potential. For example, the site’s large reflective pool serves multiple practical and scenic purposes. A ‘front yard’ for the Mars community as they cross the bridge to enter the office, it serves as a relaxing backdrop for the cafeteria patio and a showcase for how the factory efficiently treats and reuses its waste water to irrigate the surrounding landscape.

Transforming workplace through brand, culture and sustainability section

The headquarters’ façade of double-paned low-e glazing and well-insulated ‘chocolate walls’ strike an effective balance between natural interior lighting and solar gain. Meanwhile, a geothermal system supplements the building’s heating and cooling, and solar panels on its large roof generate electricity and hot water thus minimising dependence on the electrical grid.

  • Area 139,935 sq-ft
  • Completion date 2012
  • Location Beijing, China

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