Inspiring Transparency with a Glass Office Building

June 17, 2016 | Comments

When it comes to building projects, keeping things clear is usually hard enough. But what happens when your warehouse renovation project ends with an office building made entirely of glass and stainless steel infill?

Well, I’d say it’s pretty clear: you get 133 Wai Yip Street.

The office building at 133 Wai Yip Street was once an industrial warehouse. (Image courtesy of MVRDV.)

The revitalized warehouse, located on the Kwun Tong Waterfront in the Kowloon East district of Hong Kong, is part of a larger movement to rebrand the area as Hong Kong’s new business district. This movement has resulted in the renovation of several structures in the area, but very few to date have put as much emphasis on the original building’s history.


Creating a Glass Building

The building at 133 Wai Yip Street. (Image courtesy of MVRDV.)

MVRDV, the Dutch architecture firm behind the project at 133 Wai Yip Street, has done quite a bit of work with glass in architecture. This particular project aimed to showcase the beauty of an industrial building while bringing it into a modern business district.

“The goal was to expose the inner workings of the building, including the structure and installations,” said the firm. “[It was] not only this, [but also] to show the free-flowing movement within the building, the inner workings of the companies inside and the technical components which allow the office to function.”

To create the structure, the team first used Autodesk Revit to model the project. One model showed the structural elements adapted from the warehouse and a second model showcased the updated glass and steel features.

The renovation itself required the team to strip the warehouse down to its bare primary structure and replace what MVRDV referred to as the “unnecessary trimmings.” Partitions and floor surfaces were replaced with glass, stainless steel and white paint to separate the building’s main areas of office, retail and restaurant space.

The result? An open, bright space with none of the old warehouse’s dark and labyrinthine hallways.


Talk About Transparency

133 Wai Yip Street is a 13-story building with nothing to hide. While there is an element of stainless steel and white paint on the façade to separate the building from the busy streets, the rear façade and interior are entirely transparent.

The building’s elevators and shafts are made entirely of glass and the emergency fire stairways are encased in fire-resistant glass.

In fact, the building even has one unit set up as a model office with entirely glass components—tables, shelves, floors, walls—which MVRDV hopes its tenants will emulate.

A model office outfitted with glass furniture puts the emphasis on glass as a metaphor for an open business model. (Image courtesy of MVRDV.)

Despite all of this glass, the company claimed that the building has a 17 percent lower annual energy consumption and a 15 percent lower peak electricity demand than the average office in Hong Kong.


Setting a Clear Business Example

133 Wai Yip Street is set up to be an example for business development in the Kowloon East district. The building’s ground floor is dedicated to retail space, while the next two floors are for restaurants and the remainder for offices. These offices can be left as open-plan spaces or divided into four units per floor.

In this way, the office building is intended to symbolize a more modern and open business model.

“We are moving into a transparent society—businesses are becoming more open with the public and people care more about what goes on behind closed doors,” explained Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV. “A clear workspace leaves nothing questionable, nothing hidden; it generates trust.”

Is a building made of glass the metaphor for transparent business practices to come? Share your opinions in the comments below.


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