The historical building was constructed in 1972 at the northern part of Athens. An earthquake-active region of Greece. 12000sq m in a 30.000 sq m pine tree forest. It was designed by one of the most accomplished Greek architects Alexandros Tombazis and it’s one of the rare cases of the brutalist movement in Greece. The building was built under a private command of the largest Greek reinforced concrete company named Aget Iraklis that was recently bought by the largest reinforced concrete company in the world (Lafarge Holcim). Thus it was a flagship for the company for the obvious reasons. In 1978 a Third floor was added in the construction. In 2000 and after the deadly 1999 earthquake in Athens the buildings structural elements were reinforced to meet the New Greek anti-seismic law
In 2010 the building was abandoned and was to be demolished. In 2017 the building was bought by a private company who after a closed architectural competition assigned us it’s radical renovation.
The building consists of basement, ground floor, mezzanine and two floors. In the basement there are auxiliary spaces, warehouses, engine room, a small parking lot for ten cars for the administration and a service yard for loading and unloading, with access for trucks and cars through a ramp located at the back of the building.
The ground floor consists of two parts. The main part where there is the main entrance of the building to the main hall and the multipurpose room for lectures, exhibitions, etc. On the ground floor there are offices of subsidiaries and services of the company that have greater contact with the public. Also on the ground floor there is a staff cafeteria.
In the second and separate part of the ground floor are the offices of the administration. Private offices and other meeting rooms are developed around a central patio with a lake.
In the mezzanine floor of the building there are office spaces and general service spaces (protocol, photocopier, etc.). Staff enter the building via a footbridge leading from the outdoor car park directly to the mezzanine. In this way or entrance to the building is made on the elevated level of the attic.
The floor consists only of office space. There are a few closed offices on the perimeter of the floor plan and in fact, only where the floor is in a cantilever from the vertical supporting body. The basic organization of the floor is open, based on the landscape planning system. The top floor is similar, but smaller than the first. There is vertical communication in three parts of the building. The central node consists of a staircase and two elevators (main and auxiliary) and connects all the levels with each other. There are also the central plumbing areas of all floors. There is a corresponding node for office space and one that connects the administration with the rest of the building.
We started with a deep cleaning of all the surfaces and we chemically analysed the composition of the original concrete. Finally, we applied a 6mm cement-based skin to the whole building’s concrete surfaces, based on the findings of the chemical analysis and after numerous, on site, samples. The final result, implemented by a local fair faced concrete artisan, is a masterpiece of excellent craftmanship.
The restoration of the building’s concrete elements was separated in two phases:
The first phase was relative to the buildings reinforced concrete structure quality. We magnetically scanned a large part of the building’s structure, to determine to what extent the existing structural frame would need extensive repairs. As it proved out, only 5% of the building’s structure needed to be repaired or reinforced. That proved us that the quality of the initial reinforced concrete was still excellent.
The second phase was relative to the overall concrete appearance of the building, a key element to its brutalist character. As mentioned above, the last tenants of the building painted it with a beige / yellow colour that distorted and masked its original brutalist identity. Furthermore, a large part of the concrete surfaces were heavily damaged.
However, within the building’s interior, our goal was not to reduce our design down to a faithful reconstruction, back to its original form. The drastic spatial interior rearrangements aimed at creating a new space that we felt was already always there, within the building’s ‘subconscious’, since 1972...
Our intervention was primarily guided by the existing 1.2mx 1.2m grid which corresponds to the dimensions of the modules that make up the waffle concrete ceilings. This grid was the basis for every design intervention applied to the building; all the architectural and electromechanical elements are based on the design, nature and three-dimensionally projected grid defined by the waffle ceiling slabs.
In parallel, in order to highlight that the geometry of the ceiling is the source of our entire design intervention, any type of mechanical or other equipment was removed, in contrast to the original condition of the building in which the concrete waffle ceiling was covered with various false ceilings and architectural electromechanical components. In conclusion, the previously ‘buried’ waffle ceilings now function as an important archaeological discovery which defines the new morphology of the building’s interior and drives the space «towards an absolute architecture»
The water elements are directly related to the client’s company profile. They are present in different spaces of the building but have different depth and textures. In the main lobby, for example, we combined all the elements that present a poetic version of the company’s profile, like the horizon, the sound and continuous flow of the water and the everchanging rays of the sun, always under the predominant presence of the building’s ‘subconscious’ grid. It is a place that changes continually during the day and through the seasons. An abstraction of nature and architecture. In order to achieve this abstraction we used xlarge frameless glazing panels (h: 6,2m x w: 2,5m) with very low reflection index, and in contrast solid surfaces with a high reflection index.
The landscape design is separated in three sections.The pine tree forest : It covers up the largest surface of the site and represents the endemic fauna of the site. It is worth noted that back in the seventies, when the building was built, it was the only artifact in the region and was surrounded by an endless pine tree forest. It was quite a surreal picture that we wanted to recreate with our design. Several walking paths, running tracks and benches were created to facilitate the exploration of the forest by the company’s employees. The olive tree field : Surrounds the northern (hidden) facade of the building and is created by the relocated pre-existing centennial olive trees. The lawn : The southern public facade of the building is surrounded by a 7000 square meter lawn that contains several large-scale trees. The lawn gives a clean foreground to the building that brings out all its scale and brutalist features.
The basic interventions inside the building are:
- Implementation of a clear functional accessibility axis
- Modernization, redesign and expansion of the water elements inside the building
- Changing the direction of the central staircase with the aim of decongesting and widening the paths (horizontal and vertical) of the common areas.
- Demolition of the mezzanine, with the aim of creating a clean and emblematic reception area.
- Addition of auxiliary spaces and opening to the surrounding space of the ground floor event hall in order to create a multi-functional space.
- Application of a raised floor system at all levels for the passage of all mechanical installations leaving the panel plate intact and visible.
- Opening of an underground space with the aim of creating a wine cellar and tasting space.
- Replacement of all external frames with modern thermal break aluminum frames and thermal insulating glass.
The quality of the apparent reinforced concrete in the building surfaces was so good that we found only a 10% of surfaces that needed reparation. (the whole building was scanned ) The techniques used for the construction of the Zoellner roof were considered to be Avant garde at the time of construction.
The curtain walls applied to the building are the largest in Greece ( 6.3m x 2.4m panels). All the new water features of the building are based on a independent floating structure that moves independently in a case of an earthquake. The Zoellner roof was liberated from any elements as we considered as a architectural piece of art. 6000 sq m of grey cretian architectural marble were apply to all the commun use spaces and VIP offices floor. All the hvac nozzles in the same spaces were marble made. The existing building was and remains contemporary, in terms of its infrastructure, mainly in terms of the forecasts of crossings of mechanical installations. However, the operation of an office building has changed a lot, from 1972 until today, regarding the configuration of the interiors and the relations between the employees. Therefore, we can characterize the design of the Tombazi office in terms of its infrastructure as timeless. On the other hand, it is normal to the operational needs of an office building change drastically after 50 years of evolution of working models.