At the renovated Neopharm building in Petah Tikva, architects Yael Benaroya and Yoram Shilo have given an original means of expression to employees. They have installed a sophisticated facade of moving louvers on the building and have given each employee the possibility of controlling the degree to which the window slats open and the amount of their exposure inside the office.
Seen from the street, the building is a mosaic of opened and half-closed windows - each of them representing the personal climatic preferences of an individual employee. The moving and slanting of the louvers is accomplished through a computer program installed in the workers' computers and mobile phones.
About two years ago the management wanted to renovate and expand one of the buildings and turn it into up to date headquarters. "Our aim was to take the values of Neopharm - creativity, dynamism and shared productivity - and translate them into the building," explain the architects. "It was important to them that the building have an aura of respectability that isn't ostentatious. At the same time, they also wanted something 'new' that would reflect their commitment to the environment."
Benaroya and Shilo suggested two strategies for the renovation. The first was the addition of three stories of new offices on the roof and the second was the installation of a system of facades to give a fresh face to the building. The ground floor, which in the past served as office and storage space, was reopened to the street while creating a lobby and an employee dining room.
The other floors and the staircases were also completely renovated - all while activity in the building continued as usual. As part of the transformation a steel overhead bridge was installed, connecting the two buildings. The bridge was also planned by the architects (Shilo is a qualified engineer) and the constructive, sophisticated solution offers a panoramic view over the industrial zone.
The new office floors added to the building are organized around a central space into which natural light penetrates through a skylight. This arrangement enables a clear view of the sky and affords workers the opportunity for chance meetings in the shared public spaces. Moreover, the natural light saves a considerable amount on electricity. All the offices facing the space, both those of workers and those of management, are bounded by floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
The palette of materials chosen for the new office floors was aimed at creating a clear contemporary identity - polished concrete for the floor, exposed concrete for the walls, wood paneling on the elevator docks and the staircases and black iron window frames. The lighting, air-conditioning and sprinkler systems are exposed and hanging from the ceilings without the usual panels.
For safety reasons, grilled gates were installed in front of the elevators to seal the floors at night. The architects chose industrialized grilles of the kind used at garages, in order to save costs and to reinforce the rough character of the materials. The main conference room, which is located in the eastern part of the building, opens onto a small roof garden. The company uses the combined space for events and hosting guests from abroad.
The industrialized character of the building also continues on the outside. The louvered facades installed on top of the existing facades telegraph the technological dimension of the company. Double facades are a leading design idea abroad for dealing with energy savings, especially in countries with a long, hot summer like Israel. Solar radiation is stopped by the external facade, and there is cyclical movement of air between the two facades, significantly decreasing the need for air-conditioning inside the building.
"The estimate of the electricity consultant is that within three or four years the savings in electricity consumption will cover the cost of building the double facade," explain Benaroya and Shilo.
On the roof of the building a system of wind sensors has been installed, which can raise all the louvers at once in case of a storm, for example. In the near future a system of sensors will be installed to control the angle of the louvers according to the movement of the sun during the course of the day and the year.
Was published at Haarez by Noam Dvir January 7, 2011.