Combiwerk Delft is a Social Workplace (SW) company and offers custom work to people who, due to a physical, psychological or mental limitation, are not able to find a regular job. Besides these limitations, the possibilities and talents are especially looked at. A lot has changed and the emphasis lately has been shifted more to re-integration into the regular work force. The job centre (career square) has become much more important with respect to workplaces. Training is offered and tests are done in the kitchen of the company restaurant, the cleaning service and the office. Assembling, sorting and packing are done at the workplaces. Green and environmental services are also an important branch of the social workplace. The ambitious attitude of the company is striking. There is a strong, positive culture. The new construction was intended to clearly reflect this. Despite the limited resources and a clear wish for a sober approach, the building and decoration had to radiate quality. It had to convey attention and involvement, in order to stimulate a sense of pride in its users. An environment that supports that valuable work is being done here, with special people.
The building was designed by VMX Architects and has a total surface area of 8500 m2. For the interior, which includes 4000m2 of office spaces, a company restaurant, the career square, entrance ways and a lobby, i29 interior architects was consulted. The central space is a large atrium where the restaurant, the career square and the reception are situated. The building itself is a completely closed, grey monolithic shape. The same grey can also be found in the walls, floors and ceilings of the interior. When you come in, you are surprised by colourful islands, which are placed freely in the space and which only show themselves after you enter the premises. In an almost fairytale-like way, the building contains a secret garden full of colour and vitality, which is, of course, a wonderful reference to the contrast between external appearances and inner richness.
People are often pigeon-holed or end up that way unintentionally. Such a ‘box’ is only a part of the story and often there are many nuances. This was the foundation for the design theme to i29.
Everyone at Combiwerk is unique and special, nuanced and varied. We have translated this theme into the interior in an abstract way. The custom-designed furniture contains many ‘boxes’ where every user (so to speak) can tell his own story. In various colour nuances and variation possibilities, together with the carpets, they form colourful islands in an otherwise grey world.
Most the users have a psychological or mental limitation, to a smaller or larger degree, and are therefore often very attached to their surroundings and routines (this was shown in interviews we conducted). We were going to create a completely new environment for people who generally are not fond of change. That is why an important point of departure in the design was that, in tandem with all the new things, old and authentic elements also had to return. This led us to the collection of over 250 different second-hand wooden chairs that were restored and re-used. Not only can everyone pick their favourite chair, they are also a nice analogy for the variety of the unique people occupying the space.
A social workplace must be social; that was the starting point for all the parties involved. Social involvement was therefore the main theme in the design and realisation on various levels. At the level of the design, we aimed for empowerment by creating a serious and distinguished interior. Not a nondescript backwater building, but something sparkling, colourful and unique. We hope that this will contribute to a sense of pride in the users. In terms of sustainability, where possible, we aimed for recycling and re-use. All the wooden chairs in the atrium were bought second-hand and restored by another SW-company, just like all the furniture for the 4000m2 office space, including desks, chairs, cabinets and filing drawers. A new colourful top layer was applied to the re-used furniture so that they are as good as new and also fit beautifully into the colour spectrum in combination with the carpets.