Can a building change the culture of a company; and can the design of the physical environment impact innovation, productivity and the way that we communicate? These are but a few of the questions that the project for the new MAG corporate headquarters analyzed and attempted to address.
In recent years, the MAG company has been growing rapidly, constructing a series of independent ad-hoc structures to house different departments on a large tract of agricultural land in southern Guatemala. This spatial and physical configuration reinforces a separation of departments and limits the individual employee’s ability to understand his or her role within the company. The layout is fragmented and causes a breakdown in communication. Moreover, individuals working on similar projects rarely see one another and the possibility for “chance encounters” or informal conversations is limited. This condition has limited the creative potential of the company to innovate and continue to re-invent itself.
To reverse this reality, the new building is designed with a large open room, capable of accommodating all employees. Flexible desk arrangements create a collaborative working environment that minimizes the current hierarchy, with directors seated in open desks alongside employees. The plan also provides a variety of work spaces, including enclosed semi-private meeting rooms, exterior courts, open terraces, archives and reading spaces that provide multiple working environments (both interior and exterior) for productive individual and/or collaborative work. This variety offers employees a choice and permits them to work individually but in close proximity to the group. Chance encounters are now easy and occur often throughout the day, promoting synergies between the previously, segregated departments.
The main building is located within a well-defined precinct surrounded by a series of gardens that extend the working environment to the exterior, connecting employees to nature. It is precisely oriented to the cardinal points, a method of siting buildings in the region that dates back to Mayan civic building traditions. This orientation allows the building to open itself up to the prevailing breezes, allowing it to function without mechanical systems for large portions of the day.
The building is composed of three parts: the plinth, the wall and the roof. The plinth serves to lift the building from the ground, protecting it from the harsh rains and flooding typical of the area; the wall finds its inspiration in both the vernacular and industrial building typologies seen throughout the Guatemalan countryside; and the metal roof caps the building with a sloping roof line and skylight that emits natural light into the main space of the building. The building was conceived within the belief that architecture partakes in a larger cultural project that includes history, type, place, and form.