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In the spaces between the trees.

Magazine contact #23

Estonian fashion house Lenne recently moved into its office in an old, abandoned factory on the outskirts of Tallinn. The team at KAMP Arhitektid has transformed the space into an open plan area at the interface between office and forest. The outdoor atmosphere does the staff good.

“I am happy, blissful in the forest,” Ludwig van Beethoven once said, listening to the rustling of leaves. “Forests, trees, rocks provide the echo man wishes for.” Urmas Leeman, CEO of Estonian market leader Lenne, also longed for wood and trees in his new office. “We are clothing manufacturers, specialising in ski suits and outdoor clothing for children and adolescents. Every day we deal with the fresh, often wintery air outside. So what could be more fitting than to bring the forest into our office?” 

At first glance, the space is reminiscent of the forest and snow. Everything is bright, awash with light. Opening up before you is a light grey, almost glistening white ski run. At the edge of the icy nothingness stylised log piles rise up, apparently fragments of a wooden alpine hut. And then you spot them – the ten trees about which Beethoven once rhapsodised. “We were absolutely determined by all means possible to make the core competency of Lenne as a company visible,” explains Jan Skolimowski, a partner at KAMP Arhitektid. “Part of this involved us transforming the interior space into exterior space und fitting out the resulting landscape with huts and trees.”

The Lenne office, completed a few months ago, is located in an old, abandoned factory hall on the southern outskirts of Tallinn. Where piecework was still carried out in Soviet times, now 15 employees from the areas of design and management sit, perhaps brooding over – who knows? - the upcoming winter collection for 0- to 14-year-olds. All the workstations are designed on an open plan basis; some of the work places at the south and west facade have been heaved onto a specially constructed mezzanine landing. “The parapet of the old factory windows was very high,” Skolimowski remembers. “So we lifted up the workstations so that people can now enjoy the view while seated.

The ventilation and electrical installations run under the wood-panelled steel structure. On the north and east sides are the service zones, such as technical and server rooms, the storage area, copying and plotting stations, as well as the sanitary facilities. The largest area is taken up by the showroom which measures some 70 square metres. Here the fashion designer’s newest designs and developments are presented and discussed and their suitability for everyday wear is tested. Most of these products are exported to Russia, Scandinavia and the neighbouring Baltic countries. So as to be able to use forklifts and heavy product palettes in the area, the entire surface has been laid out with light-coloured, highly robust rubber flooring. One floor higher – reached by a dramatically staged open landscape of steps – is the regeneration area with a kitchen, dining area and comfortable lounge chairs. However, there can be no mistaking the centrepiece of the Lenne office: the slightly raised central zone made of carpet, wood and glass. “And not to forget nature!” adds architect Skolomowski.

The total of trees may only be artificial leaf sculptures, but all the same: “The tree trunks come from the vicinity and are real. We had to cheat a bit with the treetops as real trees would have had a hard time of it in this factory hall.” The evergreen messengers are not just a greeting from Mother Nature, but also contribute to a warm, protective and outright homely atmosphere.

This is also confirmed by Cristian Saar. The Project Manager and real estate expert has already been working for Lenne for three years, supervising the construction aspect of the upgrading work from the development of the space allocation plan right down to the last door handle. “We were absolutely determined to have visible wood to demonstrate our closeness to nature,” Saar remembers. “But in this form the whole thing was a great surprise. Today I can say that KAMP Arhitektid’s design has proven a complete success. Everyone has a sense of wellbeing, and there are different zones for communication and informal meetings as well as for withdrawal and concentration. My colleagues and I feel really at home here.” While the open plan space is organised in a flexible way and can one day be increased to up to 30 workstations if required, the reception, conference room and CEO area are separated acoustically from the rest of the office. “It is not an everyday occurrence to have to develop an office with eight-metre-high ceilings,” says architect Skolomowski. “So we decided to seize the opportunity and enclose these spatial elements as freestanding objects.” Grouped all around the warm grey carpeted area are now drywall structures of colourless varnished ash and ceiling-high, all-glass walls. The overall impression is warm and bright.

The conservatively styled areas are complemented by self-designed desks, Italian furniture highlights, as well as a whole armada of Great JJ. The black, oversized standard lamp classics by Jac Jacobson lend the office a considerable grandeur. “It was a complex, extensive project, beginning with heating and air-conditioning, new roofing and interior design right down to the very last piece of furniture,” the architect says looking back. “And I’m glad we were so successful in capturing the character of the company Lenne which was established in 1991.” Upon closer inspection you notice all of the pretty little touches - instead of conventional door and drawer handles, all the office furnishings are fitted with finger holes. The cut-out is in the form of a stylised small child – why would it be any other way?

 

Wojciech Czaja

 

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