The French city of Dijon and Teletech International have chosen Rotterdam architects MVRDV to transform a disused Dijon Mustard laboratory completed in 2004 into an innovative call center with an education center, incubator and social program. Completion of the 6,000m2 refurbishment is planned for 2012.
Project Description from the Architects:
All over Europe buildings are empty and waiting for a new future. Transformations are usually all about the preservation of historically or architecturally significant parts of a building. In this case the building is almost new, it was completed in 2004, and the preservation act directed towards reuse. The disused building is a former Unilever Dijon mustard laboratory and closed in 2009. The building is in a good state but due to its wide volume not suitable for traditional work spaces. The construction budget is too low to exchange the façade or make serious alterations to the structure. A fine balance is needed between intervention and intelligent re-use of the existing.
The Teletech call centre which will occupy the building has rush hours in the morning, afternoon and early evening, only at these moments the building will be fully occupied by its workforce. For these short periods work places can be used which would not be suitable for eight hour shifts. For this reason the former mustard factory became an interesting alternative to a more traditional office space. The transformation strategy is adapted to this irregular use of the building. The inside is turned into a work landscape and the 600 young call centre operators will have flexible spaces: they can log in anywhere they want inside this work landscape. Different qualities such as silent, open or secluded places are offered. The way young people often work, with a laptop on the sofa or bed, was an inspiration for the interior design: the space needs to appeal to the operators to work the way they like, the space will be informal and furnished with homely objects to provide a fun and creative working environment.
A big window, sky lights and a large atrium are used to create a community feeling and allow for daylight penetrating of the 40 x 70 metres volume. As these interventions use up a large part of the budget other parts had to be designed as economically as possible. The façade for example will not be exchanged but transformed with a simple print of a flashcode translated into the activities of the company; the façade will act as communicator and signal the transformation. The ground floor contains parking and cannot be inhabited as the building is located on a flood plain.
During off-peak hours, the call centre operators will have free time in which they can make use of the education centre, a gallery and projects incubator, also located inside the building .
MVRDV sees this transformation as an exemplary project for contemporary European architecture in times of the current crisis. How to reuse a building which is structurally in good shape but not suitable for a traditional transformation and use? The more reuse of the existing is possible the more budget is liberated for interventions. The unusual building evokes an unusual use and in the end will adjust perfectly to the Teletech work rhythm. The budget makes literal reuse necessary and leads to less replacements and a better sustainable profile of the transformation act.