Colour contrast

PHOTO: Colour contrast

By happy coincidence, black and white are the choices of interiors for two local architecture firms - Ministry of Design (MOD) and Park + Associates.

Both companies won awards for their interior architecture at this year's Singapore Institute of Architects' Architectural Design Awards.

MOD's 3,700 sq ft office at Cross Street comprises six conserved shophouse units which houses 20 staff.

On the black and white theme, MOD's founder Colin Seah says "they create a neutral canvas for the different projects we create, and allows us space to breathe as it were."

Even the main door and the entrance to the office is black. Much thought was given to the design of the door, which Mr Seah says, is "almost always a talking point". The black metal main door has a concave shape and no handles, which leaves first-time visitors scratching their heads, wondering how to enter the office.

The solution is to ring a bell on the side and a staff will unlock the door, which the visitor then pushes to enter. Because of the shape of the door, "entering the office is like entering a portal", says Mr Seah.

Two long corridors run down the length of the office, which Mr Seah calls "catwalks".

The space in between the catwalks hold areas such as meeting spaces, open work stations, hot desk discussions zones and a library. These spaces run perpendicularly to the catwalks and from a top-down view, they resemble a barcode, which incidentally is the nickname for the office.

The staff work on rows of white solid surface table tops. The office is very open, which is what Mr Seah wanted. "We feel strongly that open communication is key to innovation and creativity; as such, our space would be without hierarchy or barriers, a truly open office."

But when privacy is needed, there is a separate conference room, that is entirely in black, and another smaller room, in red. The latter is the only room that is more colourful.

A highlight of the office is the gallery area, right at the entrance of the office. There are high steps leading up to the office ceiling and all the steps and the floor of the gallery are in white.

The space has been used for events and talks.

"The gallery space is a great meeting point, everyone sits on the steps and interacts with the speakers who use the white wall for projections. We also use this gallery area for art installations," says Mr Seah.

The office was also named best office at the World Architecture Festival last year.

Visiting the Park + Associates office at Cecil Street can mess with the mind, but we are not complaining. The walls of the entrance are bathed in black and the area is so dark, one wonders if the office is open.

A series of Moooi Rabbit lamps leads the way into the black lounge area which also doubles as a library space.

Then there are the meeting rooms - one is entirely in white, from the walls to the floor, even to the furniture, but it is called the Black Room. The other meeting room is entirely in black, and yup, it is called the White Room.

"We wanted them to be ironic," says its principal architect Lim Koon Park.

While the lounge area is in black, the staff work space is in white. Mr Lim says that the black and white theme is a play on the palette. "It is a bold and yet pure approach," he adds. The office is where he can experiment with such stark colours, since he is his own client.

Going from the black lounge area into the white work area is like experiencing night and day.

A green wall, made up of pots of money plant, at the end of the work area provides a touch of colour, and some warmth to the area. The plants are kept alive with an auto-irrigation system. Ultraviolet lights are switched on at night.

Mr Lim notices that clients are spending more time here, than at the old office in Little India. "This must show that they enjoy the space," he says.

But the best endorsement is when his staff bring fellow architects here to show them the space. "It is a sign that they are proud of the office."