Interactive space - Orion Global offices

Orion Global

Visitors to Orion Global, an IT firm at Pasir Panjang, often wonder if they have wandered into a club by mistake.

Entry to the office, once a former rice warehouse, is via a fire exit door, which opens up to a tunnel-like space, thanks to a series of curvy panels that line the entrance.

The area is lit up with a lightbox in red, which will eventually have a floor map of the office so guests know where to head to, as the office has no reception area.

"The tunnel entrance is done to give the definition of entering a space," says its designer Alan Tay from Formwerkz Architects.

Just beyond the entrance is a black and red bar counter with a chandelier, and a flight of steps that lead up towards the office ceiling.

The office is bathed in black and grey, not something one would expect of an office space.

The five-year-old company moved to its current 10,000 sq ft office space about five months ago. Their previous office was more conventional, with cubicles for the 90-strong staff.

Pang Sze Khai, one of the three partners of the firm, says "we fell in love with the high ceiling, and old bricks on the wall. It had a loft feel to it".

Gone are the cubicles. The office now has a more open feel, with the staff working area pushed to the edges of the room, where natural light comes in from the windows.

There are three main work areas, each with a different look, down to the design of the office furniture which Mr Tay specially created.

In the animation section, the tables take on a linear form, as "each staff has more than one computer, so the work table needs to be long", he says.

The lighting here follows suit, also in a linear form. With many computers means many cables, which staff can keep hidden away in specially created crevices in the tables.

In the opposite area of the office are where staff dealing with Web-based solutions are seated. Here the tables are curvy, and staff sit in clusters which allow for more interaction.

Near the back of the office is where the marketing staff sit.

"As they are usually on the move, the marketing staff do not have permanent seats, rather this area is like a transit stop for them," says Mr Tay.

Seats are placed on the outside of a rectangular table, so staff can easily plug their laptops and work here.

But on the inside of the table, Mr Tay has created a cushioned seating area, so staff can be here for discussions.

The lighting here is made up of strings of lightbulbs hung off a frame, which can be easily moved around. "The flexibility of the lights reflect the flexibility of this work area," says Mr Tay.

The centre of the office is for communal use. The office has no pantry, hence the bar, which has become a gathering spot for staff during lunch, and sometimes for drinks after office hours.

A customised chandelier, made of discarded lightbulbs, hangs here.

A huge flight of steps lead up towards the 4.8m high ceiling. The steps are clad in red carpet, and double as a seating area, such as when the bosses want to address staff all at once.

Go up the steps and there is a relaxation area, with lounge chairs, a TV, and more steps with cushions placed on them.

"The staff can take rests here, and no one will be able to see them," says Mr Tay. From here, one can get a bird's eye view of the office.

The space under the steps has been cleverly converted into meeting rooms.

"Meeting rooms don't require the high ceiling, so this space was just right," says Mr Tay.

Instead of using plain glass windows for the meeting rooms, Mr Tay cladded them in specially made perforated screens. Behind these screens are glass windows, but they only serve to make the meeting rooms soundproof.

"Inside the meeting room, it is difficult to see who is on the outside, so there is less distractions," says Mr Tay.

As the warehouse came without a toilet, Mr Tay had to create one. The unisex toilet has a high vaulted ceiling and is clad in homogenous tiles, leaving guests wondering if they have entered the Batcave.

The office also has a few chillout areas, one of which is a green room, partitioned using plastic screens. This is the only area which is non-air-conditioned and filled with indoor plants and "is a bit like a garden for the office", says Mr Tay.

Mr Pang says that unlike at the old office, he now sees more interaction among the staff. "There are more casual areas where they can gather to discuss work, unlike before which was limited to just the meeting rooms," he says.

He adds that the office has also become more comfortable, important especially since the staff work long hours.