What's in a Name?
For a German clothing company called Closed, Carsten Roth designed a Hamburg headquarters that's decidedly open to fresh air and fresh ideas
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 1/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Last year, the German clothing company Closed celebrated the production of its 30 millionth pair of pedal pushers. Expansion has been vast since the label was founded in 1977 in a couple of rooms in Hamburg. By now, Closed has opened five boutiques selling its top-end casual collections—four shops in Germany and one in Hong Kong.
Headquarters, however, had never moved. They'd just expanded higgledy-piggledy, with walls knocked down here and floors opened up there. "In the studio, designers were more or less working on top of each other," says Carsten Roth, who helped 50 of the company's employees relocate to an early 20th-century streetcar depot in Hamburg's fashionable Eppendorf district.
By the time Closed executives saw the brick structure, it was already divided by developer Hamburg Team into six 14,000-square-foot units. Each one surrounded a new glass-topped courtyard. Inside the building, the developer had installed steel staircases leading to a concrete slab inserted for a second floor.
The combination was exactly what the company was looking for: virtually raw space ready for Carsten Roth Architekt to carry out a transformation. Handing Roth a reasonably simple brief, executives requested "as few walls as possible." He responded with a plan built around two connected showrooms on the ground level and a 4,000-square-foot open-plan studio above.
Individual offices were also required. On the ground level, Roth's solution was quite standard; he placed marketing and accounting staff in a row of glass-fronted offices along a sidewall. His approach to the two management offices upstairs was more innovative. Each is housed in an open oak "box," like a freestanding sculptural object. A similar structure encloses the staff kitchen. "The boxes blur the boundaries between interior design and furniture," he explains. In addition, they fit neatly between the building's low steel trusses. (Roth painted them white to make them as discreet as possible.)
The second part of Roth's brief had to do with storage—lots of it, as fashion designers need to have a vast archive for inspiration on-hand at any given time. Even the management offices are pressed into service; the "wall" that fills the oak boxes' open front is actually a 4-foot-deep white cabinet. In the studio, longer boxes frame pairs of similar storage units that face inward, onto a concealed corridor that handily doubles as a changing area for models during fashion shows. "Normally, closet doors open directly into the work space, which allows the mess inside to be visible and complicates circulation," he explains. Instead, these units turn their backs on the studio. Attached to the white surface, felt-clad aluminum sliding panels serve as mood boards for the design team.
As for overall mood, Roth took inspiration from the neutral palette of the Closed boutiques. "During busy periods, we have a lot of colors flying around with the clothes," CEO Gordon Giers points out. "We didn't need any more." Throughout, Roth chose different shades and finishes of white—which occasionally picks up a green tint from the courtyard, planted with olive trees and Mediterranean grasses for a Tuscan feel.
Roth paid homage to the building's industrial character with pale gray glazed concrete floors, neon signage, factory-style radiators, basic steel racks, and a reception desk made from oak planks that look as if they've been stacked roughly on top of one another. (They're actually bolted together and mounted on a steel base.) Reception's double-sided oak bench comes from a Hamburg subway station—a nice nod to the building's public-transport past.