Orange Labs converts five contiguous, brick, industrial buildings in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a high tech R&D facility for the first American outpost of France Telecom’s wireless phone division.
Its program links three distinct functional models — Think Tank, Venture Capital, and Project Incubator — establishing a model for creative interaction that has become familiar as the innovation lab or district. The project shapes a space that operates efficiently while architecturally communicating the creativity and innovation that drive Orange’s business and inspire its employees.
At the project’s outset, AW assembled a Project Team culled from Orange’s engineers, investment division, and leadership, to develop a collective understanding of how their functions could connect and support each other. Project success was tied to the simultaneous development of Orange’s program with its mission, and to the relationship between its research function and physical space. Early stage collaboration with the Construction Manager ensured important design moves were achievable, and that budget and schedule goals would be met without a value engineering phase.
Design focused on recognizing the desires of Orange’s highly creative workforce: integrating outdoor space with common areas, blurring the boundaries between work and play, and creating a workspace that comfortably operated outside of traditional business hours. To facilitate Orange’s operation as a single enterprise, alleyways that had separated the buildings were replaced with luminous, steel and glass atria. Planted with dense stands of bamboo, they unify the three program areas, creating shared landscapes and drawing daylight and seasonal features deep into the space.
AW kept the finishes simple and designed interior elements whose innovative technology and flexibility supported Orange’s work. Central to this undertaking is the Think Tank, a core area emblematic of the Lab’s research and critical to its most public and private functions. This high performance space is defined by two large-scale bookshelf walls that mechanically expand and contract, providing enormous flexibility within a limited footprint, converting it from a state-of-the-art lecture room for 100, to a research library, to an intimate, secure brainstorming space.
Essex Newbury North Contracting Corp.