Helvetia

Location

Dufourstrasse, 9001 St.Gallen

Type of contract

Direct commission, 2015

Construction phase

2018-2021

Client

Helvetia Schweizerische Versicherungsgesellschaft

Photography

Ladina Bischof

Documentation

PDF

The headquarters of the Helvetia insurance company in St Gallen consist of a cruciform building from the 1970s along with four linear buildings, three of which were built as extensions from the 1990s onwards. The renovation of the central, cruciform building ensures the continuity of this ensemble, transforming the interior into a contemporary, elegant working environment while retaining the spirit of the 1970s. This is especially true in the main hall and the reddish, exposed-aggregate concrete facade. The care with which the interventions are made reflects the respect given to the building: despite the far-reaching renovations, a significant proportion of the original substance could be retained. More

The materiality and geometric effect of the hall at the centre of the cruciform building, with its sculptural staircase, is largely preserved and given a fresh emphasis through a new lighting strategy. From this central circulation space, four corridors on the upper floors lead to the office wings and their extensions. Most of the offices were arranged for two-to-four people, but one wing was arranged as an open-plan office. The project sought to create multifunctional office spaces that would enable collaborative working. Meeting zones and coffee points, intended to promote easy communication, are spread throughout the building. Particular attention was paid to the design of the heavily frequented corridors, from which the inner offices as well as the extension wings are accessed. Glass panels with slender, dark wooden frames create elegant and transparent partitions. These allow views through to the facades, which makes it easier to orient oneself in the building and bring daylight into the corridors. The ceilings of the corridors are made from a dark, metallic lattice. Indirect artificial lighting mixes imperceptibly with the daylight, deliberately revealing the contrast between the bright and dark surfaces. The bright carpet on the floor extends into the offices, visually enlarging the corridors. The office partition walls appear – at least at first – to stop short of the facade: the final part of the wall is mirrored, suggesting a continuous ribbon window. Although the external appearance of the facade is largely unchanged by the energetic renovation, in the interior it received a new interpretation. Fresh air enters the offices through built-in furniture under the windows, which means that the suspended ceilings could be pulled back from the facade to give the spaces a new generosity. Time and again, boundaries are blurred and the division between spaces negated by mirrors, giving the office environment a light and playful character. Through the conscious guiding of light, transparency and reflection, the project creates a new spatial experience in the building and establishes attractive transitions to the four wings. At the same time, these richly contrasting spaces still breathe the original spirit of the building.
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