From the outside, the new headquarters of WĂ¶rwagâa maker of industrial paints and coatings based in Stuttgart, Germanyâresembles a glowing, elongated Rubikâs Cube. Even if you didnât know the company specialized in color, one glance at the rainbow-banded building would offer a pretty substantial clue. That, of course, was the goal, and the reason why the manufacturer brought on Interior Design Hall of Fame members Peter Ippolito and Gunther Fleitz and their Ippolito Fleitz Group to design the project. Stuttgart is home to scores of important corporations, including Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Bosch. But most of them arenât household names. Rather, theyâre âhidden champions,â as Peter Ippolito puts it, behind-the-scenes yet globally influential B2B enterprises, many working in or adjacent to the automotive sector. While they may be outside the purview of the average consumer, however, these companies still need to stand out within their respective industries, which is where IFG comes in. âWe have a saying, âIdentity is the new facility,ââ Ippolito continues. âWorkplace design is not only about orgaÂnizing processes but also about branding. If you donât translate the companyâs DNA into a space, itâs just a bunch of nicely arranged tables.â
WĂ¶rwag was keenly aware of that principle. Having constructed a four-story, 38,000-square-foot building wrapped entirely in glassâalready a big statement for a medium-size businessâthe manufacturer sought interiors that channeled its passion for color and commitment to technological innovation. It couThat effort begins in the lobby, the drywall panels of its folded-plate ceiling painted various shades of yellowââan active color that has a sense of focus and clarity,â Fleitz notes. Behind the reception desk, backlit shelves showcase dozens of brightly painted car parts, bicycle frames, and other bits of machinery that illustrate a wide range of WĂ¶rwag coating applications.
nted on Ippolito and Fleitz to use these brand signifiers to broadcast the companyâs core values inside and outside the structureâs transparent walls.
Right next to the lobby lies one of the projectâs key elements: The company cafeteria, a facility thatâs typically hidden away on an upper floor but is here given pride of place, a democratic mingling ground for visitors, management, and factory workers alike. Decked out with violet ceiling panels, neon-blue benches, dark-orange wall tiles, and draperies in a shade of red known to make food look more appetizing, it was conceived to foster unexpected connections. âThe idea was, Can I get a finance employee to meet one from production and they learn something from one another?â Fleitz explains. âThatâs when innovation happens. Itâs a strong statement that the company chooses to put this kind of space front and center.â
Upstairs, on the buildingâs three office levels, color plays an even larger role. The rainbow effect visible from outside is due primarily to a continuous ribbon of dropped ceilings that encircles each floor, progressing through a gradient of 70 different shades along the way. Comprising textile-covered acoustic panels arranged in a folded plate similar to those in the lobby and cafeteria, each floating ceiling acts like a pitched roof above the open workÂstations lining perimeter walls, providing a feeling of privacy and a unique visual identity, âas in, Come find me in lemon-yellow,â Ippolito jokes.
Similar multihued textile-covered panels, some shaped like WĂ¶rwagâs signature paint chips, are suspended vertically from the ceiling as moveable dividers between work areas. These elements reflect Ippolito and Fleitzâs theories about workplace culture and how it informs their design decisions: âWe always talk about it like an onion,â Ippolito states. âThe first layer is, âIâm proud to be part of the company.â The next is, âIâm proud to be in the building,â and then, âmy department, my team, and my desk.â We try to enable that sense of belonging on every level.â Even in an open-plan setup, he says, âYou have to make people feel special, so they donât feel like a number.â
While individual workstations and a gradient ceiling mark the perimeter of each floor, the inner areas have a very different vibe. They are devoted to meeting rooms and other collaborative spaces, marked by a palette thatâs pr