Westlake Reed Leskosky in Cleveland, Ohio, has had a long-standing relationship with its client Parker Hannifin, first designing the company’s corporate headquarters in Cleveland in the late 1990s, followed by an addition in 2005. So when the Fortune 500 manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems decided to build a new European headquarters in Etoy, Switzerland, to reflect its growing international business, it turned once again to WRL and principal Ronald Reed.
WRL formed a joint partnership with Swiss firm Burkhardt+Partner, the architect of record, to design and build a 75,000 sq. ft. building for 150 employees on seven bucolic acres of land just one mile north of Lake Geneva. The site sits on a gentle rise at the beginning of the rolling foothills of the French Alps, with views of the lake and the mountains beyond. In addition, “The light conditions in this part of the world have a truly transformational quality. What happens with the light is truly magical,” says Reed.
Such was the setting that inspired the architecture and interiors of the building—that and the “unapologetically contemporary” architectural style of the region, which melded well with Reed’s own strong minimalist leanings. “The most incredible asset of the new building is the view,” he says. “We didn’t want to attract attention with some stylistic derring-do. You need to know when to stand down.”
The long, narrow structure features a floor-to-ceiling glass curtainwall, offering every employee views and natural light—something they are entitled to by law in Switzerland. The lightly hued skin is intended to interact with the constantly shifting sunlight common to Lake Geneva, creating a building that is always undergoing subtle changes in appearance, both seasonally and during a typical day.
A simple, unadorned materials palette of white metal, white marble, white oak, glass and drywall—combined in the architecture and interiors with legendary Swiss precision—convey the clean, minimalist aesthetic that Reed sought.Raised access flooring in the general work areas (commonplace in Europe) mandated the use of carpet tile. In keeping with his minimalist mindset, Reed specified an Interface product that offered texture, but was not aggressively patterned. Accent Flannel, with its subtle stripes, was installed monolithically at his insistence. “The installers were in a state of stunned disbelief,” he notes. But the resulting appearance mimicking random ashlar stones from the 14th century completed his vision.
“If you think about all the carbuncles that go into a building, it won’t be minimalist for very long,” jokes Reed. Nevertheless, the clean architecture and interior design in deference to the landscape achieve that and so much more. His alternative definition of minimalism as “a place of repose and tranquility” also shines through with the light.