Building Corporate Culture: From The Ground, Up

The new Beijing headquarters of e-tailer JD.com sprawl across over 100 000m2 and represent the positive future of office space design.

If you’ve ever shopped online in China, chances are that you’ve stumbled across JD.com. Also known as Jingdong, the company is one of the two largest e-tailers in China according to the most recent Fortune Global 500 announcement in terms of both transactional volume as well as revenue, and is the local answer to international e-tailer giants Amazon and Alibaba: if you want it, chances are that JD.com stocks it.

But as a relatively young company, Jingdong was established in 2004 and has since grown rapidly to establish itself as a major player in global online retail, with around 15 000 employees worldwide. The company is a member of the Fortune Global 500 and as of September 2017 has an estimated 258.3 million active users a month.  Local and international brands alike are stocked on the site, which sells everything from luggage and sportswear to electronics, auto accessories, and homewares and furniture.

This incredible diversity and scale is mirrored in the design of the new Jingdong headquarters in Beijing, recently unveiled as a bustling mega-office complex for the growing organisation. Located in the capital city’s southeast, the new headquarters rise proudly above the YiZhuang Economic and Technical Development Area. Surrounded by greenery and dwarfing neighbouring buildings, the headquarters are a monument to Jingdong’s astronomical rise to prominence and success.

Sharing Jingdong’s innovative spirit and drive for expansion and creativity, it was only fitting that Interface was among the brands selected to provide flooring for the office complex, which is a bold reimagining of the commercial workspace. At over 114 000m2 of carpet tiles, the project is the largest that Interface has undertaken in China during their long business relationship with the country, and is the realisation of a contract won at the end of 2014. Interface were selected for the project due to their strong sustainability vision and service reputation, two core characteristics that align strongly with Jingdong’s own ethos.

“Interface is already known as a reputable flooring system supplier in China and across the world, and with the quality standard to match this reputation. For us as designers, we look forward to working with quality companies that offer us the tools to design spaces for clients that they can be happy to work in as well as show to the outside world, what the ‘heart’ of the company is.” ʼ– WTL Design, Beijing.

In recent years, we’ve all observed the incredible drive in research that delves deep into the connection between workplace design and worker productivity and wellbeing. Not only have we seen its wide-reaching effects transform the design profession, but we have also watched on as design thinking surrounding end-user health and satisfaction has played an active role in changing the professional landscape across all manner of industries for the better. As the war on talent continues to wage across global borders, it is becoming clearer that sympathetic, intelligent and wellbeing-driven approaches to design remain our greatest weapon for empowering end-user health, happiness, mindfulness and efficiency.

JD.com’s new premises stand forth as an exemplar within this space. According to the Beijing interior design firm, WTL Design, the year-long project was characterised by a theme of transition: “the new spaces are significantly different from the previous working environment. Gone are the very traditionally corporate environments and, in their place are now energetic, collaborative spaces where the individual and the collective can interact with each other to create  an ‘office existence’ that people are happy to wake up in the morning and go to.”

Approaching new attenuation of space and floorplate, the WTL design team sought to rethink the traditional use of workstations in the professional space. Offering workers the more commonplace L-shape workstations for focus-oriented tasks, there is also a range of other activity-based work environments on offer for employees’ various needs. Mobile bench workstations, collaborative hubs and modular informal seating areas all passively demarcate the space, allowing for a more fluid, intuitive and emotionally-sensitive design scheme that can continue to shift alongside the end-users’ changing requirements.

“One of the key practices we implemented for the JD.com project was changing the way we normally negotiate desk spaces. In this open office environment where staff could choose where they sat during the day depending who they were working with or what their personal feelings were for that time, we also made sure that our design would enable anyone to locate themselves in quieter areas when urgent, focused work was needed to be done, and in more open collaborative areas when interaction was required.”

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Jingdong Headquarters

Embracing the brief of creating vibrant and energetic spaces that appealed to Jingdong’s young team, Interface set about designing the perfect flooring system for the landmark headquarters. Following months of careful consultation, development, and testing, a final carpet layout was agreed upon using 40 different pattern and colour combinations made from Interface’s portfolio. The high-performance, stylish flooring system is used throughout the multi-level complex alongside timber flooring, which houses a number of unconventional spaces designed to meet the evolving needs of today’s flexible, agile workforce.

Naturally, health considerations for the end-user were front of mind. Natural light, indoor greenery and a modular furniture system to promote mobility throughout the day is coupled with Interface’s Intersept – a proprietary preservative incorporated into the backing of each individual carpet tile component. In a bid to improve indoor air quality throughout the space, as well as improve the longevity and protection of the flooring itself, Intersept assisted WTL’s design team to ensure that the growth of moulds, mildew and other harmful micro organisms common to other carpet and underlay systems, do not spread throughout the space and cause deleterious effects to the microbial quality of air – a surefire value-add to both the endurance of the design and the all important wellbeing of JD.com’s highly skilled workforce.

Throughout, office spaces with semi-private booths and work benches are nestled alongside break out spaces and meeting areas, which in turn melt into gyms, lounge bars, and ‘staff life-spaces’ for taking a moment of relaxation within the busy work week. To meet the very different needs of each of these spaces, a diverse cross-section of Interface’s wide catalogue was used throughout the building. From the solid, vibrant hues of Colour Me to the striking linear patterns of Cartera, Interface tiles bring durability, style, and energy to the office’s expansive interiors. The angular geometry of Oblique, for instance, is used extensively throughout the various collaborative and interactive spaces across the whole building. Here, WTL sought to attract workers away from their workstations to engage with their peers in a bid to support and foster the JD.com culture of interaction, co-operation and energetic dynamism:

“Today, people become bored easily. As a result, we need to create spaces where the opportunities to meet and collaborate with not only staff working in the same area or department, but also staff and friends who might be working on other floors or areas of the building. Strategically locating these meeting points or ‘town hall’ areas guarantees that during some time of the day, people will need to pass through or use these areas for any of their personal reasons, but they will also have the opportunity to meet others. Secondly to entice the staff to these areas, we need to implement design elements that do the important work of attraction. Coffee or tea bars, games areas and interactive spaces all help to do this in an environment that shows creativity and energy.”

Transitioning effortlessly from the ‘energy blast’ of vibrantly coloured break out spaces to the sleek, cool-coloured interiors of spaces for corporate meetings, the office deftly marries the traditional with the cutting edge. Reflecting the latest thinking in agile workplace design and designing for worker wellbeing, the new Jingdong headquarters are a bold new home for one of China’s most exciting online companies. For those who can’t wait to see where commercial design and product specification is headed, sit tight: your order is on its way.

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