“I used the sounds of the city of São Paulo to define a pattern of waves, which we then turned into a pattern to use for the chair surface,” Requena told me. “We had to 3D-print it – otherwise it would have been impossible to manufacture, as complex as it was.”

 

The chair looked interesting, albeit extremely uncomfortable. But that, clearly, is beside the point for Requena who is, prior to being a designer and a (very successful) architect, a digital explorer. “The digital world is our world, not a separate chapter. It makes no sense to avoid total integration.”

This does not mean, though, that we will all have to sit on rugged-looking chairs. “My biggest dream is to create interactive buildings and squares in the city in response to trend behaviours. Contrary to what seems to be the prevalent opinion among South Americans, I believe digital technology can make us closer. I’m very optimistic,” he said.

A great example of how Requena has applied this approach to a building is his recent remake of the São Paulo HQ of Walmart, which started with interviews and a needs assessment of the employees (rather than the employer).

“We figured out that this place was to be all about three elements: digital culture, the Walmart brand and the Brazilian identity,” explained Requena.

The first result of this thinking was the Urban Veranda, an outdoor hangout with beach chairs and trees. The design also had to provide a very large space (five floors of 1000 square metres each) with a human dimension, and work with a tight budget.

“We chose simple décors, using for each floor a predominant wood type: pine, OSB, eucalyptus and Masisa Zurich, combined with a single colour in various shades from the Walmart colour palette. We invested, on the contrary, on having shared relaxing and fun areas on each floor: with lounges and decompression environments, including games rooms, film screening areas, video games and a library. This is to encourage the exchange of ideas and interaction between employees from different departments,” he explained.

Workstations are located near windows to take advantage of daylight, and the lighting design prioritises economy. In lounges and decompression areas, indirect light is used in amber hues with decorative fixtures. The furniture is all indigenous, by Brazilian designers like Maurício Arruda, Jader Almeida, Lina Bo Bardi, Paulo Alves and Fernando Jaeger. A mini-golf course was also specially designed for the terrace.

Requena’s office design approach basically takes into account the contemporary way of working: people with laptops moving around, and needing to chill out at times and, above all, to share ideas in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. Yet it also grants space for tradition.

Such a pleasant mix did not go unnoticed: Google has just commissioned Guto Requena to design its new Brazilian headquarters. A very big success for a young professional who dreams of a digital yet very human world.  

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