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A ship drops anchor
#smart office

A ship drops anchor

Cologne is home to one of Germany’s most digitalized office buildings, known as The Ship. Inspired by its success as a model of contemporary working, a second project is being added just next door: the Vorum.

The image of seafaring romance was naturally quite intentional, emphasize the founders of FOND OF GmbH, who were the project’s initiators and developers: “The Ship represents a collective journey undertaken by a skilled crew who are setting sail for new horizons. Like on a yacht, it is all about working together as a team, networking, taking a shared approach to challenges, as well as vibrancy and commitment from every single person.”

Setting sail for the future

As you would expect, the architectural concept provides this fully digitalized office building with an eye-catching platform: “When viewed from above, the building looks like a yacht with the adjoining Alte Wagenfabrik as its harbour. Unique in its design, the building embodies the spirit behind the idea of gaining momentum by working together.”

The Ship
The Ship fosters a contemporary mood that promotes new forms of working: networked, responsive, collaborative.

Historically speaking, the site is of great significance. Although it now serves as office space, the first electrically powered ambulances were just some of the creations to be manufactured here by the Cöllner Elektromobilgesellschaft. The Alte Wagenfabrik was opened in 1923 by Heinrich Scheele, who pioneered electric vehicles in Germany.

Back to the present

With an eye to continuing this pioneering spirit of innovation and mobility, The Ship has been built in accordance with the gold standard of the German Sustainable Building Council. It is equipped with high-end technology, and also fosters a contemporary mood that promotes new forms of working: networked, responsive and collaborative.

The Ship uses open room layouts for activity-based workspaces.

The architects of The Ship

In the words of the property owner: “The Ship uses open room layouts for activity-based workspaces. This means suitable rooms are available for any situation at work, such as meeting rooms, creative labs, think tanks and phone capsules. Digital room management offers bespoke support. The units for rent are divided into modules as required.”

Success with school bags

Everyday business practice at FOND OF GmbH proves that this isn’t just marketing-speak. Their school bag brand ergobag has turned this huge market upside down since it was launched in 2010, and in the meantime they have also taken lasting control of the hipster segment with brands such as pinqponq and SALZEN. Almost 250 employees now work at the company.

The Ship
The courtyard can also be used for meetings.

“When we were planning The Ship, we involved the FOND OF employees and conducted a comprehensive needs assessment,” explains co-founder Dr. Oliver Steinki. “Accordingly, the building is precisely tailored to the requirements of our team. Using comprehensive, intelligent building digitalization, we have been able to optimize features such as climate and lighting, thus generating extra comfort for users. For instance, there are automatic controls for brightness and temperature.”

Numerous benefits

The building app is another digital showpiece. Controlled via smartphone and offering numerous benefits, this feature provides a keyless access system, digital payments in the canteen, workspace reservation system, smart navigation throughout the building using 3D maps, and much more.

The Ship
Employees are offered enough room to move about and develop.

According to Steinki, flexibility is a top priority at FOND OF: “Rigid room layouts have probably now become a thing of the past. We are aiming to offer our employees enough room to move about and develop, and so different areas alternate within the building. These areas are designed to meet the differing requirements in everyday working life.”

Spontaneous encounters and constructive talks

Besides many other spaces, the think tanks have proven especially successful. “They enable people to leave the open space office when they need to focus on a piece of work or talk on the phone,” says Steinki. “There are also areas such as the roof terrace, lounges and restaurant, all of which have become popular locations for meetings and breaks. We wanted to create as many areas as possible that enable spontaneous encounters and constructive talks.”

In future, the office will no longer be a physical place where people work, but rather a place that symbolizes the culture, values and visions of a company.

Oliver Steinki, managing director of evolutiq GmbH

But Steinki has even clearer visions: “In future, the office will no longer be a physical place where people work, but rather a place that symbolizes the culture, values and visions of a company. It will be important to create working environments that focus on fostering a sense of well-being, productivity and the development of potential.”

New neighbours

In line with this belief, his investment management company evolutiq GmbH has already unveiled plans for the construction of another office property. Due to be completed by 2024, the Vorum will be built right next door to The Ship. It is expected to offer room for 800 workspaces with a total of 20,000 square metres of floor area.

The Ship
Due to be completed by 2024, the Vorum will be built right next door to The Ship. It is expected to offer 800 workstations with a total of 20,000 square metres of floor area.

Once again, the individual needs of the building’s occupants will gain centre stage, as Steinki emphasizes: “The Vorum is going to be built entirely in line with the human-centred design process and will be based on state-of-the-art research into the interplay of digital building technologies and the areas of health and well-being. In addition to modern digital solutions, it will include health, infrastructure and mobility concepts.”

Campus character and marketplace feel

In tandem with The Ship and the Alte Wagenfabrik, the developers aim to transform the area into an entrepreneurial campus, using synergies and pressing ahead with innovations. “The pandemic has established hybrid models of working that will continue into the future. We are seeing that the office is turning into a place where people are looking to communicate with others– in a safe environment,” explains Steinki. Accordingly, the workspaces in the Vorum will be designed to allow tenants to adapt them flexibly, as required.

The Ship
The workspaces in the Vorum will be designed to allow tenants to adapt them flexibly, as required.

The concept behind the five-storey construction aims to support this aspiration. Managing director of kadawittfeldarchitektur Kilian Kada outlines the design: “A central, light-filled atrium inside the building will create an airy, open atmosphere. It will be a kind of marketplace that encourages inspiring encounters and a lively exchange during everyday working life – as is suggested by the name of the building itself.” And so all that remains is to wish the developers every success for the navigation of their projects!

Text: Martin Obermayr
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Images: The Ship, Vorum

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