KREON WINS ICONIC AWARD08 Oct 2018
The kreon headquarters exude ‘purity in light’
Unity in design, technology-integrated design and precision in detail. It is precisely through the consistent pursuit of these three principles from 1982 to today that Belgian company kreon has involved into the number-one international reference for design luminaires and become the provider of ‘purity in light’. kreonrecently began offering this ‘purity in light’ experience at its new headquarters in Opglabbeek, a co-creation of CONIX RDBM Architects and kreon Art Director, Kristof Pycke, who integrated the kreon philosophy seamlessly into the building’s architecture.
A hybridisation of light and architecture
kreon started out as a developer and producer of architectural lighting concepts in Antwerp in 1982: diversified series of downlights, uplights and sidelights, both for indoor and outdoor applications. Since 1994 kreon has also offered integrated steel ceiling systems (‘kreon ceiling solutions’).
Since its inception, kreon prioritised three principles that infuse these two product groups: unity in design, technology-integrated design and precision in detail. Its consistent pursuit of these principles is what has made the Belgian company today’s number-one international reference for design luminaires, as well as the darling of the interior design and engineering worlds, where kreon is best known as the provider of ‘purity in light’…
“An architect or end user have no interest in luminaires, but they do have an interest in light, ambience and comfort,” kreon Art Director Kristof Pycke explains. “That is what provides us with the impetus to create lighting solutions for residential interiors, the catering and hospitality industry, retail, showrooms and office spaces worldwide that are as unpretentious as possible. In turn, that gives the architects – our most important partners – a chance to steal the light from the show.”
In 2007 kreon moved its headquarters from the Frankrijklei in Antwerp to Opglabbeek in Limburg, the site where every kreon solution is conceived and developed in-house. However, the office building wasn’t properly representative and the warehouse space became too small to keep up. It was based on this logic that kreon decided to build an all-new headquarters, with the long side jutting up against the current warehouses. From a functional perspective, it had to accommodate a landscape office, showroom and an extension of the present warehouse space. Architecturally speaking it needed to integrate and reflect kreon’s philosophy to perfection. The concept kreon developed to this end was made more concrete by kreon Art Director Kristof Pycke and CONIX RDBM Architects, resulting in a stunning hybridisation of lighting and architecture.
“It was above all unity, with regard to functionality, that was our objective in the new 2,800 m² headquarters,” says Kristof Pycke. “Due to various functionalities – a showroom and an additional warehouse on the ground floor, offices and a large roof garden on the first floor – all being combined in a single, new, large building, an immediate link between the design and the finished product was forged.
Basically this meant that unity started with the production line; however, it also meant unity between the actors involved in that production process, i.e. the 50 or so employees in our company. That’s because in dividing the first floor into two symmetrical halves, with the finance and administrations on one side, and design, marketing and management on the other, the interaction and communications between the different internal departments at kreon takes place even more smoothly than in the past.
At the same time, kreon’s interactions and communication with customers also improved. From the mezzanine at the centre of the building, one can see kreon’s offices from the showroom on the ground floor; these offices are accessible via a broad staircase. The belux showroom too, and the Swiss lighting company on the first floor that we acquired from the VITRA group on 1 January 2016 also have a significantly open design, the objective of which is to promote direct contact with our various departments.”
“Architecturally speaking, the challenge was largely to integrate the purity in light philosophy and the three pillars on which this philosophy is based – unity in design, technology-integrated design and precision in detail – as adequately as possible into the architecture of the new headquarters,” Kristof Pycke continues.
“Among other things, what characterises our kreonsolutions, is that – contrary to custom – these are not based on the shape of the lighting device or the way in which the luminaire gives off light, but rather that the design is purposely focussed on integration with the architecture or promoting dialogue with the environment. It’s from this perspective that kreonsolutions are always restrained, based on symmetry, rigid geometric shapes, right angles and straight lines. We apply these design basics to our luminaires and have also applied them to the architectural concept of the new headquarters. The foundation of this is Bauhaus architecture, where symmetry and repetition – even in the fitted cupboards, furniture and lighting elements conform to the uniform cadence of the entire building – bestow peace and regularity, and where right angles and straight lines give the building a universal and timeless character.
Another trait characteristic of kreon solutions is that they are stripped of any superfluous detail, are simple, sleek and pure. In that way, architects are given carte blanche to personally create light, ambience and comfort in all their splendour. We have mirrored this rationale in the architecture of our new headquarters. Its design is tremendously open, with a glass façade that allows light to stream in abundantly. The mezzanine at the centre of the building also evokes a tremendous sense of clarity and freedom.
Black, white and grey – the basis colours of our collections by no coincidence – set the prevailing tone both inside and out, thereby reinforcing the feel of simplicity and purity. The materials used also embody sheer simplicity: wood and concrete, glass and steel.”
The entire building exudes light as a result of the optimum incidence of light throughout the building as a whole, the transparent, open plan landscape offices, and due to the balanced lighting provided by kreonproducts. However, just like the most advanced technologies lurk behind kreon’s solutions, these can also be found nestled behind what ostensibly appears to be simplicity and purity.
For instance, one of the three conference rooms behind the reception desk is equipped with the latest video conferencing technology, or there’s a conference room next to the modularly partitioned showroom where customers from all over the world can admire kreon solutions in the best possible conditions from an architectural perspective; there’s also an experience room where every possible lighting effect can be simulated. In the goniophotometry (measurement of light distribution) lab, the photography studio and the technical room located on the ground floor, there is also a special focus on advanced photometry and the zones where research and development activities take place.
Geothermal heating, floor heating and solar panels ensure that the building’s ecological footprint is kept to a minimum. The guiding ‘green’ principle is also evident from the pronounced focus on green, both in the building’s surroundings – despite its location on an industrial site – and on the 1,500 m² large roof terrace that includes wooden floor finish, green vegetation and long grasses inspired by the ’High Line’ in New York.