Project: ImpactHUB Caracas
Arch. Odart Graterol
Arch. Ricardo Rebolledo
In this project the architects had at least three main challenges. The first challenge was to organize a very complex space by choosing within a very wide range of possibilities of use. The second challenge was to make the office showy and impressive. And last, but not least, to deal with a very limited budget.
In ImpactHUB Caracas, we decided to work blending the best of an innovation lab + a business incubator + an office to create a unique work environment for learning and creativity. It is part of a global network of people, places, and programs that inspires, connects and drives to make a positive impact on society.
After a long thought, the architects came out with the idea of the âfactoryâ, a place where the playful character of the space invites to create, think, and learn. Flexible spaces to suit the most diverse needs of enterprise and creative work where interdisciplinary cooperation and guidance of experts in different areas are translated into rock solid and measurable results.
Environments are connected to each other using divisions enabling integration, separation, and size changes in multiple combinations so people can develop a wide range of activities. There are systems that incorporate mobile divisions to add or subtract blocks of contiguous spaces, making possible a wide range of possibilities of use. Uses ranging from conventional offices with meeting rooms and support areas, from classrooms for teaching workshops to exhibition spaces, settings for events, presentations, fashion shows, wine tastings, culinary activities, chamber concerts … Being the physical square footage available the only limit to a variety of choices.
Sustainability: (Environmental quality and resource efficiency)
The âFactoryâ idea inspired the development of an industrial appearance image with the capability of allowing large degrees of flexibility in terms of functionality and aesthetics. This concept favorites the assimilation or reuse of pre - existing elements in the space that were part of a previous office thus optimizing investment and reducing environmental impact by reusing and recycling material that would have normally been discarded.
Some examples of this are: the reuse of recycled steel stubs in gypsum partition walls dismantled for the development of the luminaire. The solution of the floor surface, conditioning the raw building slab resulting in the final finished surface. There was no need of additional finishing materials with the exception of some paintings on the floor. We also adapted and recycled the existing ductwork of A/C. making it more efficient by removing unnecessary branches or parts that made it less efficient. This enabled us to reduce the working revolutions of the cooling unit, thus reducing power consumption and extending the life of the pre-installed equipment.
We recovered and restored cargo pallets for use as divisions and ceilings in the meeting pods or as we like to call it: âThe fishbowlâ. It was also used scrap wood for making the top of the kitchenette and devised how to use it for making some of the doors. Some table tops were made using old industrial cable reels. All electrical and data distribution was done without breaking the walls. Thus they are visible on some walls along with accessories such as electrical outlets and power switches. It wasn’t necessary to repair walls after breaking it for conventional installations. Due to the absence of fixed walls, electric outlets had to be complemented with retractable cord reels hanging from the roof allowing more connection spots. All these elements, among others, helped overcome an additional variable: overall shortage of construction materials in our country due to difficult economic and political conditions, which worsened as the work progressed during 2013 and beginnings of 2014.
Contextual and aesthetic impact
Like it was mentioned before, one of the challenges was to make the space showy and impressive. As part of a global network of HUB’s, we were looking to have a particularly strong identity, linked to values that were associated not only with the ones inherent to the ImpactHUB culture, but also with values associated with our local culture. One strategy was to incorporate the art of a Venezuelan cartoonist (Roberto Weil) for the realization of a representation of the city of Caracas on an âLâ blackboard -wall at the entrance, just in the elevators hall. This cartoonist’s drawings express his feelings and ways of thinking of the community and can be found on a daily basis in newspapers and social networks. They were also incorporated as part of the furniture fixtures for the use of hammocks in areas of the hub to serve as places of inspiration and tranquility while enjoying the excellent views of the south of the city.
Other important considerations took into account the nature of occupancy. (Rented, not owned). It was decided to work on a type of intervention that left almost intact the existing structure of the property, in case of an eventual move. Insurance costs and security deposits might be reduced, as well as time, costs, and impact of a subsequent demolition for the owner (who is a partner). It would also be easier to empty the property and have it ready for any other tenant.
Innovation and transferability:
All of these elements were designed so that if the client decides to move to another location they could be disassembled, transported, and reassembled at the new location. Also, its low-tech nature makes them easily replicable in case of needing to add new parts or components. As a part of a whole sustainable concept every component of the project was planned to be durable, adaptable, reconfigurable, easy to operate, and low maintenance. All these components can be easily made with local workforce and resources just by reading basic blueprints, schemes, and technical data.
The furniture was designed with the characteristic of allowing multiple configurations, besides being able to be stacked, easily moved, and to resist a certain amount of use and abuse. Energy considerations determined the heavy use of glass to take advantage of natural lighting during daylight hours in all areas of the HUB and to take advantage of the great views of the city.
Ethical standards and social equity
ImpactHUB Caracas is an incubator focused on startups that want to build businesses that also have a social mission. It is designed like other accelerators, providing technical and business advice and mentoring in exchange for a small equity stake.
ImpactHUB Caracas will design and curate an innovation ecosystem â a work and convening space for diverse communities to build stronger relationships and collaborate on new models of social value creation. Theyâre out to prove that by facilitating creative collisions among community members and connecting resources and capital to great ideas, we can build more just societies and more sustainable economies.
With professional hosts optimizing membersâ access to workspace, participation in regular events and programming, and collaboration within a dynamic local community, Impact Hub DC will be the preeminent platform for crafting and scaling projects that aim to disrupt the status quo.
As other HUBâs around the world, ImpactHUB Caracas will have a mission to:
Bring together diverse communities within the Gran Caracas area (and later, the rest of the country) for greater impact, bridging sectorial and cultural divides in order to promote creativity and build stronger communities;
Spark and support initiatives that address the worldâs critical social, economic, and environmental issues by connecting world class resources to bottom-up ideas and movements; and
Act as a knowledge center for curating and disseminating best practices.
According to Rick Moss, founding director of HUB Ventures in SF: âThereâs a gap for ideas between traditional business on the one hand, and philanthropy on the other hand, which is the kinds of companies Hub Ventures takes on. In addition, many investors focus on later-stage companies, and there is less available for smaller new companies. So Hub Ventures provides a start for these early stage companies. The firm is backed by a number of social impact venture firms. The theory we ascribe to is that for global challenges, philanthropies, nonprofits and foreign aid can solve some problems or the government can step in,â Moss says. âBut thereâs this big gap where business can step in and solve problems and ensure itâs in a sustainable way.â
All areas were conceived to be accessible to people in wheelchairs or with physical disabilities
Economic performance and compatibility
Recycling, reuse and reduction in the use of material resources allowed to fit a very limited budget available (U.S. $ 62,000). Besides overcoming a crisis of shortages in building materials, funding for construction was performed using private resources from the founding members of the civil association “Impact HUB “, and through the pre - sale of one fifth of the total area available to support enterprises that serve as “sponsors” with activities related to ImpactHUB philosophies. These enterprises have in common being already consolidated businesses with a social impact and being entrepreneurial initiatives previously conceived and advised by the partners in advance while serving in other business incubators . Thus 6 offices occupy an area that was designated as “fixed income area” and helped finance part of the construction. Likewise, architects involved in the project decided to help in a given exchange, accepting part of the payment for their professional services as âtime of useâ of the facilities offered by the HUB . This will guarantee an unwavering commitment to quality in project implementation by the design team.
Pine wood (recycled)
Steel (partially recycled)
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