Anyone traveling on Highway 4 who passes by the Ra'anana and Kfar Saba area cannot avoid seeing the new SAP Israel building, with its huge windows in the shape of floating bubbles. The building, which looks like it landed from outer space, is at the end of the city's industrial zone, overlooking the green orchards and fields between Bnei Zion and Ra'anana.
It could be just another high-tech building, but it is the first experiment of its kind in Israel by an international company, which has become a developer and designed for itself a building aimed at being a home for high-tech workers. A visit to the site shows that its design, which was aimed to impress, conceals a philosophy that highlights the connection between community and creativity.
SAP is one of Europe's largest software companies. It develops and markets enterprise management software for enterprises of all sizes and in all sectors. It has a development centers (SAP Labs) in eight different countries around the world.
SAP head of operation EMEA region and facility manager South Europe Eran Rozen says that construction of the building was a strategic step aimed at making a home for the company's 840 employees in Israel, including the activity of its development center and its sales branch in Israel. A steering committee considered renting a property, buying an existing building, and constructing a new one itself, and decided to that the development had added value for the company.
Rozen, an accountant by training, used the term "due diligence" a lot during the tour, referring to a fairly long list of criteria that dictated the selection of the site and its design. For example, the committee members wanted the site to be close to where most of the employees lived; access to public transportation; supporting service in the area, such as restaurants and banks; and visibility. Obviously, an economic test was done, which included, a comparison of the municipal property tax, among other things.
An atrium that is a filter
The Yashar Architects firm designed the building. The concept is fairly simple; it includes a box with a double envelope of glass and a shading mechanism. The brown shutters appear wood-like, but are made of aluminum with wood print. The six-storey building has 3.5 underground parking floors with 449 parking spaces. Above-ground built-up space totals 15,300 square meters. The building's interior is divided into fourth equal sections, in which the northwestern section is an atrium. The other parts are used for work and service. The building also contains a dining room for the employees. According to the plan, from the west beyond the garden, the company will construct another building in the future.
Rozen says that the idea was that anyone entering the atrium would quickly understand the building's function: "This is a very tall central space that unifies everything. The traffic system can be seen immediately; there is no need to search for where to go," he says. The atrium is also a kind of filter, because employees travel in transparent elevators up to the work spaces spread among the floors above. The guests will stay in the seating corners in the lobby, and the work partners will enter a special complex of meeting rooms on the ground floor. The eastern wall looks like an enlarged 3D version of a Tetris game.
Yashar Architects partner and senior team manager Architect Jonathan Grosswasser says that when SAP contacted his firm, they initially did not really know what they wanted, and their requirements were amorphous. In the previous building, not far away, they worked in isolated rooms, and people met each other only in the dining room. The joint learning process made it clear that the expectation was to create a community.
According to Rozen, the design process included creating steering groups that worked together with a coacher and the interior decorator. During four months of joint work, they toured projects, took part in workshops, built models, and defined needs. Among other things, questions pertaining to the degree of shared space, mobility, and color were considered. In the end, an advanced version of open space was selected: the space on the floors was divided, work in teams of eight, and there is flexibility of work stations. Other than meeting rooms, there are no doors.
All the open spaces have a view of eight sub-atriums with an average size of 100 square meters, which unite two floors and are marked with openings - the bubble-like windows visible from the front. Meetings are held in the sub-atriums, which are like living rooms. Architect Ram Goldberg says that from a design perspective, a calm line was chosen. "There is a serenity that reduces visual noise and gives a homey feeling. It's neither a theater stage nor a restaurant," he says.
"Israelis make noise"
Goldberg, whose firm is responsible for the interior decoration, says that a rare situation has been created here. "Architects usually design a building for an unknown enterprise, and they hope that clients will come. These are generic buildings for virtual companies. When the enterprise becomes the developer, there is an opportunity to tailor the building. A community building was made here that supports a connection between all parts of the enterprise. . There is a great deal of comfort here, a lot of generosity designed to encourage meetings. Work takes place not only at a table, but in the surroundings. It expands, and that is exactly the difference between a guest room and a hotel. It is an embracing system that gives everything, and a large space that gives synergy."
R., a company employee, asked to remain anonymous. He says that the move to the new building was very challenging: "On the one hand, there are very nice spaces, the tables move, and everything is very dynamic. On the other hand, this isn't Germany, where they are very disciplined and work in silence. The method of work requires proximity to teams, access, and adaptability to a changing environment. It's an unfortunate fact that Israelis make a lot of noise; it's very cacophonous. They gave us ear protectors that are supposed to block out the noise, but it seems to me that we'll have to change something in the work culture."
SAP regards it as important to emphasize that the building was designed in compliance with the environmental standards, both because of the standards required by the Ra'anana municipality, and especially because it is a European company that is very aware of the environment. Other than the northern facade, the facades are transparent and shaded by external slats, so that a great deal of natural light enters, but there is no direct sunlight. Sensors make it possible to turn lights on and off as needed, and the same is true of the air-conditioning systems. Water from the sinks is used to clean the toilets and sinks. Development of the garden uses water-conserving shrubbery, and even nesting houses for birds have been stationed.
As far as work is concerned, the building does not completely meet environmental standards; most of the employees will probably come to work in cars. Bus lines reach a metropolitan parking lot in the Ra'anana industrial zone, and there are no bicycle paths. At the same time, there is a fitness room. Anyone who comes by bicycle (difficult) can at least have a shower.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on June 1, 2017
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