NTI may be an organisation over 70 years old, dedicated to distance education, but they’re certainly not old and stuffy. For the new interiors of their head office in Leiden, Holland, a short distance of 25 kilometres north of Amsterdam, NTI hired Liong Lie Architects and gave them the scope to use bright colours from floor to ceiling in a way that exudes enthusiasm and learning.
NTI promotes a philosophy of new learning that combines online learning with classroom meetings, in a flexible way to meet the needs of each student. They offer courses that range from bookkeeping to psychology, and from vocational training to an MBA. NTI specialises in blended learning that combines distance learning with e-learning and training in a classroom.
The design of the head office translates this philosophy into an environment that offers flexibility in work spaces and accommodates the different needs of regular staff, call-centre staff and students.
The project took place over 7 months from design to completion and involved 95 work spaces in the head office, 60 work spaces in the call centre and 7 classrooms, with a total floorspace of 2200 square metres. It was completed in December 2013. The brief of the project was to encapsulate NTI’s brand experience: ‘Flexible learning starts here’, while keeping to a budget. The concept of flexibility was encapsulated in the creation of various spaces that could be used in different ways, as well in as the ways that carpets and other interior surfaces were utilised for multiple purposes.
To create both a brand experience and a dynamic atmosphere, the colours of the office’s carpet scheme are matched with brightly painted walls and oversized prints with nature’s themes: a bright blue sky with clouds; sunlight streaming through leaves; a tranquil bay. The green, blue and beige shades of the carpet allude to nature’s walkways of grass, stream and sand, but also use colour to divide and shape the space, and provide wayfinding around the building’s open floor plans. Different colours of carpeting are used for colour zoning and delineating areas such as break-out spaces, sitting areas and walking zones. Columns, desk dividers and even the ceiling are also used as navigation.
The overall effect is open and welcoming, without revealing the economical use of ready-made elements that were used in a way to create strong impact and a forceful individual look.
A wide variety of spaces have been created. The lime-green walls of the workstations will certainly keep staff alert. The dividers of workspaces are used flexibly to create either individual stations or group work zones. Single-person focus rooms are floor-to-ceiling round cylinders that provide someone with privacy and quiet to focus on a task at hand. Work lounges and informal learning while sitting at a bar provide more social options.
Liong Lie Architects’ philosophy is ‘form follows identity’. Their priority is to listen to clients’ needs and then translate them to reality. The practice’s leader, Liong Lie, was born in the Netherlands to Indonesian parents. He travelled extensively during his childhood and has brought an international perspective to his Rotterdam-based team. It’s easy to imagine the creative design of the NTI head office translating successfully anywhere in the world.