Second Home Lisbon – Biophilia in action
By Robin Fisher, Architectural Critic
A look at the design and principles behind this innovative workspace…
Client: Second Home (founded by Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva)
Architects: SelgasCano (founded by Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano)
Location: Mercado da Ribeira, Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisboa
Size of project: 12,000 sq. Ft.
Project cost: €1.3 million
Environmental engineer: Richie & Daffin
Prime contractor: old2new
Pot plant heaven
With over 1,200 pot plants and trees installed along the edge of long, wavy-edged tables shared by members, this interior refurbishment project by Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano beautifully illustrates the design principles of biophilia. The space is bursting in vivid colour and greenery, providing a very healthy workspace and an array of facilities for its 250 members.
Set inside the Mercado Da Ribeira, the 1,115-square-metre office is left open-plan to show off the iron structure of the historic market hall, which was built in 1892. Located on the top storey under the roof of the building, this new workspace looks down on the busy market stalls. The iron trusses that support the roof have been painted mint green, navy and yellow to distinguish the work area from the untreated roof of the market hall.
Climate engineering not air conditioning
Second Home Lisboa claims to be one of the greenest buildings in Europe, using a radiant heating and cooling system rather than air conditioning to keep the space temperate and induce cross ventilation – a system SelgasCano based on greenhouses. “Another big aim was to reduce the energy consumption of the building. Working with one of the best climate engineers we ever worked with, Adam Ritchie, we were able to eliminate the air-conditioning system and create a radiant floor system with natural ventilation taken from the ones used in a conventional greenhouse,” explains Cano. Skylights running the whole length of the building along the ridge of the roof bring in lots of daylight together with the bay windows on each side of the work space.
Greenery put to work
The tables, measuring 70 metres by 10 metres and designed by SelgasCano, meander through the shared workspace. Users sit on each side of the tables so that the only visual element separating them are the potted indoor plants. “The flowing design of the table gives members their own area of private space to focus on their work whilst keeping a sense of community” explains architect Lucia Cano. At the same time, the plants purify the air and reduce noise. In this way, two very common problems affecting workers in many offices around the world are avoided: ambient noise which makes it difficult to concentrate or requires wearing headphones and the feeling of confinement for spending so many hours in interior spaces, sometimes poorly ventilated and illuminated.
Two completely different spaces have been created within the L-shaped building: the main working space where the winding communal table sits and the café lounge area: one for working and another for socializing. While the workspace is white and bright, the leisure area, which boasts a bar and cafe, has dark blue paintwork. ‘Each space has a totally different atmosphere and identity’ explains Lucia Cano, co-founder of SelgasCano architectural partnership. The €1.3 million (£1.1 million) fit-out includes four private meeting rooms surrounded by curved glazed partitions, another hallmark of their office design projects. In addition, the versatile nature of the interior layout makes it easy to turn it into a cultural venue able to host films, live music, and talks.
The plants and the structure are not the only thing that makes the building special: welfare programs are also offered for job seekers (members at Second Home include both freelancers working independently as well as employees of companies that are based here). Organic food is served in the canteen and a cultural and a wellbeing programme has been organised which includes yoga and Pilates classes, a lunchtime running club with routes along the River Tagus and a shuttle bus to the coast for surfers.
Second Home has funded the building, designed by SelgasCano, for the re-homing of a school in Nairobi called Kibera Hamlets. The school provides education for hundreds of children who are orphans or severely disadvantaged.
Rohan Silva, co-founder of Second Home says “The reason we did this is that we believe in the power of great architecture to improve people’s lives, whether that’s in London and Lisbon, or in some of the poorest parts of the world.”
It is lovely to see the bright scaffolding beams in yellow and red in the school, a distinct design link to the Lisboa and London workspaces.
SelgasCano previously collaborated with Second Home on its first offices in London which were also inspired by biophilic design principles. Again, their design for the London office centres on transparency and features some one thousand hydroponically cultivated plants line the edges of every office, with many slotting into gaps in the surfaces. And then there are the Madrid offices of SelgasCano which are a transparent tunnel set in a woodland to reinforce this visual connection…
total number of plants and trees: 1,200
number of different chairs and lamps: 500
key architectural features: automated cross-ventilation system, radiant heat flooring, low energy
consumption led light-bulbs
key materials: methacrylate, fibreglass, Krono span
furniture: mid-century original chairs and lamps, Howe 40/4 swivel chair designed by David Rowland,
SelgasCano tables and bar
Second Home elsewhere
Second Home is now in Spitalfields, London and houses not only freelancers, entrepreuneurs and edgy start-ups but old-timers like Ernst & Young Accountants. You can become a member for £650 per month. Additionally Second Home has a location in Holland Park, London with its workspace and photographic studio.