The zone of silence. Maya Baklan: smart investments in office design

/ Interview /

One of the areas of work for architects and designers is investment projects. Interiors for rent are a prime example of this. And a good example is the workspace in the historic center of Kyiv, where you won't find typical office solutions . A library, a bar, a summer terrace in the shade of a chestnut tree, art by Ukrainian artists - this is how the author of the project, designer Maya Baklan, sees the modern workspace. Soon the office will be filled with the sounds of a printer, a coffee machine, and the voices of employees, but for now it's a "place of silence," and we came to see everything with our own eyes and learn the details.

Masha Golubka: Maya, you have realized an office for rent. Have you already had investment projects in your practice?

Maya Baklan: I really like the topic of investments. By the way, Forbes recently wrote about it. I have a lot of experience in realizing the interiors of apartments for rent, and this is the first time I have ever opened an office.

M.G.: How long ago did the idea of investing in the design of rental apartments become popular in Ukraine?

MB: Previously, real estate was rarely bought for this purpose. Mostly it was like this: you inherited an old housing stock, made repairs, and rented it out. The idea of buying housing and investing in design has gained popularity over the past 5 years. But, unfortunately, we have not yet developed a culture of working in this direction. People think that an apartment pays for itself within three years and set themselves this goal, but this is a myth, of course. In addition, they believe that if an apartment is for rent, they need to invest a minimum and get as much as possible at the end. But it doesn't work that way. Apartments with some kind of renovation are rented for less money. The math is simple: the higher the investment, the higher the return.

Maria Holubka, editor of PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA, and Maya Baklan, author and designer of the project

MG: In your investment projects, do you manage to make high-quality repairs or do investors save money?

M.B.: Fortunately, I work in a segment where the customer is ready to invest in design and understands that there are things that should not be skimped on: utilities, lighting, basic finishing materials. This is an investment for the future. This way, you won't have to spend money on repairs in the future, and the rental price will also be higher. It's a matter of proportions. In most cases, people don't analyze the market on their own, but look at what others are doing and copy it. Therefore, it is important to show good examples with high-quality and modern design.

MG: Let's go back to the realized office. What are the advantages of such a space? How does this format differ from renting in a business center?

M.B.: If a customer wants a unique, atypical interior, they will not rent an office in Gulliver or Parus. This is a completely different format. Everyone is tired of standard boring offices and wants something special. It should be not only a place for work, but also for recreation, development, and team building; a place with a special atmosphere where you not only need to come, but also want to come. We focused on this idea when working on the project.

M.G.: With an interior for a specific customer who has chosen a specific room and a specific design, everything is clear. But in this project, the client was not initially identified. Isn't there a risk that the space will be left without an owner and the investor's money will not be returned?

M.B: As for profitability in this case, it is important to simply calculate everything correctly. This building has too many advantages to be left without an owner. It is a space in the city center with a good area, modern technologies and high-quality design.

If a customer wants a unique, atypical interior, they will not rent an office in Gulliver or Parus. This is a completely different format. Everyone is tired of standard boring offices and wants something special

M.G.: What are the differences between selling a regular office and an office for rent? What difficulties did you face?

M.B.: In office design, everything happens according to a standard scheme. When the client's rent is raised sharply, they urgently need to move to a new location. The HR department selects a location based on the price and area, without considering other aspects. The client does not want to wait for a project that takes an average of three months to complete.

People look for real estate in a hurry, and repairs are done in a hurry. As a result, the design is far from perfect. In investment projects, everything is thought out in advance. Here we got a space with great potential, we had enough time for working documentation, so we managed to think through everything to the smallest detail, design engineering networks correctly, and optimize the budget by preparing estimates.

Maya Baklan and Maria Holubka in the office library

M.G.: Did you manage to calculate everything correctly and stay within the budget? Were all the ideas realized?

M.B.: Yes, it's quite complete. Some small things had to be replaced, but they were not significant. In general, everything is in line with the proposed project, and we even had some money left over to make a beautiful historic-style entrance door to the entrance.

MG: What kind of business is this space intended for? Will one company work here or several at the same time?

M.B.: Before implementing the project, we analyzed several working models. We chose between a coworking space and an office with separate rooms. Coworking would have been very expensive for users and uncompetitive in the market. The scheme with the division of offices for different companies was complicated in terms of rent stability and regular earnings for the investor. The best option turned out to be an office for one company.

M.G.: But you don't know what kind of company will come here. How do you work with the interior?

M.B: In such cases, I think you need to invent a client. In the process, I kept in mind the image of all my previous clients for whom I had made offices. We tried to create a universal space so that it would be convenient for a person of any modern profession.

Artwork by Maria Kulikovska

M.G.: What functional areas and premises are located here?

MB: At the entrance, you are greeted by a reception area. Opposite the reception desk, there is a spacious wardrobe for outerwear - we built it in place of the former opening. In the entrance area, there is a separate print point in the niche of the wardrobe. Next, there are several workrooms, a small Skype room and meeting rooms, two of which can be combined into one with a transformable partition.

There is a kitchen with all the necessary appliances and equipment (microwave, sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator), very comfortable bathrooms with a shower and window, a utility room with a server room, and, finally, the most interesting area - a large library with a bar and access to a summer terrace.

M.G.: What requirements did the "fictional customer" dictate to you during the project implementation?

MB: It is necessary to take into account the basic needs, without which it will be difficult to be at your workplace. First of all, it is technical equipment: systems for ensuring the temperature and humidity of the premises, noise insulation, and properly selected lighting equipment.

Maya Baklan against the background of abstraction by Oleksandr Bohomaz

MG: Tell us more about the lighting, air conditioning, and security system at the facility.

M.B.: Initially, there were serious restrictions on electricity here, as this building belongs to the old housing stock. With the conversion of the space into a commercial format, new requirements for technical equipment emerged. To connect ventilation, air conditioning, and electrical appliances, we installed an additional 40 kW.

We paid a lot of attention to lighting design, selecting lamps based on the lighting temperature, angle of dispersion, and intensity of the light flux. It is very important that the light is not too cold or too bright, and that the light sources are conveniently located relative to the workplaces.

A central air conditioning system is designed here. All equipment is hidden behind the false ceiling. Note how the plasterboard has custom ducts: this is a great alternative to ventilation grilles, an effective and aesthetic solution.

We thought about security. We have a video surveillance system, external controlled shutters on all windows, and restricted access rooms with electronic card entry.

Maya Baklan and Maria Holubka against the background of a wall painting by Serhiy Kondratiuk

MG: Due to the quarantine, many Kyiv offices are empty, space has been reduced, and companies are switching to online mode. Have you noticed this trend and taken it into account in the project?

M.B.: Nowadays, they are trying not to reduce the size of offices, but rather to make them more flexible. Most office workers, including my studio staff, want to work half the week in the office and half the week from home, so it's important to create work areas for different shifts and multiple users. We have provided stationary and "floating" workplaces.

M.G.: What else did you consider when organizing workplaces?

M.B.: The concept of open space used to be popular, but now it is increasingly being abandoned - a large number of employees are uncomfortable staying in the same space all day. The optimal number of people in a room is up to 12, so we made several rooms of different capacities, taking into account the regulatory requirements for space. All the offices were designed so that they would have a window.

In the arrangement of the tables, we avoided sitting with the back to the door; the desks are not of the classic size (60x120 mm), but enlarged (1400x700 mm) to accommodate two monitors. In addition to ergonomics, we paid attention to aesthetics. We wanted to avoid typical office furniture that everyone is tired of. We managed to find chairs without the "classic" shiny Profim leg. This is the only manufacturer with a suitable color palette. The desks were made in elegant white. Each workroom has landscaping, beautiful details, and paintings.

The concept of open space used to be popular, but now it is increasingly being abandoned - a large number of employees are uncomfortable staying in the same space all day long

M.G.: What materials did you use? What advice would you give for the realization of commercial interiors?

M.B.: First of all, the interior style was dictated by the mood and spirit of the place. We started from the materials that were here originally and tried to preserve and emphasize them. It's a shame that the historical stucco on the ceiling was badly damaged and we couldn't save it, but we decorated the library with modern decor in a classic style for the atmosphere.

Do you see this brickwork of incredible beauty? These are the native walls, their texture is the most intense in the interior, and we made the rest of the surface finishes neutral. This way, the background of the walls does not contradict the art left here by the artists.

In general, we chose durable, wear-resistant materials. All rooms have natural parquet floors. It is easy to maintain, easy to restore, and ages well. In the bathrooms, we used traditional "kabanchyk" tiles made by a Ukrainian manufacturer, although it was difficult to find them with a matte surface, but we managed. In the kitchen, we chose FunderMax panels for the apron, which is an alternative to painted glass.

Maya Baklan: "I wanted employees to bring their own books here"

M.G.: What interior features distinguish this office from others?

M.B.: The most unusual area is the library, a space where you can relax, get away from your routine work, think, change the environment, and be alone with your thoughts. I call it a "place of silence". There are old brick walls, high shelves (I want people to bring their books here), elegant velor chairs in a noble green hue, a French fireplace, an unusual lamp that gives accent decorative light - all these elements create a special, slightly mysterious atmosphere, which is complemented by wall paintings and sculptures.

But a "place of silence" can easily turn into a noisy space when employees gather for a party. For this format, we have provided a bar counter with all the necessary equipment, including a coffee machine.

MG: Tell us about the design of the bar. It looks very sculptural.

M.B.: We used tiles from the Spanish manufacturer Mutina to decorate it. In the process of implementation, we slightly expanded the counter in size, and the ordered material was not enough. Then an interesting fact came to light - it turned out that we were the first in Ukraine to work with this tile. I was very surprised. Since the deadlines were already very tight and we couldn't wait for an additional order, some of the elements were handmade by a Ukrainian ceramist.

Behind the bar, you can see a mural by Igor Selemenev on the wall, with a quote from the legendary Joy Division: "Love, love will tear us apart again".

Wall painting by Nikita Vlasov

M.G.: How did you come up with the idea of placing contemporary art on the territory of the office? How did you meet the artists and invite them? Who are they?

M.B.: I wanted to revitalize the workspace, bring art into it, so that artists could leave their mark. This project was my first collaboration with artists. I was introduced to them by Khrystyna Vlasova. Mykyta Vlasov, Ihor Selemenev, Lida Moroz, Sasha Bohomaz, Serhii Kondratiuk, Dima Tarasenko, Yura Musatov, Volodymyr Say, and Masha Kulikovska worked here. These are all young artists united by one creative collaboration - the Art Workshops of the Kyiv Institute of Automation, an art space on Tatarka. By the way, they have an open house every Tuesday, so you can come and get acquainted with the art, it's very interesting.

Working with artists means unwittingly becoming a participant in their extraordinary world. They are, you know, very subtle. Everyone wanted to work on the site alone, in silence, so that no one else would be present, would not interfere with immersion in art. But we had only a week to realize all the art objects and paintings, and we had to launch some processes in parallel. The society turned out to be very organized and managed to meet the deadline, although everyone says that creative people have the most difficulty with deadlines.

M.G: What ideas did the artists realize? What was the principle of placing the works?

M.B: In this project, I set out to create something positive, bright, and ironic, even if only black is used. I wanted the works to radiate joy and love of life. Each artist was given their own wall, not a canvas: I wanted the art here to be permanent, irreplaceable. I chose the places for future painting so that when looking at each of them from any angle, the artworks of other artists would not come into view, that is, no work would argue with the others.

Wall painting by Igor Selemenev

That's how Sashko Bogomaz's abstraction, Lida Moroz's Oyster Woman, and the black and white characters in Nikita Vlasov's office appeared. Ihor Selemenev, as I said, painted the wall behind the bar in the library and left a small plot on the terrace. Sergey Kondratyuk made a horizontal work on the wall in the meeting room. Dima Tarasenko created a very unusual print of colorful bananas in the Skype room.

Doesn't it look like wallpaper? As for sculptures, there are works by Yura Musatov - everything you see in the niches. These are ceramics. In the library, there is a sculpture of an elderly woman on a shelf made by Volodymyr Say. Masha Kulikovska has "walled" her feet in the wall - an art object made of resin. I really like such unusual details.

M.G.: Why is this project important to you personally?

M.B.: In the process of working on this project, I was lucky enough to meet very talented, cool professionals: both general construction contractors and manufacturers. And artists, of course. I will be happy to continue our cooperation in other projects. There is nothing more pleasant than meeting the "right" people to realize your ideas. It is really very valuable. And in general, it's great that we managed to realize such an unusual office interior that our team was able to think through everything to the smallest detail. I put my emotions, my soul, a lot of love into it and was in the process from the beginning to the very end.


You can read more about this interior in the article

Silence zone. office space by MAYA BAKLAN