By Desmond Bentley
Working in the Israeli branch of aircraft manufacturer Boeing in a central Tel Aviv office block is a pretty special experience. So much so that the 450-square-meter space was recently designated one of the world's 20 coolest offices by Autodesk
(makers of the drafting program AutoCAD), the architecture website Architizer
and the entrepreneur site Inc.com
Boeing, a multinational company, opted for an Israeli designer for its new representation center, a sort of embassy for the company that opened in July 2005. Boeing invited the country's top architects to submit designs, eventually selecting Auerbach HaLevy, based in Airport City close to Ben-Gurion International Airport.
The central motif is imagery from the world of flight, with huge windows reminiscent of an airport and models of Boeing's breakthrough designs -- from WWI fighter planes to modern stealth fighters and spacecraft -- seen through a wall of airplane windows.
It's almost as if the offices were designed to make employees and visitors feel like they were flying -- an office in the sky.
Entering the office space, the message is clear: "Boeing is a serious, innovative technology company with a deep history," says the designer, Ori Halevy, a partner in Auerbach HaLevy. "Everything about the design is extremely exact. That's my interpretation of what Boeing represents."
With its clean, precise lines, horizontal divisions, vivid colors and state-of-the-art trappings under the glow of natural daylight, the space exudes an ambiance of calm efficiency.
"The lines are restrained. It has to be subtle -- after all, it's a place of work," Halevy points out.
Halevy used mainly glass, stainless steel and terrazzo casting in the design, "materials that can be made according to highly-exact dimensions," he points out.
The office space also has to be adaptable. "Certain elements are modular in design," Halevy notes. "It's not a large office, so it wasn't too complicated to solve. Functionality is central to the design."
Sense of direction
"The demands Boeing made were only of a functional nature -- the number and size of offices and conference rooms, for example. The interpretation they left up to me. Not only did the company not get involved -- they actually encouraged me and supported my ideas, such as the glass," he says.
"Glass is the overriding element. The idea of transparency and natural light was obvious to me from the outset. The office is on the 16th floor and offers a panoramic view of Tel Aviv below, with the sea to the west and hills in the distance to the east."
In fact, the skyline practically dominates interior views, creating a feeling that Halevy describes as "a cocktail of business class and cockpit."
The constant presence of a visual history of the company's products gives employees and visitors a sense of Boeing's direction and vision. The airplane window cubby-holes are dedicated to displaying some of the airplanes, helicopters and jets that made Boeing a giant of its industry.
‘Cool’ is timeless
The Tel Aviv offices were among 25 projects worldwide showcased in a recent editorial spread on Inc.com showing how intelligent design and innovative space planning can create a workplace that is more than a sum of its parts.
"Office design in the creative age is as much about branding and creating an innovative atmosphere as it is about workstations and efficiency. Company culture finds its physical manifestation in the workplaces of today's most forward thinking outfits. Firms small and large are tapping design talents to outfit their workspaces," the website notes.
Employees in the office always know what the weather is outside
What makes Boeing's offices, designed on a budget of NIS 1.5 million (about $350,000), so cool?
"It's not up-to-date trendy, nor is it conservative or retro," says Halevy. "If you come back in 10 years, you'll have the same feeling – it's timeless."
Most importantly, he says, the feedback from Boeing's staff has been only positive. "They tell me that they really like it. One manager said that what he likes is the feeling of being outside. Much of the time there's no need for artificial lighting, and at any given moment you know what the weather is like."
Boeing Israel's business support manager, Dorit Shaashua, who has been at the company for 39 years, says she finds the design conducive to getting real work done.
"This is a challenging business, and we need to be on our toes," she says. "It's a great place to work in."