We got connected to another exciting project in Belgium through our process of collaborating with Marc Merckx on the Robey hotel in Chicago in 2014. Marc knew the family behind the Belgian outdoor furniture company Tribù really well. Tribù is one of the world leaders in their field, and it is a second-generation family business. Their offices and production hall didn’t work from the same geographical locations and they wanted to join the two operations in one single place, and at the same time build new offices that didn’t feel like offices. In fact, they wanted offices that would feel like the opposite of offices. They wanted a building with a strong architectural language, but understated, which would also serve as a backdrop for their collections of outdoor furniture, but housed within an impressive building in a remote but stunning location. They wanted their building to fit their company’s ethos of silently working to a high level of perfection with a down-to-earth, detail-oriented style. There was so much compatibility between the values and vision of the client and of our firm, which is part of the reason why this project was so successful.
We came up with a long linear structure organized in parallel with the production hall. To fit it into a relatively industrial but rural area, we came up with a raw, board-marked concrete structure on the outside, but something almost homey on the inside, with natural light, a central circulation, and warm minimal interiors. The board-marked concrete links the woodlands with the industrial zone where the building is located and communicates that this is a place of work and craftsmanship. A transition happens as soon as you open the door, and you are immersed in the warm teak veneer walls that run through the whole building and that creates a contrast with the brutalist structure you meet outside. There is a direct connection between the two ideas, industry and comfort, and that creates a compelling surprise. We created a rhythm of repeating concrete columns that was inspired by the “columns” of pine trees in the surrounding area. Since the company sells outdoor furniture, we tried to bring the outdoors in as much as possible through high ceilings and huge windows, framing the beautiful products that Tribù offers. It is also worth noting that this project was realized to the highest standards of environmental sustainability, which is fitting given that this project also served to further cut carbon emissions by removing the physical transportation previously needed between the production and sales arms of the company.