Gone are the days when traveling meant hopping on a tour bus filled with strangers, following someone with a flag, and being forced to go to tourist traps you’re not interested in at all. Now, with various apps and websites, it’s possible to customize your own tour with specific destinations and unique experiences, and all within your budget.
With the concept of travel turned on its head, the same can be said about office design. Stifling office cubicles have gone the way of attaché cases (remember those?). Open plan office layouts and flexible meeting areas have become the norm, reflecting a more fun, relaxed, and inclusive way of running businesses.
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This type of “office on vacation” is seen in the new, 500sqm Metro Manila headquarters of Klook, a travel booking platform that offers tour packages, plane and train tickets, and even WiFi, along with helpful travelers’ tips and regular lifestyle blogs. The platform focuses more on actual experiences than on cookie-cutter tours, giving their users memorable travel experiences.
The relatively young Hong Kong-based company (it was launched in 2014), garnered its “unicorn” status last 2018, according to this article, with more than US$520 million in funding. Klook is expected to reach US$1 billion in sales, allowing it to expand with even more offices all over the world. And with their brand-new office at The Curve in Bonifacio Global City, the company took on the youthful team of FADZ Design and Construction Inc. to work on their Metro Manila headquarters.
Work as play
Right after the screened-off reception area, visitors enter the main lounge or “town hall,” where guests can be received or where staff can lounge about while enjoying a view of BGC. The two wings of the 500sqm space are divided into the primary office space and Huddle Areas on the left and an Interactive Lobby, pantry/kitchenette, and meeting rooms to the right.
The seating areas are more lounge-y than corporate, the kitchenette feels like it belongs in a hip restaurant, and there are plenty of spots where staff can shoot off steam, chat, or even play a friendly game of air hockey. There is an obvious air of relaxation and fun in the entire space, and it is not accidental.
According to Guio Carlo Baniqued, FADZ Design and Construction’s principal architect, the key words “Rest, Motivate, and Play” were used as a guide in designing Klook’s offices. “’Rest’ could be seen in the nice selection of homey furniture, the scenic view of the metropolis, and the warm ambience of the place; ‘Motivate’ is embodied by the different set of workplaces where you can adjust your mood, and ‘Play’ is seen in the vibrant color and playful set of material patterns,” the architect shares.
A bit of mod, a lot of Pinoy
There are more than 20 international Klook offices, and each workplace around the world has subtle touches of its host country’s culture, but with a modern spin, and with the Klook color of bright orange in it. The Metro Manila office, however, goes all in by using Filipino style as a major theme in its overall design.
“During our interview and meetings with their office, we found out that they wanted to have a collaborative space, with an open plan and high-ceilinged vibe, and that they wanted to inject a Filipino flavor that at the same time, would reflect their travel business,” says Baniqued.
The design team zeroed in on the bahay na bato as inspiration. The traditional Filipino dwelling from Spanish colonial times is a more permanent stone-and-wood version of the nipa bahay kubo. The main living areas of a bahay na bato are in an open plan, with a communal-style setup wherein all members of the family can congregate. “From the Filipino elements of the bahay na bato, we got the open plan concept,” explains Baniqued. “With this concept, we wanted to promote collaboration, which in turn would increase productivity and happiness in the office.”
Other design elements of the bahay na bato were implemented and modernized into various details seen throughout the office, like in the pierced wooden panels in the main lounge, which are stylized versions of Filipino calado wood panels, and the patterned ceramic tiles of the kitchenette, which are reminiscent of the Machuka tiles that are the flooring of choice in ancestral Filipino homes. The rest of the mod-Pinoy look was completed with the furniture and accessories.
“With the furnishing of the common areas, the direction that FADZ gave me was to relate the furniture and lighting to the Spanish-Colonial style with a modern-tropical look. This is to set the Manila office’s design apart from the other international offices,” says interior designer Tala Singson, who worked as a design consultant for the project. “I thought of approaching local furniture brands, as they already offer pieces with beautiful textures and local, innovative materials. I also thought of mixing in non-local brands with clean silhouettes to give the space an international feel, since Klook is a worldwide travel and booking platform.”
In the main lounge area, contemporary furniture pieces from Our Home and Habitat mingle with Filipino-designed pieces from Pampanga furniture company A. Garcia, and playful wicker swing sets from Casa Consunji. “To achieve the tropical style that they required, I turned to material and texture with rattan planters and woven furniture pieces,” Singson adds. “I also peppered the space with various potted tropical trees in varying heights.” This lushness in the lounge makes you feel like you are on vacation in a tropical resort, rather than sitting in an office lobby.
A focus on flexibility
There is a general office space where the Klook team uploads their content on the website. But the overall layout, with its semi-private Huddle Areas, meeting rooms that are decorated like popular travel destinations (there are Bali, Hong Kong, and Barcelona-inspired rooms) and a Town Hall for big meetings complete with Pinoy sorbetero ice cream cart, everyone is encouraged to work wherever they are comfortable.
This flexibility also translates to an openness among teammates, better communication, and camaraderie. “We wanted to bring a homey environment to the workplace, as this can result in employees spending more time there, while feeling motivated, but relaxed,” Baniqued shares.
And so, this office is somewhat like you’re at work, but also like you’re on vacation. Well, consider us booked. Check out Klook here.
Banner photo: From left: Tropical touches are seen in the palms in planters from C&C and Nest, and in the rattan and wicker pieces throughout the lounge, such as these tables from A. Garcia, and a lounge swing from Casa Consunji; This kitchenette, located right off the Main Lounge, is where the company hosts lunches for the staff. It also serves as a pantry. The multi-patterned tiles were chosen as a reference to the colorful Machuka tiles used in bahay na bato flooring.
Photographs courtesy of FADZ and Tala Singson