While 20th-century workplace trends were led by US companies, the high-rise, high-tech offices of the future are being pioneered in Asia. Architects Woods Bagot have designed a ‘vertical campus’ in Jakarta for PT Telkom, Indonesia’s largest telecommunications company. When completed, it will bring together 8,000 staff in 25 corporate entities from buildings all over the city, partly in order to get them talking to each other.

Replicating the Qualities of a Horizontal Campus

“They were very interested in having a corporate campus mentality,” says John Britton, principal at Woods Bagot, based in San Francisco. “They asked us to replicate the qualities of a horizontal campus. They said, ‘What would it take to create a workplace that would be unique for us?’ ”

The scheme is on the city’s main thoroughfare and currently comprises three buildings of 16, 22 and 48 storeys, linked by a multi-storey podium. “There needs to be a fabric that links the buildings, so the podium provides all those amenities that you would see across a horizontal campus – everything from gathering spaces, to food and beverage, theatres, medical clinics and gyms. The horizontal spine connects the three buildings, but it’s also the cultural connection.” When the distribution of amenities is mapped out on paper, the vertical campus doesn’t look too different from the horizontal one.

A Series of Three-Storey Atria Provides Connectivity Between Floors

What really sets a vertical campus apart from a conventional office tower is the connectivity between different floors. “We did a survey with the client to find out the maximum number of floors people would be willing to walk, and it turned out to be about three before they got into an elevator.” The result is a series of three-storey atria spinning down through the building, rotating from the common core to balance the structural loads. Spaces are connected by staircases to encourage free movement between floors, and filled with natural light.

“We’ve tried to incorporate active uses, we want them to be very active, very visible areas. We’ve got meeting pods and work areas on the ground floor of the atria, and we want people to come down and collect in these various spaces.”

New Vertical Campus in Kuala Lumpur

The PT Telkom tower is a tailor-made response to one organization’s needs. But Asian developers are also leaping on vertical campus ideas to set their schemes apart from the competition. Woods Bagot is also designing the speculative Tradewinds Square development in Kuala Lumpur, which will comprise 500,000m2 and have a population of 18,000. There will be a 625m office tower and a 325m mixed-use tower of residential and serviced apartments, again linked by a podium with 100,000m2 of retail and amenity space.

The idea is to get this spiralling connectivity, more collaborative space, breakout space, dynamic space, more light and air throughout the building.
John Britton, Woods Bagot

The Spiralling Connectivity

The design envisages the office building as five 15-storey tiers, each one comprising about 40,000m2. Between each tier, there are two mechanical floors, and two sky lobby transfer floors. “There is the potential to market a tier as a package to class A international corporate clients and allow them to tailor it to their uses,” says Britton. “So if a company wanted to take a very campus-like approach, with breakout rooms, cafeteria, small theatres, they could capitalize on those interstitial spaces. There’s close to 6,000m2 available on each set of transfer floors, so there’s an opportunity in how you develop them.”

“The client was very interested in the application of atria to the project. There are a lot of different strategies for how you do that, and it does not have to apply in every tier if the market demands larger floorplates. But the idea is to get this spiralling connectivity, more collaborative space, breakout space, dynamic space, more light and air throughout the building.”

Stand out in a Crowded Market

The campus approach may mean sacrificing office space, but it also helps you to stand out in a crowded market, says Steve Hargis, global workplace leader at Woods Bagot. “There’s quite a bit going on in KL and there is potential for market saturation. So how do you become the go-to building? What sets your development apart from the next? It’s a future-proofing discussion.”

Advantages of the Vertical Campus

The vertical campus may even offer an advantage over the horizontal version, suggests Hargis, especially where it includes apartments too. He has watched Silicon Valley campuses grow from a few buildings to dozens, sometimes hundreds. “It was used to be about being compact and secure, and controlling your future – you could expand across the street, or you could contract,” he says. As companies have grown, distances between buildings become unwieldy and circulation is increasingly about bikes, buses and cars. The distances between spaces on a vertical campus are significantly shorter in comparison.

“The proximity of residential really changes the game,” says Hargis. “That’s something that the corporate world is really struggling with on a horizontal campus. In a denser urban environment, it’s much easier to get that work-live-learn-play model, which is one of the key components of making a campus work.” 


More on this subject