MtM Design Architecture and Design Management St Louis
Case Study:

Obax Worldwide Ltd.

Building Type: Administrative Offices and Conference Center
Total Square Feet: 65,600 sq. ft. Five Stories
Year: Designed 2012 / Construction on Hold

Architectural Design, Interior Space Planning, Preliminary Engineering

The new Obax Worldwide Ltd. office building is designed to establish a modern and professional base of operations within the urban limits of Benin City, Edo, Nigeria. Our assignment was to provide facility programming, a schematic design solution including architecture and preliminary building service systems, and bridging documents for the client’s use in obtaining proposals from Nigerian design-build teams. Our discrete objectives: to provide a facility that is responsive to Obax’s current and future needs, to develop a programmatically and aesthetically superior solution, to provide a design that is economically constructible in a technologically developing construction market, and to provide an operationally efficient building. The proposed design solution reflects the internal quality standards and the significant emerging corporate brand identity of Obax in the international marketplace.

The project provides a state-of-the-art administration facility that will support both regional and international business operations from the urban center of Benin City. The location will conveniently supplement Obax industrial headquarter facilities some 45 kilometers distant in the Niger River delta. The business needs identified have been accommodated in approximately 50,000 square feet of gross measured area. In satisfying this building program, the design must also solve many conflicting and competing factors associated with the building site. While complementary and synergetic to Obax’s larger industrial campus, the site is extremely confined and narrow for a project of the scale envisioned. With a total site area of approximately 12,380 square feet and a scale limit of 5 stories above grade, the site must necessarily be developed to its maximum potential leaving no open area of significant scale. The infrastructure of civil utilities servicing the site is highly limited. Adjacent lots are developed with structures of significantly smaller scale and lesser quality. These constraints provide a challenging context within which to build, and have helped to inspire an innovative and technically robust building design.

MtM Design has provided a solution that will present a strong, definitively contemporary presence in the city; a structure that will, through the building form and its details, reflect Obax’s unique forward-thinking business approach as well as the solidity of its successes.

Building Characteristics

The exterior design of the building combines sensitivity to the existing surroundings with an exciting aesthetic, which can act as a catalyst for future surrounding development. The design also utilizes materials that are consistent with Benin City’s existing construction, especially reinforced concrete and concrete masonry.

It was intended that the building would engage its immediate context in terms of the rich street level environment and offer a lively and architecturally interesting addition to the streetscape. This is accomplished through the spatially dynamic massing of the west building façade which features a large lobby terrace to link indoor / outdoor activities to the street environment. The large mass of the building is also presented visually as a series of smaller volumes in an effort to avoid overt and imposing monumentality at the street. The street context is dominated by cars and movement, and the building’s auto court feeds off of this energy, yet it is softened by garden spaces flanking the drives and located around the Check-in Station. At the same time, it was intended that the main building mass be elevated above this street activity to offer enhanced views and a unique vantage point to its occupants while accommodating the necessary circulation at ground level.

The building’s general design approach presents the balancing of a series of contrasting qualities. It is an effort to strike a balance of presence and of form. The exterior of the building speaks in a contemporary and modern language. The approach to materials is intended (in the use of cast concrete for example) to suggest a certain ancient, if not timeless, essence while the integration of sleek metal details and expanses of cool green glazing reference a contemporaneous, more forward leaning or futurist demeanor. The solidity of the design expresses a feeling of strength, while its elegance helps to express a sense of dignity. In general, the materials are time-tested, easily maintainable and durable, so the building will age with grace.

Aside from the front façade, the exterior walls are combined into a singular and continuous wrapping plane of cast architectural concrete. It encloses the elevated stories above the ground floor arrival area. The cementitious enclosure is canted outward gently from its lower to upper running edges as it defines the boundaries of the site on the three non-public sides. The resulting “wrapper” unifies the expression of the building into a single form that is broken only on the west façade where the building opens to its “origin” at the street. There are select areas of glazing of varying size and type that ranges from large expanses of curtain wall style glazing in the NE façade to a variety of punch openings in the NE and SE facades. The “large glass” of the curtain wall allows occupants to reconnect with views northward to downtown and the city center. It is also the dominant day lighting membrane into the interior workspaces. The composition of the punched openings in the solid areas of the wrapper is kinetic and rationally randomized. This helps to defuse monumentality and link the surface quality of the façade to the chaotic diversity of the surrounding buildings. The continuity of the “wrapper” is reinforced by its basic curvilinear nature. A series of inset horizontal bands lend dynamism to its massiveness. This energizing quality is amplified by the fact that the building “floats” above the site on a series of slender concrete columns. The concrete wall surface above is mirrored by the concrete perimeter wall defining the site limits below. The west street facing elevation is designed to be light, transparent and welcoming, a glassy public face that openly conveys the many business activities of Obax staff and their guests to passerby while bringing views of the city beyond deep into the building.