Sketch has recently moved its studio to a building located on the Central Avenue of the city, a pedestrian street near Panama’s Old Quarters, known for being the first commercial street in the city —a popular and busy one—, the original axis for the development of the city. Over time, and with new commercial and residential areas being developed in the outskirts of Panama City, the top floor apartments and offices lining this street were left in decay and used as storage spaces. The building housing Sketch’s studio date from 1930, originally designed to house the headquarters of the national electrical company, Fuerza y Luz.
The main approach for the project was to understand the spatial conditions and limitations of the original space, in order to address the design constraints as opportunities, rather than as problems; aiming to inhabit the slab in an intelligent, efficient and economical way, while using creative resources to maximize the experience and productivity at the workplace.
The studio’s program is simple: open working areas, a meeting room, storage and display areas for books and material samples, and service areas such as an open kitchen, dining room and bathroom. This simple brief along with the studio’s no-door policy led us to build the least amount of partitions possible and have a series of interconnected spaces generated by two walls and one steel frame partition that divide the space into useful areas, each with its own program. These are subtle gestures that seem to be independent from the original walls, and that have material qualities unexpected and visually contrasting to the prominent and heavy original structure.
Our ethos of exploiting the richness and physical characteristics of materials easily and inexpensively acquired is put to practice, using commonly overlooked or forgotten ones, such as fluorescent tubes, steel studs, ceramic tiles, and plywood to build and clad the few elements we use to divide the space. The furniture also plays an important role in the design concept. Most of them were designed and custom built for the studio, and serve as multifunctional and versatile elements that compose the space and highlight material qualities that are essential of a creative workplace.