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BP has unveiled slick new offices for its Rotterdam refinery (RR), the largest and youngest oil processing plant in the Netherlands. The goal here, according to the architects, Rotterdam-based Group A, was to provide a "building that expresses and accommodates the objectives of the company, including providing a sustainable, safe and healthy working environment…" Let’s repeat that: "sustainable, safe and healthy." BP. The guys behind the largest accidental oil spill in history. Go ahead, retch.

We suppose if you have to build an oil refinery, and you have to staff it, you might as well give employees a pleasant place to work. Group A has certainly whipped up an attractive building. It’s got lots of natural light. It has pretty timber slats on the walls designed to "evoke an association with geological layers; a reference to the business activities of BP RR" (a stretch, but okay). And it has conference rooms in cool, cantilevered "skyboxes" perched over the atrium. Group A’s press release doesn’t offer much specific evidence of a "sustainable" workplace, though, except for this: one side of the building faces the green, watery landscape of Brielle lake (the other side faces the refinery); and they’ve built an artificial dune to guard against possible explosions at the plant. A welcome gesture, seeing as how BP is rather accident prone.

So that’s good news. Employees won’t die in a fiery blast. Still, the project feels a bit like making a comfortable electric chair. Sure, you can appreciate the kernel of humanity that went into it. But all the padding and ergonomic tweaks in the world do little to detract from the ultimate purpose. An electric chair kills people. And BP is, well, BP.

[Images courtesy of Group A]

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