Rem Koolhaas’s OMA Designs Office For… McKinsey?!

Here’s to hoping OMA got McKinsey-level billings in return.

When we first spotted photos of OMA‘s new offices for the consulting giant McKinsey & Company, in Hong Kong, we nearly did a spit-take. Here was the firm of vaunted Dutch starchitect Rem Koolhaas designing a workplace that looked worse than bad. It looked… boring.


Had Koolhaas — a high priest of provocation, who once erected a building that people actually believed drew inspiration from a porn star’s butt cheeks — finally lost his edge?

What a difference a few photos make. Additional shots featured on ArchDaily show an office that has glimpses of OMA’s trademark brainy style, one that toys with how to incorporate aspects of openness and flexibility in a business centered on privacy and tradition.

By introducing flexibility, McKinsey can squeeze more from its square feet.

The office is arranged into “horizontal bands,” to quote press materials, that for whatever reason take their cues from universal bar codes (Koolhaas loves himself some bar code). Each band serves a different function: there’s one for partners, one for research teams, one for staff, and one for clients. Within the bands, rooms aren’t just cubicles monopolized by a single person; they’re designed to be swapped and shared according to employees? needs. This is smart business. Management consultants spend an awful lot of time traveling. When they travel, their private offices go unused and the company spends more money than it should on real estate. But by introducing an element of flexibility, McKinsey can squeeze the most out of its square feet.

Elsewhere, OMA clearly took pains to give McKinsey a 21st-century office, without forcing employees to surrender too much privacy. The place has tons of glass (double-glazed to ensure conversations remain confidential), exposed ceilings here and there, and even open-plan work stations. Four circular glass booths, which look like teleportation devices and which flash red or orange depending on their vacancy, dot the open areas, providing a place for folks to talk in private and adding splashes of color to what’s otherwise a big symphony of beige.

Okay, so the design is no Seattle Central Library. But it’s about as hip as things will get for a conservative consulting firm, and it just might help change the corporate culture here, which — in typical Koolhaas fashion — would be downright radical.

[Photos via OMA and ArchDaily]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.