Capturing the essence of the city centre’s coffee shops, the e-spres-oh office in Timisoara, designed by Ezzo Design is one of the most interesting Romanian design projects I’ve seen lately. Envisioned as a shelter of creativity and relaxation, this place, that looks nothing like a typical, dull IT office, was designed with the employees in mind. To get a better understanding of “how” was this project possible, I went there (and knocked on their door) to convince myself that the place was really like everybody else described it to be. I stepped carefully inside and there it was, staring “ironically” at me: the other door. “Are you serious?!” As you enter the office, there’s this door that marks symbolically the entrance. “Beware of geeks” it says. I looked at it, I smiled (how could I not sketch a smile when seeing it) and then I started “my investigation”. I found myself walking around this inspirational and fun place, a small playground for grown ups – you know – a different type of wonderland projected specially for “the IT guys”.
The office displays an interesting mix of vintage and industrial elements and it occupies the second floor of the building, the third floor and the attic. Each floor is personalized and it surprises you with its warmth and particularities. “Right from the very beginning you are guided by the symbolical entrance which announces the experience you are about to see behind the door with an ironic message “beware of geeks”. As soon as your perception returns with a smile, you will discover the real story behind the door: although it is a space designed for offices, the atmosphere that wraps up the room is relaxing, being framed in wood and shabby-chic floors, the industrial pendants, not to mention that piece of wood pierced by screws in a shape that reveals the identity of this office placed on 3 levels: a cafe, an office and a lounge, under the same roof, but under a different dimension: e-spres-oh.” We had a short interview session with Ștefan Lazăr, the designer responsible with this project. We asked him a couple of questions and he was very excited to share some of the e-spres-oh stories.
1). Behind each project there’s an interesting story to tell. Can you tell us, Stefan, what does e-spres-oh mean to you? From the very beginning, we perceived the e-spres-oh office as a challenging project. The team had little time to come up with a whole concept. The project is a successful story, the success of all the Ezzo Design members. We all worked like crazy. We made plans, projects,we visited the place several times, we looked for the best prices and we coordinated ourselves, as a team, efficiently. What’s really important is that be managed to finish it in time.
2). The office is very breezy, creative and informal. Despite the fact that it looks like an advertising office, the “crew” is composed of IT specialists. What did you want to point out? Indeed, if you analyze it from the outside, it looks like the people that work here are not very creative and don’t really make use of creativity. The thing is that people have this idea that an IT specialist only needs a chair and a desk. And its keyboard, of course. The truth is that if you look at the big picture, you will understand that the work environment “is a powerful tool” and can influence people. Therefore, if you manage to establish a relationship between the employee and the work environment, there’s a good chance to increase the levels of efficiency and the effectiveness.
3). Why did you choose this mix: vintage – industrial? The path that leads to solving this “why” is simple. Nowadays, most of the coffee shops choose to personalise the interior with this mix of vintage – industrial. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. Our “playground”, e-spres-oh has probably embedded more coffee shop elements than office elements. Until we decided to put together this space, the guys used to have regular meetings…in less conventional “offices”. To be more specific: the coffee shops from the city centre. They were sharing ideas and discussing projects. To keep this sense of breeziness and an informal ambience, we wanted to deliver a place that grabs some of the familiar elements that made the IT team so efficient in its work. We managed to capture the essence of a coffee shop, yet we didn’t stop there. We tried to identify the team’s needs and adapted the place to those specific requests.
4). The guys from e-pres-oh told me that the desks were all custom-made. How did you choose the furniture? We didn’t “choose” it, we projected it. We had a budget and we had to work with it. Almost everything you see (in terms of furniture) was executed in Timisoara, with the help of some local studios. Criteria: basically, it’s impossible for us to put together so many elements and obtain a uniform style while sticking to the budget too. Then again, this particular industrial style we’re displaying is not something you can find in stores.
5). There is a place that everybody compliments but also avoids. The suspended net from the attic. What is its’ purpose and what type of employee does it “target” ? The net serves a relaxing function and at the same time replaces need of a handrail. Naturally you need to overcome some fears to be able to get on it and relax, but in the end that is all the beauty of it.
6). I have observed that every floor of the office is personalised. Did you take into consideration all functions and responsibilities of employees from each level (e.g. 2nd floor marketing and design, third floor for soft) or how did you vision the setting? I would reply here with a simple and firm “YES”. A determined with no explanations answer is also needed.
7). e-spres-oh looks impeccable. How much work lays behind this project ? Hard to say. If we’d be standing face to face, I would probably open my arms at maximum point and indicate a maximal dimension that I can explain only through body language and would add the words: “Look, this much!” Albeit being “body and soul” present in the project, I was not alone and finished with the aid of my colleagues: Mario Stoica, Izabela Feher, Valentin Popescu si Alex Starc. You should imagine that we had targets and tasks that we accomplished in shortest time possible in the best way we could. From my point of view, at some point I managed to write down what I remembered at the end of the project: “ 3 months, 316 emails, 5120 hand made knots, 500 meters of rope, a 300 kg countertop for the bar, 73 daily phone call conversations, approximately 1200 phone calls, 160 light bulbs, 1 fan, 300 square meters of flooring, one logo built from 840 TN profiles, 6 Excel documents, 4000 km travelled, 80 pallets, 30 days for designing, 8 days for technical specifications, 5 people involved in the project, 58 wooden shelfs, 2 cubic meters of processed oak, 6000 lamelar dowel pins, over 3500 screws and bolts, 40 kg of lacquer, 28 kg of glue, 850 kg of metalic profiles, 12 kg of black paint, over 3 tons of furniture brought up by hand on every floor, more than 480 hours of carpenting and about 400 metal braided elements … “
8) What can you share from the project that holds a humorous view ? ( e.g. story of a decorative item, bed, flooring etc. ) There is probably a wonderful bouquet of hilarious moments. I will try and describe one of them: I was in the electrical appliances store. I present myself as a designer and I ask to be shown what lighting elements they have for the exterior. The polite salesman shows me every latest technology iteam he has. I stop him and ask him to show me some of those “ugly” elements that nobody buys. The now ashamed salesman tells me he might have something, but he has some reservations about them, but in the end he shows them to me. They were perfect, exactly what I needed! I asked him to show me more of what other products he has around the shop, but they have to be equally “ugly”. I bought almost all the gentleman had unsold and ugly, at the end, perplexed, the person asks if he understood well from the start. “Are you really a designer ?”