Optimising Santa – A Festive Fit Out

Since things are getting a little festive here at Paramount, and we’re running our own Christmas competition, we were reminded of something that caught our eye this time last year.

The Unbelievable Challenge, a competition by Helsinki Design Week and a Finnish construction company called Ruukki, asked architects from around the world to submit their plans for the “logistics center” from which Santa can run his toy operation. Almost 250 designers presented their ideas, including a workshop that was a giant, public climbing wall and, the winning design, a building that used two-way mirrors to make it invisible in the day and visible at night. All this talk of festive fit outs got us thinking!

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Images from unbelievablechallenge.com

‘TWAS FAST APPROACHING CHRISTMAS…

And the Design Team at Paramount were busy as usual Optimising Space. It occurred to us that maybe we could do the same for the chap we see only once a year on Christmas Eve! So we decided to have a bit of fun and, thinking ahead to the future, explored how we would approach the office design for a workplace used by Father Christmas and his Elves.

It’s not often that we get the opportunity to down tools so, as this is season to be jolly, what better way to end the year than with a bit of festive frivolity and a 60 minute speculative makeover for the big white-bearded guy in the red suit and hat.

HO-HO-HONING THE BRIEF

We decided to approach the project in the same we would if we were working on any other scheme, asking ourselves;

  • Who is the client?
  • When and where do they work?
  • What is the nature of their business?
  • How do they do their work?
  • What is the business culture?
  • And anything else that we felt was relevant.

You’d think that these questions would be fairly easy to answer but when we started to think about it, and what Santa and his little helpers actually do, a great debate ensued.

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Vivid images from films such as Elf and Rise of the Guardians inevitably came to the fore but we wanted to dig deeper than that, as we were talking about Father Christmas in the year 2015 and beyond. Surely he appreciates ‘good design’? Doesn’t he?

ANALYSING SANTA

When we started to break it down and think about it what he actually does throughout the year, we arrived at two options; does he spend 24 hours a day and 362 days a year overseeing operations (with one day on non-stop deliveries and then Christmas Day and Boxing Day off watching the TV?) or does he actually jet off to Hawaii for a very long holiday leaving the Elves to carry on?

We settled on the idea that, whilst he is undoubtedly a hard taskmaster (after all you’d need to be to create that many presents for that many children), he is probably a caring boss who values the efforts of his team and all of the individuals that dedicate their lives and souls to the cause that is Christmas.

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DECK THE TECH WITH LOTS OF DATA

With so many advances in technology, we discussed how this would probably play a huge part in the success of his preparations for the big day. Data analysis must be compiled throughout the year on every child in every village, town and city across the globe to determine whether they are going to feature on the naughty or nice list. In fact, this data could be controlled within a Central Command Centre, created using a central globe-like touch-screen media wall that magically hovers within the space around an invisible central axis. (We appreciate that this may have been inspired by one of the many Christmas films we’ve seen, but it’s certainly something that we all agreed on.)

Technology not only features here but also in a domed ceiling with giant interactive monitors that can retract in a Thunderbirds-style to expose the night sky. Oh, and this technology doesn’t have a back-up generator. It doesn’t need one. Because in the land of Christmas there is never a power cut or loss of broadband connectivity. Technology runs perfectly all of the time. Now there’s a Christmas wish that I’m sure we all share!

JOLLY GREEN SANTA

Despite all of this energy-sapping technology, the big guy and his helpers are more than aware of their environmental responsibilities. We felt that air conditioning wouldn’t even feature within this workplace, as the building would be naturally ventilated. Whilst they wouldn’t necessarily have any bicycle spaces or be within easy walking distance of a bus stop, this workplace would certainly be ‘BREEAM Excellent’ without a shadow of a doubt. Solar panels would feature on the roof, perhaps invisible to the naked eye for secrecy purposes. Which brings us onto the building.

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WHO WOULD LIVE IN A GROTTO LIKE THIS?

It was time to ask ourselves what the building would look like. Well, in this instance there were a number of ideas.

Jon suggested a couple of buildings that were akin to an iceberg shape or Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, for those of you who can remember the Christopher Reeve movie. Perhaps in Jon’s mind Father Christmas is a superhero who comes to save the lives of parents once every year by keeping children busy with their new toys on Christmas Day?

On the other hand, Gareth’s idea was a cylindrical shape with a domed roof, almost stadium-like with one single door to maintain strict control over who entered and exited the building, similar to a fortress.

Rachel’s idea was minimal in shape but massive in size; a cone-shaped building suspended in the sky by a single cloud with Father Christmas’ office sitting at the summit.

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And Ceri. Well, Ceri was mightily concerned about the interior. Top of her list was a bed for Father Christmas located in the main workplace so that he could relax whilst keeping an eye on proceedings. This however, would be located in the centre of the space and be the only domestically-furnished area of the entire building, accompanied by a leather Charles Eames reclining lounge chair, a contemporary log fire with a copper clad Tom Dixon-esque flue that extended all the way up and out of the domed roof, plus a shag pile rug! Ceri’s Santa was clearly an uber-chic follower of design trends!

SOMEWHERE TO BE BY YOURS-ELF

Away from the main area would be somewhere for the Elves to go and have a break. In the Ice Bar they can catch up over a pint. Whereas one of the numerous holographic rooms change into any environment, replicating a country’s culture so that they can gain a better understanding of the lives of the children they’re making toys for.

When they go to sleep each Elf has their own individual drawer, filled with crisp, white high-thread-count Egyptian cotton bedlinen (only the best for the Elves). These “elf-shelves” are located within storage-wall units, stacked as high as the eye can see.

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AN ICE PLACE TO WORK

We all agreed that the main workplace would be very white, with an almost igloo-like feel. Ice blocks would create walls and platforms that could be moveable to suit the line of toys being built. For accessibility, the elves would navigate the various levels via hover-boards… well, how else did you think they would get up to their beds for a nap?

These white, clinical-looking spaces would be broken up with living green walls, covered with shrubs and fruit-bearing plants that can provide food for both the Elves and reindeer.

If you thought we’d forgotten about the large globe that sits at the centre of the Command Centre containing all of Santa’s essential data, we hadn’t. On Christmas Eve it shrinks down to become a mini portable-satellite-navigation-system.

You heard it here first. The patent is on its way.

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Now we reach the final piece of the puzzle; transport. Does Father Christmas still travel by sleigh? You bet he does, only this one has a battery back-up so that when the reindeers get tired he switches into electric mode. Of course, in the middle of the night he would easily be able to stop at any vehicle re-charging point located around the world. He’d just need to make sure it was one of the fast-charge versions!

Rachel showed concern at this point that it may make him late but, as we all pointed out, there aren’t any traffic jams in the sky so he’d be just fine. Besides, Father Christmas is never late! Well, unless he’s maybe had one too many tipples.


So there you have it, our take on optimising Santa’s workshop. Not bad for 60 minutes. Actually, this would make a really good idea for a festive TV programme. Excuse us, we’re just off to call the BBC!

Before we go, we’d just like to wish everybody a very Happy Christmas from the Paramount Design Team. Here’s looking forward to an even more successful 2016!

Written by Helen Bartlett, Design Director

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