Microsoft KL head office reflects Malaysia’s diversity of cultures, art and environment

A leading global vendor of computer software really has to understand and showcase the dynamism of the modern office in its own spaces – turns out humanism and culture are key players

Story by: Charles Moxham Photography by: Shea Studio
The reception desk in the new Microsoft KL architecture, ceiling, interior design, lobby, brown
The reception desk in the new Microsoft KL offices is made from recycled forest timber, while the perforated ceiling evokes sunlight filtering through a dense tree canopy.

Contemporary office design isn’t just now turning a corner from claustrophobic, hierarchical cubicles to open, egalitarian spaces – it’s already done that. This fit-out of the new Microsoft offices in Kuala Lumpur by SL Group Design (a member of the Steven Leach Group) goes further, tackling the modern workspace at a humanistic/cultural level.

Microsoft has evolved over the past few decades, both as a company and a design partner, says Steven Leach’s lead designer on the project, Sara Shaib.

“It’s gone from an organisation of hallways and private cubicle/desk areas to one where staff work in adaptable creative idea-space environments, as well as co-shared workspaces and working in cafes and collaboration rooms. With this fit-out, we’re stretching the limits even further to enhance communication, a sense of belonging and teamwork.”

The new offices are in an ideal setting for a forward-looking global company’s local base. The modern fit-out covers one and a half floors in an existing five-year-old LEED platinum-certified tower surrounded by public amenities and with many other corporate office towers in the vicinity.

In this central setting, Microsoft asked Steven Leach Kuala Lumpur to create a new intelligent workplace with components and defining characteristics that would create a distinctive visual and experiential brand language – all part of a Microsoft Intelligence Workspace programme.

“We addressed this by creating a distinctive, inspiring personality that uniquely portrays a new Microsoft KL look that responds to and celebrates the location and diverse cultures in Malaysia.”

Steven Leach took an inclusive approach to this. The fit-out references everything from Malaysian geography, natural resources and architecture to Malaysian games, and arts and crafts.

“We approached these themes by zoning them into spaces or neighbourhoods. Seen together, they give the Microsoft offices a flowing journey experience that starts as soon as visitors enter the main reception space.”

Two of the most dramatic examples of this are the main reception and the cafe/breakout space.

“The reception references Malaysian geography, with the rainforest theme as a starting point,” says Shaib. “The feature ceiling in this area evokes a sense of the dense Malaysian tree canopy, with lights penetrating the foliage to create a dappled effect much like sunlight on the forest floor.”

This cafe/breakout hub in the new Microsoft offices ceiling, interior design, lobby, orange, brown
This cafe/breakout hub in the new Microsoft offices in Kuala Lumpur by Steven Leach Group includes a curved dropped ceiling, evoking local village architecture in the culture-imbued fit-out.

Further building on this concept, the substantial timber wall behind reception subtly references a large tree trunk, while a dark grey and cream two-tone wall in a wavy pattern calls to mind rock caves and vegetation.

Down the open corridor with this feature ‘cave’ wall and past the training/multipurpose rooms lies another space that really stands out in the design.

“The cafe/breakout space is equally evocative. Here, we created a village (or kampung) concept, whereby a variety of elements represent the pitched roofs and timber slat walls seen in a local village environment. In addition, batik printed cloth and carved battens represent craft works which are normally found in the villages.”

A feature of the Microsoft KL fit-out, vibrant interior design, lobby, real estate, gray, black
A feature of the Microsoft KL fit-out, vibrant concertinaed ceiling panels evoke the look of colourful Indian bangles, while graphics in the break out/pantry zone are equally eye-catching

These are only some of the feature elements in a surprising fit-out that includes a futuristic take on an old-fashioned phone booth as a privacy booth and even a carpet that also references batik cloth. Vibrant colours run throughout the fit-out and no two meeting rooms appear exactly the same.

“Plants play a major role in the fit-out, too,” says Shaib. “The location, size, and types of plants used was closely considered as these were a key way of connecting with the natural world in the design.”

And along with the prominent touches of living greenery, the fit-out has another ‘green’ influence.

“As the Microsoft KL office is in a LEED Platinum certified building, we carried the spirit of sustainability forward in the design wherever possible. The office has motion sensor lighting throughout – greatly reducing electricity usage – and most large elements here, such as the carpets, paints etc, are green-conscious.”

Even the eye-catching reception counter is shaped from salvaged Malaysian raintree timber.

Dec 03, 2018

Credit list

Microsoft KL, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
SIC – Superb Impression Creationz
Cost and project management
Turner & Townsend
Dorma, Resilient by Resilient Marketing
Interface Carpet, from Carpet Ideas; Novalis vinyl, from BE Décor
Ekous acoustic wallcovering by Taz;Sangetsu wallpaper by XS Wallcovering; Eco Wall Whispertex by Goodrich Global
ICI Paints
Office chairs
Herman Miller-Sayl chair and Cobi High Stool, from Steelcase (existing, reused)
Loose furniture suppliers
Meek Concept; Quel International; Abitex Design; Rattan Art Enterprise
Laminated Privacy Glass, from Innoglass; Phone Booth by Framery; laminates – Wilsonart, Lamitak, Formica, by EDL
Interior design
Martin Axe, Sara Shaib, Ikhwan Razali – Steven Leach Group
Mechanical and electrical engineer, fire consultant:
JRP – J Roger Preston
Windows, doors, partition systems
Custom-built by SIC
Mermet Sunscreen
Custom Metal Perforation Ceiling from DML Products; base building ceiling tile; ceiling feature by SIC
Nexus, EuroLight, Evolux Light Fitting, from Exin Lighting System Solutions
Frameone and all system furniture from Steelcase (existing, reused)
Reception desk
Custom, built by SIC in salvaged raintree timber, from Art of Tree
Green wall and potted plants from Midorie Malaysia
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