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Cemex Monterrey Mexico - Grimshaw
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Hal 9000 Cemex Computer Centre
Grimshaw Architects, London
Hal 9000 is a computer centre in Monterey, Mexico designed for Cemex; one of the most important cement producers in
Mexico. The brief asked for the design of a futuristic interior to reflect the image and vision of the company and to
impress important clients and visitors. The new building consists of a one storey high white box with only a few windows
in the office area. Due to the climate of Mexico and the function of the building a highly controlled environment was
requested and total security and flexibility for future demands were also priorities. The computer centre operates,
co-ordinates and controls the whole of the company's global production, stock and distribution and is in operation 24
hours a day, 365 days a year.
One of the most interesting challenges of the project was to define the use of different areas : to design a very
special environment for each room based on its function. A visitor to Hal 9000 will experience very different spaces
whilst moving through the building, much like a theatrical set. The lighting of the space plays a key role in the design
approach. A computer program has been set up for two very different lighting scenarios: one for the regular day to day
use and one for the special VIP visits.
Due to the very strict security, all visitors have to pass through a special security lock before finally entering the
centre. As soon as access clearance has been given, the heavy 3.00 x 3.00m stainless steel sliding door will open for
the visitor to enter a small enclosed space. The space will only be lit by indirect blue lighting through the
perforations in the stainless steel lining of the door. The visitors will step in and the door will close whilst red
gobos recessed in the ceiling illuminate, giving the impression of scanning the visitor. Only when the sliding door is
completely closed will the second set of doors opposite automatically open to allow access to the computer centre.
The blue light etched glass lenses in the floor will express an atmosphere of an 'ice house' reflecting this heavily
controlled environment for the highly sophisticated computer technology. The raised access floor with a cavity of 600 mm
has been constructed of standard 600 x 600 mm floor tiles covered in pattered stainless steel with 4 circular cut outs
filled with etched glass lenses with a clear circle in the middle. Through the circle of clear glass can be seen the
thousands of cables acting as the nerves of the computer centre. The total area of the void below has been installed
with standard fluorescents covered in blue gel. The etched glass lenses diffuse the light and give the space this icy
cool atmosphere relating to the high level of temperature control.
The control desk - the 'eye' of the whole operation - overlooks the computer area from a raised elliptical platform only
separated by a full height glass screen. The staff at the control desk work on a carpeted island below a highly
translucent textile ceiling providing warm indirect glare-free light for this highly computerised working area. The
computer room will generally only be lit by the blue lighting in the floor. If a problem arises and a member of staff
has to enter the space through one of the access controlled glass sliding doors, lights in the ceiling will be activated
by a movement sensor to provide a sufficient lighting level in the area required. Once this operation is completed and
movement is no longer detectable, the lights automatically switch off.
The two long side walls and structural columns have been unified by stainless steel mesh cladding suspended from the
concrete beams of the slab above to hide all structural columns and services. Stainless steel mesh of a different
pattern has been suspended from the slab as a suspended ceiling to hide services. The stainless steel mesh on the walls,
columns and ceiling reflects the blue light of the floor.
The end wall opposite the control desk shows a white tensioned sail wall, suspended from the slab. The wall can be used
as a projection screen for presentations to clients and also provides a visual focus point for the control desk
operators suffering from computer screen fatigue.