Fran Silvestre designs for real interaction in a digital world

VALENCIA, Spain – In an era of near-total automation that enables us to do ‘just about anything’ online, physical face-to-face interaction is losing ground. But many people still prefer to be assisted by a real person in a real office. So when a utility company asked Fran Silvestre to design a customer-service office, he came up with ‘a space of interaction’ aimed at providing flesh-and-blood visitors with a surprising experience.

Entered from a picturesque tree-lined avenue in the 19th-century urban extension of Valencia, Spain, the office occupies a long corridor-like space that spans an entire city block. The elongated interior takes a 45-degree turn midway, coinciding with the triangular building perimeter yet creating awkward geometries that, together with existing architectural columns, make for poor visibility and confusing orientation. To establish user-friendly order and clarity, Silvestre regularized angular turns by overlapping orthogonal shapes.

Rectangular shapes create order and optical illusions in Fran Silvestre’s design.

 Resembling a figure-ground diagram, shades of grey on floor and ceiling ensure that each zone is contextually identifiable. On the ceiling, the pattern functions as a kind of signage system that makes different areas of the office recognizable from a distance. Reinforcing the overhead wayfinding aid is concealed linear lighting that simultaneously illuminates staff workstations. Information screens built into furniture hide existing columns.


The imposition of coherence is not without its playfulness. When viewed from certain vantage points, the floor and ceiling pattern produces an anamorphic optical effect that’s sure to entertain perceptive customers awaiting their turn. Visiting the real world does have its rewards.

Liked this article?
We've got more for you

Sign up to our newsletter for weekly updates. Or view the archive.