"Open office" has been a major buzzword for decades, and like any buzzword, some of the novelty has worn off. I don't believe we will abandon the open office, but I do think we need to focus on providing a dynamic mix of open and closed spaces.
"A building is not something you finish, a building is something you start."
—Writer and environmentalist Stewart Brand
While this might terrify some of my clients, I believe that Brand got it right. The workplaces we design will change and adapt long after the keys are handed over to the owner.
As designers, our job is not to design for one static time period, but to prepare spaces that are well-equipped to adapt to what the future brings- whatever that might be.
I recently had the opportunity to present on the future of corporate design at the Tandus Centiva Corporate Design Symposium, and there were several challenges that nearly every attendee had their eye on-including accommodating multiple generations, flexibility for retrofits, and balancing private/collaborative space. I loved hearing all of the different ideas, and adding them to my own ever-growing inspiration boards, and I would love to share them with you.
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First, let’s talk about the open office concept. "Open office" has been a major buzzword for decades, and like any buzzword, some of the novelty has worn off, leaving many worrying about productivity and the fate of the introverted worker.
I do not believe we will abandon the open office, but I do think we need to focus on providing a dynamic mix of open and closed spaces. A co-worker's immediate neighbors account for 40-60% of daily interaction, so it is beneficial to break down silos, open up sight lines and essentially expand the number of "neighbors" a worker encounters.
However, this approach should be balanced with spaces more suited for focused, individual work to accommodate different types of work as well as different generations. Here are some of my favorite flexible, dynamic workplaces:
Each of these spaces provides a variety of work options and with fewer permanent dividers and more open space, there is plenty of flexibility for future retrofits. According to the AIA, within 25 years, 75% of architect's commissions will not be for new construction, but for retrofits.
To promote more affordable, sustainable buildings in the future, owners and designers should keep future retrofits in mind, not only when designing interiors, but when integrating technology. Some firms, such as the real estate brokerage firm CBRE, have completely "untethered" employees from assigned workspaces, relying on laptops, tablets, headsets and other wireless technology that lets employees move freely throughout a space. This approach enables more affordable retrofitting by minimizing unwieldy technical equipment and easing transitions between different uses.
Technology-both current and future-has also inspired a rising design aesthetic. Check out these intriguing ideas.
I would love to hear more about what is inspiring you. Submit your comment here.
About the author
Anne-Marie Gianoudis, IIDA, LEED AP is an interior designer in Gresham, Smith and Partners’ Corporate and Urban Design market. Anne-Marie has more than 14 years of experience in interior design for corporate and healthcare facilities. More.