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When Gensler employees come to work at the company’s new downtown offices, they’ll be able to set up in one of at least six workspaces. If they’re feeling stressed out, they can step into a “wellness room” to decompress. Those who bike to work will be able to take an elevator straight into the office, which will have its own bicycle storage.

“A lot of people ride their bikes to work and it seems like we’re getting even more, so we decided to accommodate a large number of bikes in the work area,” said Gensler’s Vince Flickinger, who was part of the team that designed the company's new space in 2 Houston Center.

The architecture firm signed a lease earlier this year for 50,000 square feet on two floors of the building at 909 Fannin, part of the larger Houston Center office complex on the eastern end of downtown. The company will relocate from Pennzoil Place once construction on the new space is complete.

San Francisco-based Gensler is known for its high-end corporate interiors. In recent years, its Houston office has implemented more of the design trends it studies and carries out for its clients, which include some of this region's top law practices, financial institutions and energy firms.

The new space will bring even more forward-thinking design.

About 70 percent of the Houston 288-person office will focus on so-called agile working, where employees can choose from a variety of workplace settings, whether it’s outside on a patio, in a huddle room or at a stand-up desk.

One section of the office will house mobile work stations that can be fully reconfigured. All workspaces throughout the office will have sit-to-stand capabilities.

“We like to see our office as a testing ground,” Flickinger said.

A design lab will include a makerspace with 3D printers, a virtual reality testing space and a shop area for making architectural models. The firm’s materials library will be twice the size of its current footprint in Pennzoil Place.

Employees will have access to a “sensory-lined wellness room” with adjustable light and sound systems to create a calming atmosphere. Gensler designers also plan to use the room for research on how sight, smell, touch and sound affect the workplace. Other quiet areas will encourage employees to relax without electronics.

“As you have more open areas some times some people just need to get away,” Flickinger said. “Not focus rooms or huddle rooms, but rooms for you to separate yourself from the working environment to get refreshed.”

Houston Center has its own amenities for tenants, including a fitness center, shops and restaurants. The complex is in the throes of its own renovation, which Gensler designed for landlord Brookfield.
As our understanding of wellness grows more complex, designers are thinking about the full life cycle of products they are specifying for the workplace.

While our understanding of what is attributed to wellness has changed, we have far to go in practice. When they specify products and materials, workplace designers are thinking beyond occupant health to that of everyone throughout the cycle of production. Similarly, we’re not just concerned with indoor air quality or toxins, but also movement and social interactions as daily rituals—in short, our happiness, not just our safety. Our environment must take center stage: What’s good for the planet is good for us.

We asked specifiers at COOKFOX and IA Interior Architects—two firms with reputations for supporting well-being and sustainability—for examples of what products they turn to in support of wellness at work.

Through their selections, one can see the wide range of concerns and corresponding standards or certifications that are shaping workplace design today. Red lists of toxic chemicals, standards for emissions levels, and new strategies for recycling materials—these and other tools are proving to be vital in building spaces that help people be happy and work safely.

The nine products below represent selections by Bethany Borel from COOKFOX and by Robert Atkinson, Tanya Davis, and Steven South from IA Interior Architects.

BAUX Acoustic Wood Wool Panels Responsibly sourced wood fibers make up the “wool” woven into these panels, which are moisture resistant, fire retardant, and recyclable. baux.se

BENTLEY MILLS Wanderlust This cradle to cradle silver carpet tile takes the hazards out of its fibers, backing, and adhesives to protect installers and occupants alike. bentleymills.com

GEIGER Brabo Lounge craftsmanship, material transparency, and sustainable practices elevate this collection above industry standards, attaining Indoor AdvantageTM gold certification. geigerfurniture.com

KVADRAT Divina The textile boasts six environmental achievements in material composition that include GREENGUARD Gold and LBC Red List compliance. maharam.com

INTERFACE Visual Code This collection is made with 100 percent recycled-content nylon, is treated with EPA-approved preservatives for longevity, and has achieved Green Label Plus status. interface.com

MUSHLUME Trumpet Pendant This biofabricated pendant light is grown from mushroom mycelium and is completely biodegradable. flowandchaos.com

STICKBULB Bough Elegance meets eco-minded design: Made in New York City, these lamps are built from reclaimed and sustainably sourced wood. stickbulb.com

WATSON FURNITURE Tia Part recycled, part recyclable, this office system marries environmental health with the ergonomics of a standing desk, pro- moting movement throughout the day. watsonfurniture.com

UPOFLOOR Upofloor Zero Enomer®, the material used in this flooring, is free from six common toxins affecting indoor air quality, helping it reach M1, the most stringent emissions class. upofloor.com
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Employees report performing better in flexible workspaces that offer natural light, but most say their current offices don't have those features.

Want your workplace to be more productive and successful? Start by redesigning the office.

That advice comes from a survey released last month by financial giant Capital One that asked 3,608 full-time office workers across the U.S. what they "need, want, and expect from their work environment." The most striking response: 90 percent of people surveyed reported performing better in well-designed workplaces.

Unfortunately, more than half of respondents said their current offices are not well-designed, noting a lack of flexibility in their workspaces limits their productivity.

Two other statistics also stood out: 77 percent of respondents said they perform better when their office "provides spaces for collaboration," while 88 percent said they perform better when they have "space for focused, heads-down work." In other words, you need to give your employees options for where to perform their tasks. Survey-takers expressed a desire to change their physical location while working, as well as to swap between sitting desks and standing desks.

The study revealed the importance of other elements of the workplace environment, as well. Nearly six in 10 employees reported increased productivity and mental well-being when windows and natural light are present. On the other hand, almost four in 10 respondents said they don't currently have such features in their offices.

Location, surprisingly, might matter less than it used to, the survey revealed. More than half of employees ranked office design as at least equal to workplace location in importance. If you're choosing between offering a beautiful office or a convenient commute, your decision just got a little harder.
What is a social stair? Remember back in 2001, when OMA/Koolhaas and Scheeren completed the Prada Boutique (now called Prada Epicenter) on lower Broadway in Soho? It features an amphitheater-like stair leading from the ground floor down to the basement. This stair can be used as a stair, taking you from one level to the next. It can also be used as bleacher-like seating. And when it is not accommodating seated human beings, the amphitheater part of the stair can be peopled with ranks of mannequins outfitted in Prada fashions. Though not the first of its kind, the Prada stair is the archetype of the 21st-century social stair. The social stair connotes a style of 21st-century sociability: cool; hip; spontaneous; diverse, yet connected; and youthful. As such, it has been transformed into a symbol: an icon of collective identity that suggests it has the power to make you cool, hip, awesome (and maybe even young) — just by being in its presence. The 21st-century word associated with this phenomenon of implied magical bonding is “meme” (rhymes with “mean”). My authoritative source on 21st-century forms of knowledge, Wikipedia, tells me that “meme” means a unit of conduct that you can internalize and imitate in order to represent yourself to others as embodying the desirable associations — cool, hip, awesome, young — affiliated with the meme/form. So now you know: The social stair is a magical meme. It possesses the power to confer a social identity, linking you to a community that you want other people to see you as belonging to.

The Wikipedia entry on memes has a whole section on architectural memes, an indication of the potency that buildings possess to shape the attitudes, opinions, and conduct of the people who occupy, or simply pass by, them. The Wikipedia entry also identifies the foremost theorist of architectural “meme-ology” as Nikos A. Salingaros, professor of mathematics at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and author of “A Theory of Architecture” (2006).

Houston, in the past four years, has experienced a population explosion of high-profile social stairs. The expansion and reconstruction of the University of Houston Student Center South (2015, EYP and WTW); the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (2015, Studio RED and Lake|Flato); the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University (2017, Michael Maltzan); the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2018, Steven Holl and Kendall/Heaton Associates); and the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (2019, Gensler) all have public spaces configured around social stairs. Do the people who frequent these buildings actually hang out on the social stairs, embodying the forms of contemporary sociability depicted in architectural renderings? Or is this even a relevant question? Doesn’t the very existence of the social stair demonstrate that the building comes equipped with the necessary spaces for shaping cool, awesome, etc., subjects and bonding them into a community?

In his book “The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How Contemporary Architecture Became an Instrument of Control and Compliance” (2016), the British architectural historian and theorist Douglas Spencer decodes such memes as the social stair; long refectory-like communal work tables; internally exposed trusses, ducts, tile block walls, and concrete floor slabs; and interior glass partitions to argue that these are not simply constituents of a currently fashionable style of architecture but the material and spatial building blocks of a social system based on the exaltation of economic markets. What Spencer finds notable about the effort to shape people’s (and especially architects’) self-conceptions and their ideas about community is how often Neoliberalism operates through soft means (and soft memes) — architecture, fashion, advertising images, architectural renderings — rather than through rules, creeds, and the formation of political or religious belief structures. The rhetoric of self-direction and workplace democracy, the absence of hierarchy, the ability to bring your pet to work — are visually portrayed in memetic images of happy, attractive, racially and ethnically diverse groups of young people working at their laptops or texting on their cellphones, spontaneously generating innovation even as they break from their co-work perches on social stairs to grab a healthy fusion snack at the nearest
Cody Pickens
The special sauce behind Google’s breakout hardware products is its one-year-old Design Lab. We’re the first publication to go inside.

There’s a building on Google’s Mountain View, California, campus that’s off-limits to most of the company’s own employees. The 70,000-square-foot Design Lab houses around 150 designers and dozens of top-secret projects under the leadership of vice president and head of hardware design Ivy Ross, a former jewelry artist who has led the company’s push into gadgets ranging from the groundbreaking Google Home Mini speaker to the playful line of Pixel phones.

Inside the lab—and away from the cubicle culture of the engineering-driven Googleplex—industrial designers, artists, and sculptors are free to collaborate. “Google’s blueprint for how they optimize is great for most people [at the company],” says Ross. “Designers need different things.”

In any other setting, Ross’s upbeat, bohemian demeanor would evoke that of a high school art teacher or perhaps the owner of a crystal shop more than a design director at one of the most powerful companies in the world. Today she walks me, the first journalist ever allowed in the building, through the space—which she calls “a huge gift” from Google’s executive team. Google was always an engineer’s company, rarely recognized (and sometimes ridiculed) for its hardware and software design. But recently, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been forthright in articulating just how crucial design has become to Google’s business. In the past few years, Google has developed gadgets—from phones to smart speakers—that are some of the most desirable in the world. Yet before doors opened to the lab last June, the growing Google hardware design team ran many of their operations out of a literal garage—not the best setting for such an important of part Google’s operations.

So Ross collaborated with Mithun, the architects behind many Google buildings, to create something new: a space that is meant to be a backdrop to Google’s soft, minimal industrial design aesthetic. “This framework, it has fairly neutral colors. There’s nothing so ingrained that we can’t evolve,” says Ross. “But being a blank canvas, what changes it is the products we’re evolving, the materials, their color, and their function.”

Each space in the lab was constructed to help Ross’s team marry tactile experiences (understated, fabric-covered gadgets that feel at home in the home) with digital ones (Google’s unobtrusive UX). “Essentially the first thing I said was, ‘We need light,'” recalls Ross. “Where in some buildings, [programmers] need darkness for screens, we need light.” The lab’s entrance is a two-story, skylit atrium, filled with soft seating and cafe tables for casual meet-ups.

A birchwood staircase leads upstairs to a library filled with the design team’s favorite books—each member of the team was asked to bring in six texts that were important to them, and inscribe a message as to why. “We’re the company that digitized the world’s information,” says Ross, “[but] sometimes, designers need to hold things.”
In other instances, the lab is set up so designers can window-shop. The second story walkway around the atrium feels something like a high-end mall. On one side, I see a glass wall to the color lab. On the other side, a glass wall to the material lab. The color lab features an ever-changing array of objects, collected by Google hardware designers on their travels. It’s a hodgepodge of items that seems less about color than what I might call a vibe. I see a paper radish, a green stack of stones, and an ivory jewelry box—all evoking a certain handmade minimalism. The display is the best reminder of a simple fact of Google’s hardware design team. Just 25% to 40% of the group has ever designed electronics before. The rest designed everything from clothing to bicycles in a previous life.

At a large white table inside the color lab, under carefully calibrated lights, Ross’s team debates the next colorways for upcoming Google products. Once a week, designers from across categories—from wearables to phones to home electronics—gather around the table with scraps and samples in hand, to make product line decisions together. I’m treated to a show of last season’s products and colors to demonstrate a point: that Google designers, making more than a dozen products that could be in your home at once, want them to look good next to one another, even if they were produced a few ye
Rachel Jones
This tech-savvy and entrepreneurial cohort has the power to change the workplace.

As we eye the opportunities and upheaval posed by rapidly evolving technology and societal shifts, it may be today’s young people (known by demographers as Generation Z) that are poised to make the most significant disruptions. Architecture firms could prove to be in a prime position to attract today’s youth, since the profession offers ample opportunity for unique expression while also advocating for the creation of a better world through concrete actions and increasing technology use.

Gen Z, with their technical savvy and tendency toward collaboration and individual expression, may be the best fit yet for the profession. However, there is a lot to be considered to attract, retain, and harness those traits.

To date, there has been notable study on the ways that millennials (born 1981–1996) have changed the workforce, and office culture in particular. For example, millennial influence can be seen in the emergence and growth of flexible and collaborative work environments, telecommuting, and workplace benefits aimed at better work-life balance (i.e., things like paternity leave and flexible work hours). In some ways, the collaborative nature of architectural practice has made architecture firms better prepared for millennial influence in terms of workplace engagement. However, like many other professions, architecture firms are still working to create a culture that embraces the benefits demanded by the large cohort of millennials.

But as large a cohort as millennials have been, the oldest of the generation are nearing 40. As we envision the practice of the future, it is now to the subsequent generation—Gen Z— that we must look. The Pew Research Center defines Generation Z as those born from 1997 to 2012—spanning today’s elementary school and college students, the oldest of whom are just starting to enter the workplace. This is the largest generation to date (estimated in the U.S. at 86 million, as compared to the 72 million millennials). This cohort already holds tremendous purchasing power, something unheard of in prior generations. Current estimates value their current consumer spending influence at $40 billion.

Profile of a Generation

Gen Z is a cohort with glimmers of the past. Socially, its members are in sync with their millennial predecessors. According to 2018 surveys by the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of Gen Zers believe increasing amounts of racial and ethnic diversity are good for society, equivalent to the 61 percent reported by millennials, and significantly higher than reported by earlier generations. They also share millennial views that the government should do more to solve problems, that the Earth is getting warmer due to human activity, and that same-sex marriage benefits our society.

In approach, it mirrors Generation X (born 1965–1980), the one that makes up the largest proportion of Gen Z’s parents. They are similar in their pragmatism and work ethic. According to the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, high school seniors in 2017 were more willing to work overtime than their millennial peers, at levels that are on par with Americans in Generation X.

In circumstance, it also shares much in common with the Silent Generation, those born from 1928 to 1945, who emerged after World War II and the Great Depression during a time of economic disaster and recovery. Likewise, Gen Z came of age during a time of economic and social turmoil, following the Great Recession and 9/11. Their society is one plagued by global conflicts and wars, climate disruption, and school safety threats. It has led to a cautious generation, but one born at a time of opportunity.

Along with these commonalities, Gen Z has an identity of its own, bringing new energy and skills, as well as new challenges, to the workplace. Having never known a world without mobile devices, it is a group used to having information available all the time, and as a result they are both highly sophisticated online but also wary of the content they find there. They are constantly connected, but less so in person. They are realistic, yet still hopeful of a better future. They are economically cautious, yet highly entrepreneurial. And they are risk-averse—an attitude borne from a deep trust of adults coupled with economic insecurity.

Implications on Workplace Benefits

Given some of the unique demograph
Interior Design Media
Stadium seating adds playfulness and versatility to office projects big and small.

1. Tsao & McKown Lets History Shine at Sunbrella’s North Carolina Headquarters

Naturally Tsao & McKown was among the talented mix-masters that members of the Gant family wanted to meet when they were planning headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina, for their growing Sunbrella brand. The Gants had their eye on converting the early 20th–century former mill they owned across the street from a building Sunbrella shared with its parent company, Glen Raven. Beyond the new glass-and-steel curtain wall, a 46-foot-wide swath of pine stadium seating fills the lobby. Cushions covers rotate a selection of Sunbrella fabrics. Read more about the headquarters

2. Nike Ups Its Street Cred in NYC With a New Office by Studios Architecture

Few things are more city-gritty than chain link, and Nike is intent on burnishing its street cred, which Studios Architecture principal David Burns and associate principal Frank Gesualdi were amped to do in collaboration with Nike’s workplace design team. For Nike, the wide-open expanses offered the promise of a “freestyle” work environment. For Studios, the unfinished features were appealingly reflective of the character of New York. Read more about the office

3. Rottet Studio Makes Design the Star at the Los Angeles Office of Paradigm

“Light and movement.” That’s what Sam Gores said he wanted to see upon entering his office in Los Angeles. And when the chairman and CEO of Paradigm Talent Agency asks for something, that is precisely what he gets—particularly when the project is designed by Rottet Studio. The greatest challenge was reimagining the 30-year-old building. The device that encouraged community was the insertion of a central stair atrium. Pictured above, the stairs rising from reception’s sitting area offer additional seating on vinyl-covered cushions. Read more about the office

4. Rapt Studio Makes TV Studio Turner’s Atlanta Campus a Must-See

“It was all just cubes and walkways,” Rapt CEO and chief creative officer David Galullo recalls of initial visits to the Turner campus. At first, Rapt considered a standard program for each building: office floors, a café, and a coffee shop. But that plan was scrapped. “We instead decided to entirely re-imagine the site,” Galullo states. “It became about making place.” The team focused its work on 100,000 of the project’s 1 million square feet: in two of the buildings, the seven-story garage, and two courtyards, the purview extending to graphics, art direction, and food service. Read more about the campus

5. Roar's Pallavi Dean Uses Color Psychology to Define Work Spaces at Edelman's Dubai Offices

While the 11,000-square-foot floor plan of Edelman’s office is open to encourage collaboration, Roar created a concept of “cultural villages” to serve a range of functions, inserting phone booths and small meeting rooms for quiet, heads-down work. There are playful environments for the millennial employees, and more refined spaces for senior managers and important clients. The workplace is further delineated by color: The royal blue of Edelman’s logo defines reception, IT is marked by a calming green, the creative team by an energizing yellow. Read more about the office

M Moser via The New York Times
In recent years, new office designs have encouraged employees to get moving. Cafes and lounges beckon workers when they need a break. Open staircases spur them to climb floors rather than take the elevator. Sit-stand desks offer them a chance to stretch while continuing to work.

Now, the offices themselves are on the move.

M Moser Associates, a design firm in New York, calls its office “a living lab.” Green walls of plants are set on casters and can be used to block off one end of the 6,000-square-foot open space for private meetings, or they can be pushed against other walls to make room for large gatherings. And custom birch-topped work tables have wheels on back legs so they can be tipped and easily rolled elsewhere.

M Moser continually tinkers with its office, seeking new ways to support its staff and offer a “proof of concept” to visiting clients, said Grant Christofely, a senior strategist and associate at M Moser, who led a recent tour of the firm’s office in the historic Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan.

The desire to be able to switch things up at a moment’s notice has spread to companies in other fields, too. “Businesses are changing at a rate architects almost can’t keep up with,” Christofely said.

The flux is a result of many factors, including wave after wave of technological change that has prompted repeated adjustments to office designs. (Remember the need for a 150-square-foot room for the computer servers? Now, data is likely to be stored off-site or in the cloud.)

More collaborative ways of working have also been a driving force. A growing emphasis on teamwork often requires temporary settings for groups working on short-term projects.

And there is always economic pressure to keep real-estate costs down. Many companies have done away with private offices in favor of more efficient open plans, but some are shying away from long-term leases at permanent addresses altogether. The alternative: renting instant offices often called, appropriately enough, flex space.

Flex space represents 5% of overall office space in the 18 cities around the world surveyed for a recent report from real-estate services company Instant Group. Demand for short-term offices in flex-space facilities and other venues increased 19% last year.

“It’s a systemic shift in commercial real estate,” said Tim Rodber, chief executive of Instant, which procures space for Amazon, among other companies, and has an online platform listing more than 14,000 flex-space locations for rent, including about 4,000 in the United States.

CBRE, another real-estate services company, said that three-quarters of its large-scale clients were looking to add flex space to their real estate portfolios. Those findings are behind a new venture for the company: Hana, a flex-space subsidiary.

Hana’s first project has been leasing 67,000 square feet on 2 1/2 floors in a recently constructed building in Dallas. The company is outfitting the space for rentals that can range from hours to years, according to Andrew Kao, Hana’s vice president for product and design experience. Kao said the new space is expected to open in August.

But even some companies that sign traditional long-term leases are building kinetic elements into their designs to provide workplace flexibility.

Digital content provider Wiley has a banquet-size space at its headquarters in Hoboken, New Jersey. When folding wall panels are pulled open, the expanse can be divided into three conference rooms.

“It can accommodate a 225-person town hall or be broken up,” said Joseph Orrico, Wiley’s director of real estate and facilities for the Americas.

Law firm Nixon Peabody achieved flexibility in a different way in its midtown Manhattan offices, designed by architecture firm Perkins and Will. Its reception area is backed by a pivoting 12-foot-wide custom media wall that incorporates screens displaying branding content and company stats. When the wall pivots, reception and the cafe behind it are merged into one big space that can accommodate a crowd.

The pods allow employees to carve out space for meetings in Pixel’s open plan, said Philippe Paré, a Gensler design principal and director in London.

“It gives them a sense of control over their environment,” he said, adding that such pods were part of “the next ch
The Coven
Measuring the impact of The Wing, WeWork, the Coven, and other spaces selling a better workspace

As coworking continues to grow and expand—industry giant WeWork is in the midst of planning for an IPO and social clubs like The Wing double as work and networking spaces—selling community has become a big business.

By definition, the appeal of coworking is about community, something more personal than the office cubicle, and less haphazard than a table at a coffee shop. As Curbed’s Diana Budds wrote, “coworking spaces have always emphasized ‘community’ wielding the word in an ambiguous and increasingly meaningless way to hint at an informal camaraderie.”

But increasingly, these for-profit enterprises—which, in many cases, are charging significant membership fees in excess of $200 a month, often a large expense for those most in need of inclusive spaces—are trying to tap into the value of truly building more diverse, equitable, and uplifting communities. Community is something that everybody can claim. But can these new office spaces, especially ones with an implicitly feminist mission, actually improve access to opportunity and upward mobility by tackling the inequality uncovered by corporate diversity reports? Or are these promises of community simply a new addition to the “we hustle harder and do better” sales pitch?

“I truly believe femme forward isn’t just a moment we’re having with #MeToo and Time’s Up, isn’t just a flash in a pan,” says Alex Steinman, co-founder and CEO of Minneapolis-based, female-focused coworking space The Coven. “This is a real movement that will lead to something bigger, brighter, a more femme-forward economy, and we’re already seeing that shift and that change. We see all these coworking spaces popping up that are femme forward as good news. We want other such spaces to open because we can’t do this work alone. We don’t talk about them as competitors, we talk about them as comparable businesses. I don’t think it’s tiring, or, like, pinkwashing razors or pens.”

Increasing access to opportunity

When Steinman began formulating the vision for a new business with her three cofounders, coworking wasn’t necessarily the end goal.

Steinman, along with fellow advertising industry veterans Bethany Iverson, Liz Giel, and Erinn Farrell, had banded together around the vision of diversity, but were sobered by the reality of the slow pace of change. After collaborating on diversity initiatives in the advertising industry, and regularly gathering hundreds of colleagues and coworkers to discuss gender equity and the pay gap—they were part of a group called Minneapolis MadWomen, named after the TV show—they became frustrated that their ideals didn’t necessarily translate into increased funding for the kind of support and training that helps marginalized groups like women and people of color move up the career ladder.

“We weren’t seeing the investment we wanted, so we decided to create the world we wanted,” Steinman tells Curbed. “As a woman of color myself, as you start to awaken to the inequalities happening to you and your counterparts, and you can’t unsee them. You have to do something about it, or just ignore it. I can’t just live and let live.”

They initially expected they’d create a nonprofit community space. But after interviewing more than 100 area women about what they wanted and what they needed, they arrived at The Coven, a 5,000-foot space that opened last year offering “coffee shop-style coworking.” The audience they wanted to serve needed a space for freelance work, and an area to grow their side hustle, as Steinman puts it. Those looking to start their own businesses can come to the Coven to find support and encouragement. It’s a “hive mind” that can help them weather the storms of working for themselves.

Selling a more equitable community

Both the Coven and The Wing see providing free membership to disadvantaged groups as perhaps the most direct way to shape and improve the community. By helping more women tap into the network effect of bringing people together as a way to increase opportunity and diversity, informal meetings and shared spaces beget change, and access begets advancement.

The Coven has provided 137 community-funded memberships, roughly 20 percent of the company’s roughly 500 total memberships since the company opened last year. Applicants fill out a quick application, asking which
If people can work from anywhere, how can workplace design help keep employees connected to each other and the organization?

As technology transforms what it means to show up to work, how can companies keep employees in brick-and-mortar offices engaged while retaining the best talent? Recently, at Haworth’s Toronto showroom, Metropolis director of design innovation Susan S. Szenasy led a discussion on this question with the designers, human resource professionals, and business leaders shaping the future of the office. The consensus? Focus on material results that can be measured experientially—and try not to get distracted by the hottest gadgetry on the scene.

Chris Campbell, Digital Adviser at JLL Digital Solutions, opened by saying that it’s important not to let clients be immediately seduced by the latest app. Instead, designers should caution them to think through a game plan when implementing new workplace technology.

“If there’s a shiny object that helps to save time and increase productivity, helps employee engagement or attract talent, and is measurable, then by all means, let’s look at that,” he said. “Going after the shiny object for the sake of the shiny object is not a wise choice.”

Beck Johnson, a senior specialist in global workplace research at Haworth, said her team has been “focusing on focus work—what happens to people when they’re presented with different kinds of distraction.” “When I hear the word ‘productivity,’ I cringe,” she said. “It’s really about ‘performance,’” a more holistic metric.

Cathy French, who’s responsible for the experiences of 80,000 employees and 24 million square feet worldwide as the Director of Global Design and Workplace Strategy for the Royal Bank of Canada, agreed. French spoke about the need to create positive, human-focused spaces to facilitate a better day-to-day experience at work.

“People have come to expect things to fall from the ceiling,” she said. “Hot coffee to just show up, wine flowing, et cetera. That takes time, effort, resources and funding.”

Barry Nathan, Associate Director and Practice Lead for the Interior Design IBI Group, said that a challenge to his business now is that much of the innovation is “being led by other industries,” while Haworth’s Johnson said she worries designers tend to “miss a whole bunch of people” with varied needs or desires.

“There’s a lot of humanity that doesn’t get put within those [design] buckets,” she warned. “So clients will say, ‘How do we get our people to innovate faster?’ I’ll say, ‘Let them slow down.’ And they look at me cross-eyed.”

Sometimes, it turns out, what people need most is being able to take time and space away from tech while at work.
Garrett Rowland
Perkins+Will has overhauled the North American headquarters of consumer goods company Unilever, with new communal areas designed to help employees forget they're in a suburban office park.

British-Dutch manufacturer Unilever has long had its North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, just across the river from New York City.

But increasingly, the company has needed a more dynamic work environment to help recruit employees.

rchitecture firm Perkins+Will was charged with rethinking the corporate campus, which accommodates about 1,450 employees and several hundred independent contractors.

The goal was to create a showpiece headquarters that would be "smart, sustainable and Instagram-ready – with a feeling like you were in Manhattan".

Rather that razing the site and starting fresh, the architects chose to renovate four existing rectilinear buildings. They also added a lofty central atrium that rises 40 feet (12 metres) on the site of a former courtyard.

"The 325,000-square-foot renovation included interiors, as well as the construction of an entry pavilion and common area that stitched together the open space between individual buildings to create an entirely new, enclosed structure," said the firm.

The existing buildings, which date back to the 1960s and 70s, are completely revamped.

Traditional, cellular layouts are replaced with open workspaces, huddle rooms and lounges. Because there are no assigned desks, lockers have also been added, providing employees with a secure place for their belongings.

The central volume houses The Marketplace, where employees can shop, work and socialise. The vast, light-filled space features cafe tables and a giant staircase that doubles as seating.

Additional amenities at the campus include coffee stations, a fitness centre, a hair salon and a cafeteria.

Throughout the facility, concrete floors and exposed ceilings give interior spaces an industrial look. Wooden decor and eclectic furnishings help soften the atmosphere. In one area, the team created a living room, complete with a fireplace set within a brick wall.

The building features a range of smart technologies, including thousands of sensors that measure light, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and human presence.

"The final building design incorporates smart technologies by EDGE that record data and automate the building's features and functions, including internet-of-things systems that enable the building to learn from occupants' behaviours and remember their preferences," the team said.

In addition to the smart systems, the building's sustainable elements include solar panels and ample natural light.

During construction, 75 per cent of the construction material was diverted away from landfills. To help reduce car usage by employees, the company offers a shuttle service from New York City, Hoboken and Jersey City.
Heather Baigelman
The second day of NeoCon heralded the return of the highly-anticipated NeoCon Workplace Roundtable, Interior Design's annual gathering of architects, designers, and manufacturers to discuss the most compelling issues facing the contract sector today. Twenty-six attendees assembled at the Sandow Innovation Lab to hear what their colleagues had to say about topics as diverse as how the design process has been shaken up by the emergence of co-working companies, what younger generations of designers bring to the workforce, and what the future of workplace design will look like.

Interior Design's Editor in Chief Cindy Allen hosted the conversation and was joined by Jen Renzi, the magazine's executive editor. Allen kicked off the conversation with a question about how the workplace design process has changed in light of developments like digital technology, hyper-competitive bidding, and the interference of co-working companies in the design industry. "Just how do you keep up with all of this? There's so much going on and it's all happening so fast," Allen said.

The attendees agreed, each voicing their own solutions to the problem. Some said they bring clients into the design conversations much earlier and spend considerably more time investigating big questions of culture, purpose, and goals before even talking about aesthetics or specification. Others noted the emergence of more design + build firms to combat the lack of accountability and nickel-and-diming that can arise when working with external parties. Still others recommended bolstering a firm's branding and culture design departments to attract clients away from WeWork's restrictive policies on space branding.

"I think the main thing that needs to happen is that we should all abandon what I call the 'masterpiece model' of workplace design," said Dag Folger, principal at A+I. "We pour our blood, sweat, and tears into birthing these truly phenomenal projects that will be vacated in two to four years. Instead, I think we should adopt a more fluid 'renovation model.' Rather than prioritizing the genius of the project, this new model would refocus our attentions on fostering more attuned, more fluid relationships with our clients. We still deliver top quality, but we're more mindful of what they want and need as people."

When it came to discussing the newest generations entering the design workforce, there was a broad consistency of opinion that Gen Z and Millennial designers seem to suffer from "Google-fication" of the mind. That is to say, most designers in the room celebrated their young colleagues' strong work ethic, technological knowhow, and hutzpah in front of clients, but bemoaned the younger generations' apparent disinterest in the history of design, their aversion to social interaction and its deleterious effects on their ability to pitch to higher ups, and their over-reliance on technology to provide easy answers. Annie Lee, principal at ENV, suggested designers familiarize themselves with the mindset of gamers to better understand their young co-workers.

Finally, what does the future of workplace design look like? Well, that answer is actually obfuscated by clients' reluctance to let designers publish post-occupancy studies about their spaces. But, Allen said, access to these post-op studies would actually be a boon to the industry. Right now designers are integrating all sorts of new technologies and policies in their bespoke workplaces with the best information they have, but it can feel like they're going a bit out on a limb. With a resource bank of post-occupancy studies to draw from, designers could hone their workplace decisions with even greater accuracy.

After two intense and rich hours of conversation, the Workplace Roundtable, and Interior Design's NeoCon 2019 programming, came to a close. Come next year, who knows what kinds of issues designers will be contending with. What is for certain is that Interior Design will continue to act as an ardent partner to the industry in tackling these challenges.
Tekla Evelina Severin
Proud of its employee-satisfaction record, digital studio Bakken & Bæck sees itself as one big family. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the company turned to real-life siblings to refresh its offices in Oslo and Amsterdam.

What is surprising, however, is that Norwegian brother and sister—and next-door neighbors—Bjarne and Astrid Kvistad had no interior design credentials. But they and their respective spouses, Miriam and Ziemowit—who has assumed his wife’s surname—share many creative skills, from knitting to carpentry, and simply wanted to work together. Bjarne, then a graphic designer at Bakken & Bæck, knew the company wanted to expand its Oslo cafeteria, so the nascent Kvistad firm made its first project pitch. “We met with Bakken & Bæck’s executive team,” Ziemowit reports, “and they liked our crazy ideas so much that they decided to overhaul the entire office.”

To re-energize the tired 6,500-square-foot former industrial quarters, the designers came up with a theme: Scandinavian Spaceship. “We love 1970s interiors,” Astrid explains. Inspired by a sample of azure solid surfacing, the firm wrap­ped the entire space in seamless Nordic blue, with six gathering areas adding playful pops of con­trasting color. They carpeted some walls and, having learned weaving, created rugs to hang as art on others. “Then we chose furnishings with slender legs, so they look like they are floating,” Astrid adds.

James John Jetel
These days, workplaces often contain cafés, wellness rooms, and lounges galore. But a bar? Not as likely... let alone four of them. But such is the case at the North American headquarters of the Campari Group—the Milan-based company famous for its bright-red namesake aperitif—that now also counts more than 50 other beverage brands in its portfolio, some of them, including Wild Turkey and Skyy Vodka, Amer­ican. Mix them all together, and it makes Campari Group the sixth largest spirits company in the world—a feat worthy of celebrating. Gensler helped the group do so with its new two-story New York office.

But first, some background. When the U.S. became Campari’s biggest sales market, executives decided to move the company from its San Francisco headquarters east. New York would be closer to Milan and other parts of its empire and help recruit top talent. “It’s the center of the action,” Ugo Fiorenzo, Campari America managing director, says of the city. He and his team selected two upper floors in the landmarked W. R. Grace building, doubling work space to 65,000 square feet and affording views of neighboring Bryant Park. “We were looking for that wow effect,” Fiorenzo adds.

“Don’t think all anyone does is party around here—foremost, this is designed for work.”

To live up to the expectation, Gensler principal and design director Stefanie Shunk made a pilgrimage to Milan to steep herself in the company’s 159-year history and culture, which includes decades worth of art, among it posters commissioned in the early 1900s from Fortunato Depero and Leonetto Cappiello. Once back, she translated her inspirations into the design of the workplace, drawing on furnishings from such companies as Foscarini and Minotti and employing such luxe materials as Italian leather. “You gotta love it,” Shunk says as she trails her fingers over the hide covering the walls of the elevator lobby. She and her team specified it and much of the furniture upholstery in a deep blue similar to that in the Campari logo.

Further in, not a typical reception desk but an espresso bar—with barista—greets visitors, looking like it could have been spirited from Corso Magenta in Milan. In the shape of the letter C, its counter is topped in marble, Italian, of course, and features a brass footrest. Just behind it is another wow element: Gensler carved a double-height atrium through the two floors and inserted a 16-foot-tall cerused-oak wall assemblage inspired by a Depero brick artwork on a building facade in Italy. The installation here serves as a backdrop to a full-scale bar, also C-shape but in buffed brass, on the floor below. Dubbed the Fortunato bar, the environment has the look and feel of an urban five-star hotel.

The feeling changes to that of floating inside a bottle of Campari in the stairway connecting the floors. Walls, floor, and ceiling are drenched in carmine red, and LED strips along the coves and treads instill a nightlife vibe. A grid of steel-mesh lockers at the landing exhibits bottles of rare liquors produced by the Campari Group. Glimpsed through the lockers is an ornate crystal chandelier. Arrive there to find it suspended over yet another bar, this one inside a tall, slender jewel box. Intimate and hermetic, its walls are covered in an old-fashioned taupe damask pattern, and the bar proper is an elaborately carved mahogany antique. Inspired by a prohibition-era speakeasy, this Boulevardier Bar—named for the cocktail of sweet vermouth, bourbon, and, yes, Campari originating at Harry’s New York Bar in 1920’s Paris—is where top customers visiting the HQ are invited to sip special-edition whiskeys, rums, and liqueurs. It’s a wonder of a space.

Making sure the Campari bars not only look exceptional but also function extremely well “was the thing that kept me up at night,” says Shunk, who watched GoPro videos of bartenders at work to learn exactly where the sink, ice, and other components needed to be. That knowledge was essential to designing the office’s lablike academy, where master mixologists concoct cocktails and bartenders come for training. The café, which occupies a whole corner of a floor plate, functions as yet another bar, one that, with its brick wall, large windows, and Campari motto—”toasting life together,” rendered in neon—was intended to evoke and bring in the city.
British brand Established & Sons has launched four new furniture designs, which design director Sebastian Wrong describes as the "bread and butter" pieces for the future workplace.

Debuting at Clerkenwell Design Week in London this week, the range includes a modular seating system by French duo Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, two tables by German designer Konstantin Grcic and a lounge seat designed by Wrong.

All four pieces were developed around the idea that the line between home and office is blurring, with people seeking more comfort in the workplace, but also looking to create spaces for work within their homes.

"The working environment is becoming much more interesting," said Wrong, speaking to Dezeen at the launch.

"It's way more eclectic and more creative than it used to be, with co-working spaces popping up all over the place, becoming more and more like people's homes. They are demanding a level of quality and character, and this is a thing that Established & Sons can really fit into."

Wrong said that today's office furniture needs to be flexible, comfortable and informal, as well as functional.

"The working environment is no longer about meeting rooms, task chairs and desk systems," he said.

"I want to really move away from this compartmentalisation of products being for either residential or working."

The most striking piece in the range is Grid, a modular seating system based around an L-shaped or U-shaped module, comprising a powder-coated steel frame and larch wood shelves.

Designed by Erwan Bouroullec, Grid can be customised with a wide range of elements, including small and large upholstered seats, desks for standing or sitting at, and shelves.

The sides are metal grids, but could be replaced with wooden privacy screens or fabric acoustic panels.

"Erwan wanted something that was very raw, very elemental, which is what it is," said Wrong.

"There's a number of different elements that are coming into play with this piece which I think makes it really interesting and also very versatile," he continued. "With this idea of the grid, you can have rooms within rooms."

The first piece by Grcic, KD, is a very simple table with demountable steel legs and a tabletop in either high-pressure laminate or a scratch-resistant surface material called Fenix.

It is the evolution of a design that Grcic developed for Wrong's own brand Wrong Shop in 2011. "It's extremely simple, super useful," said Wrong.
Courtesy of Gensler
Expected to open in July 2020

The repurposing and renovation of four former manufacturing and warehouse buildings in El Segundo as fancy, hip office space is now expected to be complete in July 2020.

New renderings from Gensler, which is designing the project, offer an updated glimpse at the interiors and exteriors of the office complex that was previously used as warehouses and manufacturing space by aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman.

In a statement, Gensler says the redesign leans into existing industrial hold-overs, such as sawtooth skylights and 50-foot-high ceilings, and uses other industrial-style elements like catwalks, bridges, and exterior stairs “as a unique way to carve connections” between buildings on the 30-acre site, the architecture firm says.

To meet the wish lists of more and more creative office tenants, the design also calls for outdoor “pockets” of seating and landscaping, where future tenants can sit and enjoy the outdoors.

Called 888 Douglas, the project will hold more than 550,000 square feet of creative office space when all the work is finished, plus “vacant land for potential expansion,” says Gensler. The site is a stone’s throw from the LA Lakers’ practice facility and the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times.

888 Douglas is being developed by Hackman Capital, the firm that now owns CBS Television City as well as the Culver Studios.
MyAn Architects
Nestled in a misty pine forest, the Ta Nung Homestay Executive Office offers employees an environmentally sensitive space to work along with breathtaking views of Vietnam’s Central Highland landscape. Ho Chi Minh City-based architectural firm MyAn Architects designed the workspace to look like a cluster of geometric cabins that have been elevated on stilts to reduce site impact and to preserve mature pine trees. Floor-to-ceiling windows sweep an abundance of natural light and views of the mountainous landscape indoors.

Located in Ta Nung Valley about 11 miles from the city of Đà Lạt, the Ta Nung Homestay Executive Office was designed to foster collaboration and an appreciation of the site’s natural beauty. The nearly 5,400-square-foot construction was built from locally sourced pine to tie the architecture to the landscape, while full-height windows create a constant connection with the outdoors.

Oriented east to west, the building’s intimate workspaces and meeting areas, as well as two secondary bedrooms, are located on the east side. To the west is a spacious bedroom suite that is connected to the offices via an outdoor community terrace, which serves as the main entrance to the office and gathering space.

“The views and abundant daylight are celebrated and democratized,” the architects explained. “Bottom-to-top large panels of glass are lined up and combined with such vernacular, rich, textured material like pine wood for the rhythmic-formed roof, diffuse strong southern and northern sunlight while maintaining views and creating indistinguishable boundaries between indoor and outdoor space.”

The undulating roofline consists of two alternating gabled forms of different heights that give the project its sculptural appeal without detracting from the surroundings. Pine continues from the exterior to the interior, where it lines all the walls, ceilings and floors and is also used for furnishings. At night, string lights are used to illuminate the building to create an ethereal lantern-like glow in the darkness.

With NYCxDESIGN and Brooklyn Designs at the Brooklyn Navy Yards about to get underway, we've rounded up the most recent projects in New York City's buzziest borough, including warm cafés and reading rooms, fresh offices, and light-filled apartments.

1. The Center for Fiction by BKSK Architects Brings Books and Sustainability to Brooklyn

The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a new downtown Brooklyn building by BKSK Architects with sustainability in mind.

2. StudiosC Creates Positive/Negative Volumes for L&R Distributors in Brooklyn

L&R distributes more cosmetics than any other American company—25 brands and 8,000 SKUs in all. Its new corporate headquarters in Brooklyn’s Industry City circulates something else: a wide variety of staff, each with their own spatial needs, within what StudiosC principal Stephen Conte calls “an industrial blank canvas.”

3. Gensler Fashions a New Brooklyn Showroom for Lafayette 148

Brooklyn’s Navy Yard is among the most fashionable new areas in the borough, but until Lafayette 148 decided to leave its seven-floor SoHo digs and venture across the water, there wasn’t a fashion brand that called the historic concrete warehouse home. Gensler made sure the 68,000-square-foot headquarters, comprised of 15 different departments and large community work cafes, was as rousing as the exterior landscapes.

4. Idan Naor Thinks Horizontally for a Brooklyn Brownstone

The archetypical Brooklyn brownstone is a study in verticality, with a few stories of narrow corridors and dark rooms piled atop each other. However, when the local Idan Naor Workshop got the chance to reprogram a gem from the 1920s into a 5-unit apartment building, they decided on a different direction: horizontal. This 2,350-square-foot apartment jettisons the piles of hallways and instead utilizes a gallery to connect public areas to the three bedrooms, while ample natural light floods the expansive open plan.

5. Five Retail Wonderlands Subvert Reality

This retail environment at Gray Matters brings customers into a product-inspired wonderland. Riffing on the brand's Mildred Egg mule, Bower Studios chose table bases that are ovoids of painted resin composite.
Jason Bailey
Gensler has been working closely with British Land to design the leading UK property developer's newest workspace concept, Storey Club. With everything from additional meeting rooms, private dining spaces and impressive event and workshops spaces, Storey Club provides a distraction-free shared workspace that enables Storey customers and others based at Paddington Central to work, network, dine, play, learn and create under one roof.

Gensler provided strategic consultation, project management, and interior design and architecture services, helping define how the spaces need to function to serve an ever-evolving workspace market. "Storey Club is a sophisticated and relaxing atmosphere in which to conduct business and entertain colleagues and clients alike. We've created different working environments from the urban retreat to the music room and a kitchen meeting room where people can simply drop-in, eat a meal or work without ever feeling like they're at work," commented Philippe Pare, Design Director at Gensler. "We're very proud of the work delivered by the workplace, consulting and branding teams here at Gensler, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with Storey on future projects."

Nestled in the urban oasis that is Paddington Central, Storey Club has been designed to make the most of natural light. Huge windows connect the inside to the outside and the many biophilic touches, from the conservatory with its hanging garden to the feature wall in the urban retreat, create a space that is both relaxing and inspiring.

Members can spread their time across Storey Club's multiple areas, which include an all-day café and a swanky music room, numerous flexible meeting rooms with the latest technology, a beautifully designed kitchen area perfect for hosting events and socializing, and finally an urban retreat that oozes relaxed sophistication providing an ideal spot for drinks with clients and colleagues.

Edward Williams Architects
The zero-carbon emitting office allows for versatility in layout while retaining its intimate domestic atmosphere

Edward Williams Architects has refurbished a house within a picturesque mixed-use mews in London’s Bayswater & Paddington Conservation Area, transforming it into a sustainable office for an investment company focused on sustainable agriculture. The existing building consisted of a brick shell with an internal steel and timber frame structure.

Externally, the architects have responded sensitively to the existing building features with roofing and windows matching the rest of the mews. New structural elements were designed to be fabricated offsite and then bolted together on site to maximise efficiency, reduce installation period and reduce construction waste and noise.

The office layout responds to the client’s brief for a modern aesthetic with in-built flexibility, with spaces ranging from an informal gathering area for the whole team, smaller spaces for private working and large meeting rooms. The architect has planned the spaces to allow for versatility without detracting from an intimate atmosphere of the former mews house – future proofing with the use of moveable office partitions but retaining a high level of acoustic privacy.

The mews entrance opens straight into a ground-floor reception which also doubles up as a conference room and dining room for employees. A set of folding, garage-style doors allows natural light to flood into the interior, while also creating a connection to the mews outside.

Inspired by exposed brickwork of the existing building, oak panels line the walls inside with exposed oak joists creating a sculptural element to the interior. A bespoke oak staircase connects the ground floor to the first. Cellular offices are divided by moveable glass partitions, allowing different internal configurations. The timber has been pressure-impregnated to achieve a Class 0 fire rating, while negating the need for intrusive fire systems.

The annual predicted carbon emissions for the building are zero as the whole building relies on electricity that the client has committed to source from a sustainable electricity supplier. The scheme incorporates an electric boiler for underfloor heating, no mechanical cooling and natural daylighting on top of other passive sustainable design interventions.

Architect’s view

When we saw the existing neglected shell among a picturesque mews terrace, we jumped at the chance to rekindle the building’s charm and give it a new lease of life for our sustainability-conscious client.

The challenge was to redevelop the existing double-fronted mews building without losing any of its character, but adding additional character where possible. Our design draws out the warm red hues of the existing Victorian brickwork and uses it as a counterpoint to the new structural frame of grey-painted steel supports and solid oak beams, also echoed in wall panelling throughout the scheme.

We restored the building’s characteristic dormer windows and installed glass partition walls, creating an additional storey of bright, useable, flexible office space. For the ground floor spaces, a wood-heavy interior gives an intimate, homely atmosphere to the open plan space which can be used for all occasions – from team lunches to board meetings.

Edward Williams, founding director, Edward Williams Architects
Building Design + Construction
Generation Z learns and connects in unique ways. As they move from higher ed to the workplace, companies that depend on the productivity of a youthful workforce should take note.

I came to Hanbury in 2017, after designing and managing workplace interiors projects for more than a decade. So naturally, I've observed the higher ed students we design for through a slightly different lens—not just as students but as the next generation of knowledge workers. I can't help but think of how their unique behaviors and preferences will shape the workplaces to come.

Generation Z is heavily influenced by technology. Technology, although cultivating broad social and cultural connections through social networks, also sometimes creates isolation. In the learning environment, face to face interaction is key in developing a sense of commonality, purpose and learning. Collective learning, where students are taught to learn through group engagement helps to create a sense of community and adds to diversity of thought and experience. In keeping with this trend in the education sector, collaboration has also become the preferred method of working. Physical engagement and the "making of things" has become the foundation of educational process. Students gather with their peers in groups ranging from clusters of three to five and sometimes larger. When in large group learning, the group sizes ebb and flow as members break off into clusters to focus and engage, creating spontaneous interactions and opportunities for engagement, periodically rejoining the larger group for discussion.

Spaces that support this transitional collaboration require flexibility to turn large spaces into small spaces, and to connect small spaces into larger spaces. These amorphous spaces work best as casual environments that empower people to move and use furniture in ways that suit their particular needs at that moment.

Companies should consider furnishing office workspace with groupings of comfortable and easily movable pieces that can accommodate both smaller clusters and large groups. These spaces should also have plenty of opportunities to plug in as these gatherings often gravitate to where power is available. Depending on the nature of the work, places where clusters of people can mock up, prototype, and test their ideas might also be useful.

The education environment today is both physical and virtual. In universities today, I would wager that most students would consider YouTube as their secondary learning environment. Online classes and supplemented learning is increasingly common. Recent graduates are accustomed to taking their digital preferences and work progress with them from device to device, from office to car to home. Due to easy access to digital information, continual learning and augmented learning of class material outside the classroom is the norm. Just as students are learning everywhere, the young knowledge worker will have a fluid relationship with where work is done and information is acquired.

The cloud and the Internet of Things (IOT) are increasingly important to young workers. Hoteling desks feel instantly personalized when lighting, chairs and other connected devices automatically adjust to their pre-set preferences. As technology continues to improve, interconnected devices that read one's preferences, condition, location and interest will become ubiquitous in the work and home environment. Access to information from different devices and sources, untethered to a physical space, creates new opportunities for learning.

Turning inward for reflection, alone time and even recreation is part of the Gen Z culture. In large open spaces, students use headphones and goggle monitors (for Augmented Reality) to provide private focus in public environments, either for work or play. While accommodating the gaming preferences of young staffers may not be appropriate in a work setting, privacy is important. Small spaces separated by glass provide privacy and noise reduction while allowing a visual connection to what is happening in the collaborative spaces.

Work life balance is a driving force for Generation Z. The office is looked at as a place to gain autonomy, learning, social engagement and purpose. The trend to create spaces of play is being substituted with places of creativity, where making things and collaboration are promoted. Corporate recreation lounges of today may become less and less attractive as younger employees look to their offices a
A conversation with Kristy Tillman, who is all of us.

Slack is the ubiquitous digital tool that’s making our workplaces virtual. Thanks to its hyper-efficient chat room software, telecommuting has never been easier. Which is why it may come as a surprise that Slack is paying particular attention to its physical office design, too. Kristy Tillman is Slack’s head of workplace experience design, and she is thinking about how people at Slack work beyond the Slack window itself.

Tillman is also a judge for our 2019 Innovation by Design Awards (get in your entries by May 10!). And so we sat down with her to talk about her career, her role at Slack, and what it’s like to use Slack at Slack.

Fast Company: So you spent some time at Ideo, you build a millennial investment brand with Mass Mutual. Then you wind up at Slack. You started in their communications department, but quickly landed this gig around the workplace. So . . . what do you do? What questions are you asking at Slack?

Kristy Tillman: Right now I think about a couple of things: How do we build standards around buildings and offices? What experiments have we tried in architectural phases to tweak and make offices better for our employees? How do we service our guests and our employees from a design-thinking perspective? That’s been really, very challenging for me.

We have a big workplace vision we’ll be able to start to make and understand how our employees are really using our spaces and operations. One of the big things I’ll do in the next quarter is our first workplace foundational study where we’ll survey the entire global workforce and get a system of analysis . . . what new phases we need to build? What new services we need to offer as we scale?

FC: There’s a certain irony of being at Slack, this digital business company, and focusing on built environments, no?

KT: It would be a lost opportunity if we didn’t–if we said we’d change the way people worked digitally, it would be a lost opportunity to not be interrogating ourselves internally! It’s my opinion, and I think lots of people’s opinion, that one of the best ways to sell Slack will obviously be having an internal culture that is a shining example. And I think that one of our advantages will be we use Slack [as an example], here’s how it affected us, here are the processes we put in place, workflows we have, innovations we use, to make operations more efficient, handle security, or triage medical emergencies. [I want to] be the best example of a culture when people come to visit us.

KT: Honestly, things that the Workplace team works on have the best ability to leave an indelible mark on Slack. The workplace teams in most companies are not tasked with this type of work. They’re more like facilities, make sure the lights are on, we have lunch. So any way you can contribute to operational efficiency is [hugely important].

Maybe I’m an optimist. I believe there’s not some objective future we’re trying to get to. The future is whatever we make it. So in that sense, there’s not this lofty goal we’re trying to reach. We’re just incrementally trying to make our workplaces better for our people . . . that doesn’t make it more difficult, if anything it makes it more easy.
Two of Teknion’s new workplace products – the tn Storage & Accessories Collection designed by Toan Nguyen, and Swerv Monitor Arm − were honored with Green Good Design Awards in the 2019 competition. The annual award is jointly sponsored by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

“From a green standpoint, tn and Swerv are typical of all Teknion workplace products,” said Scott Deugo, Teknion’s Chief Sales and Sustainability Officer. “Our products are designed and developed in accordance with Design for the Environment (DfE) standards and protocols, feature recycled content and are recyclable, are manufactured in ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified facilities, have received Indoor Advantage Gold and BIFMA e3 level 2 certification, and support various LEED and WELL credits. Although we are proud of these Green Good Design Awards and our sustainability achievements to date, we realize that there is more work to be done.”

tn Storage is a series of universal desktop accessories and freestanding storage items that addresses these new needs for storage and organization in today’s workstation.

The Swerv Monitor Arm is a fully adjustable, spring-assisted dynamic arm designed to support 98 percent of monitor weights on the market (5 to 12 lbs. or 2.27 to 5.4 kg), and that can be balanced and adjusted with little effort.

In addition, the Cesto collection of interactive seating and table elements by Studio TK earned a 2019 Green Good Design Award. Cesto, Spanish for “basket,” was designed by Khodi Feiz to address the dynamic collaborative and social behaviors typical of today’s work environment.

“It is very gratifying for us to have our new Cesto collection recognized with a Green Good Design Award – one of only 100 awards presented to recipients in 20 nations in this year’s competition,” said Charlie Bell, President, Studio TK. “The international award acknowledges the many diverse sustainability initiatives undertaken by our employees, and the sustainable design inherent in Cesto as demonstrated by its designer, Khodi Feiz.”

The Cesto family is composed of an upholstered base element and a variety of different functional tops. The lower “basket” can be finished in a knit mesh or fabric, offering a contrast in textures and colors. Numerous colorway possibilities enable extensive personalization. Tabletop surfaces are also available in a range of different materials facilitating easy customization.
Amenities with the greatest impact on effectiveness and experience are those that directly support the work needs of individual employees and their teams.

When we think of workplace amenities, only the truly extraordinary or extremely whimsical tend to stand out: the ping-pong tables, the nap pods, the pinball machines, the chef-driven lunches.

While these kinds of office perks can be useful signifiers of a company’s culture and values, the amenities that support effective work habits tend to go quietly unnoticed, despite their crucial contribution to the office’s overall productivity.

As the office landscape continues to evolve and companies grant their employees more freedom and choice to work where they like, our 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey research shows that the amenities with the greatest impact on effectiveness and experience are those that directly support the work needs of individual employees and their teams.

Not all amenities are created equal, however, and the most meaningful amenities are those that really speak to the business and the employees’ expertise, while also offering a variety of workspaces and modes.

Amenities with a non-work focus like lounges and break rooms only create a minor improvement in an employee’s experience at work—and they have an even smaller impact on employee effectiveness. On the other hand, employees who have access to spaces designed for team collaboration, ad-hoc group meetings, or individual focus work reported much higher effectiveness and experience scores.

What’s more, we’re seeing that choice itself can be an important amenity. What should be obvious now in our work-everywhere culture is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how and where people do their best work. Take, for example, the work café. Compared to a breakroom or lounge, a work café borrows elements from hospitality and co-working spaces to offer a productive environment, as well as a change of scenery from one’s regular desk. According to our findings, having a variety of workspaces to choose from is directly connected to a great workplace experience.

‘Employees who have access to spaces designed for team collaboration, ad-hoc group meetings, or individual focus work reported much higher effectiveness and experience scores.’
— Amanda Carroll, IIDA, CID, LEED AP, Gensler

Likewise, an innovation hub or makerspace can offer employees the resources they need to work in a different mode. When you’re a spirits company, installing a bar in your office might seem like an obvious way to embrace the culture, but at Campari Group’s new North American headquarters in New York, four distinct bar-like experiences offer more than just a place for employees and guests to blow off steam. In Campari’s completely open workplan, these spaces provide employees with an alternate setting away from their workstations and conference rooms, while also fully immersing them in the brand.

The Concierge bar, for instance, pulls double duty as a reception area where guests can enjoy an espresso with stand-up service like traditional coffee shops in Italy. The Café bar is where employees gather for meals while enjoying striking views of New York City and Bryant Park below. Additionally, the office space features the “Campari Academy,” which serves as an innovation lab where master mixologists and visiting brand ambassadors can experiment and create new craft cocktails.

The Boulevardier lounge, with its nearly 100-year-old reclaimed wood bar, vintage chandelier, and hand-sketched portraits of master bartenders, speaks specifically to Campari’s place in New York's cocktail culture and provides the ideal setting for more engaging business meetings.

When evaluating which workplace amenities are worth the investment, there’s one key factor to remember: the most effective amenities aren’t designed to escape work—they’re designed to support the employees’ freedom to work where they like while instilling them with a sense of pride for the values, heritage, and future of the company.
Like a fresh-from-the-box sneaker, all-white design gives a clean look to interiors. Curves, angles, and patterns stand out when color takes the backseat.

1. Nvidia Campus by Gensler Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Large Tech Office

A terse challenge was posed by Nvidia co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang: Create a headquarters that enables the company’s 2,500 employees to interact with one another. Gensler design director Philippe Paré and managing director Hao Ko responded by conceiving the 500,000-square-foot, Santa Clara, California, building as a campus, rather than a campus of buildings, which was the usual program for the tech company’s counterparts. And they did it with the triangle.

2. HeyTea by Aan Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Coffee/Tea

Simplicity and ingenuity are the key ingredients to this tranquil tea shop in the heart of the bustling Chinese city of Guangzhou. Aan Architects' principal designer Yan Junjie says he sought to generate a feeling of “cool and Zen that honors the heritage of traditional Chinese tea culture” by creating a sleek and bright environment, but one that encourages customer interaction with the surroundings—and each other.

3. Los Angeles Residence by Standard Architecture Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Kitchen/Bath

Designed in the 1920s by noted architect Roland Coate, this tony Bel-Air residence had seen better days. Standard Architecture's founding principal Jeffrey Allsbrook and partner Silvia Kuhle stripped away excess inside and out to create a minimalist, abstracted take on neoclassical design. Anchoring one end of the house is the airy kitchen, with white-lacquered cabinetry and a massive Italian marble island that stretches nearly 18 feet long. Allsbrook confides that both pieces took some convincing, but the clients ended up thrilled.

4. Kunshan Residence by Atelier Zerebecky and Kos Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for City House

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be another way to reinvent the developer spec house, along come architects Andrei Zerebecky and Lukasz Kos, of Atelier Zerebecky and Kos Architects respectively. The remaking of a dark and disjointed residence, in the smaller neighboring city of Kunshan, was one of their last collaborations. The two created a vaulted ceiling under the house’s pitched roof and carved out the space beneath it, yielding a cathedral-like scale to the single-family home.

5. Baoye Group by LYCS Architecture Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Midsize Construction Office Project

The ground-up headquarters of Baoye Group would also be key to a new business district that MVRDV had master-planned near Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. LYCS Architecture founder and chairman Ruan Hao considered the architecture of the three-building complex as the jumping-off point. His vision of unifying exterior and interior begins with the sunny atrium lobby, topped by a trapezoidal skylight and wrapped in glass.
Heywood Chan for Gensler
Lighting, furnishings and materials all play key roles in creating space that's suitable for lively activity, organized meetings or quiet time.

Whether you’re designing the game room of your dreams, upgrading your office to include creative conference space, or remodeling your home to provide a gathering area for friends and family, you’re setting out on what could be a life-changing mission.

“People love being in a space where they can be passionate, where they can grow,” says Tommy Trause. “Group spaces are where they can share their interests with others.”

Trause is Vice President of Innovation at ClubCorp, parent company of The Collective in South Lake Union. Designed by Gensler, Collective’s “urban basecamp” offers a variety of environments for its 1400 members to work, play, learn, socialize — or simply hang out.

Who's using your space?

The biggest challenge in designing a group space is figuring how to make it inviting and engaging for the people who’ll be using it. That’s according to Chad Yoshinobu, design director and principal at Gensler. “You want your space to feel familiar, dynamic and interesting,” he says. “You want people to come in and connect with it emotionally.”

Catering to your users may mean letting go of some of your own ambitions for the group space. If your family has teens and children who scramble in and out of chairs, an elegant dining room with antique furniture might not be enjoyable — or even safe — for family gatherings. If your teams at work need space for a range of activities, from small group meetings to one-on-one interviews to multi-day seminars, a conference room with a massive conference table bolted to the floor is unlikely to make them happy or productive.

“You really want the users involved in the design,” says Trause, who invited athletes in wheelchairs to provide feedback on the appeal and accessibility of The Collective’s recreation space, Alpenglow. “We’ve been open a year, and we continue to ask for, and get, feedback from our members about how to develop the space. We need to hear it.”

Spaces for activity — and companionship

If you’re creating a space for group play, you’ll want to build in features that allow — and encourage — spontaneity and energy. For most people, this means large tables or conversation areas. But it can also mean comfortable places along the perimeter of a room where people can have side conversations, or watch the activity before joining in. “Our research shows that for most people, having some choice is the real priority,” Yoshinobu says.

Andy Su, an architect and associate with Gensler, cautions against putting intrusive or difficult-to-use technology in group spaces, particularly in the workplace.

“For heating, lighting, large screens, tablets — the technology needs to be comfortable and convenient,” he says. At The Collective, Gensler installed attractive, easy-to-access power ports that sit atop worktables so people wouldn’t have to crawl underneath to find wall outlets.

Trause notes that in some group spaces, privacy is the priority and interaction is optional. You might want to design a space that recreates the feeling of a cafe or a ski lodge lounge, with comfortable seating and a sense of security and belonging. “Group spaces can be hideaways,” he notes.

Lighting, furnishings and materials all play a key role in determining if your group space will be suitable for lively activity, organized meetings, or quiet time. Heavy draperies, carpeting and upholstered furniture create quiet areas. Hard surfaces make a space brighter and livelier.

“Different space designs frame conversation differently,” says Trause, who favors the playfulness of a swivel chair. “If you are sitting in a hammock, or sitting by a fire, I guarantee your conversation will be different than if you’re sitting at a conference table.”

The trend toward configurable space

Perhaps the strongest recommendation from the designers is to make your group space easy to reconfigure. That way, you can shift from formal to casual, from work to play. Modular furniture, tables on wheels and seating cushions that can move from platforms to the floor, can help. So can a variety of adjustable lighting.

“Think of your group space as a living organism that can be reshaped and reconfigured to mirror what your community wants,” Trause says.

Configurable spaces have the added benefit of involvi
Countless athletes contemplate the Olympics in the context of their future—architects, however, not so much. Kim Herforth Nielsen, founder and senior partner of Denmark-based architecture firm 3XN was one of the few to win a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Nielsen led his team of talented designers and architects to create the new headquarters of the IOC, called Olympic House.

Out of 118 firms, his was selected to redesign the IOC's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. After nearly three years of construction, the project is nearing its completion. IOC President Thomas Bach worked closely with Nielsen's team to lead the project's design direction. Two of the most poignant concepts President Bach wanted the design to articulate were sustainability and transparency. Nielsen and his team certainly delivered; the build is LEED platinum-certified, and has reused 90 percent of the concrete from the previous headquarters that was demolished to make way for the new build.

Like its predecessor, the headquarters is located in Lausanne's Louis Bourget public Park. The headquarters is an open campus, and the public is able to walk right up to the building's exterior. Fully transparent window treatments allow in ample light and views of the surrounding park, and create a connection between the public and the committee's work inside the building itself.

One of the standout design features of the build is the circular staircase that connects each floor of the five-story building. It's a stunning homage to Pierre de Coubertin’s iconic Olympic Rings, and at present is almost entirely completed.

The building will house the 206 Olympic committees—more than even the United Nations has, according to President Bach—and will open with a ceremony on June 23, 2019.
Bilyana Dimitrova
Over the last decade, Convene has established its signature event and work spaces up and down the East Coast, including locations in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. When it came time to establish a West Coast presence, the co-working specialist’s in-house design team knew from experience that collaboration is key, and so they enlisted the help of two titans, HOK and Gensler, on a pair of Los Angeles projects.

First up: two floors of a 1980s office building downtown, at Wells Fargo Center. HOK softened the sprawling 47,000-square-foot interior with Scandi-chic furnishings to create a hospitality-inflected hub that can accommodate 500. “We established a strong architectural datum while introducing a vocabulary of softly curved ceiling elements,” explains Convene head of design and construction Brian Tolman.

One mile away, the brand’s outpost at 777 Tower, a Brookfield Properties building, offers a more art deco-inspired environment. The design of the 20,000-square-foot, ninth-floor space was spearheaded by Gensler. The goal, Tolman says, was “to bring an unbuttoned elegance to a very formal building by introducing modest materiality and bold palettes.” Not to mention a massive “art tube” ceiling mural spanning a hallway that, in a perfect bit of symbolism, connects one common area facing the city’s historic district with another, overlooking new developments.

Rune Fisker
Employees don’t like them. Research proves they’re ineffective. Why is it taking so long for us to get rid of them?

First, you tear down the walls and dispense with the soulless cubicles. Then you put everyone at long tables, shoulder to shoulder, so that they can talk more easily. Ditch any remaining private offices, which only enforce the idea that some people are better than others, and seat your most senior employees in the mix. People will collaborate. Ideas will spark. Outsiders will look at your office and think, This place has energy. Your staff will be more productive. Your company will create products unlike any the world has ever seen.

That is the myth of the open office, a workplace layout so pervasive that its presence is taken for granted, and its promises–of collaboration and innovation–are sacrosanct. According to a 2010 study by the International Facility Management Association, 68% of people worked in an office with either no walls or low walls–and the number has undoubtedly grown.

There’s just one problem. Employees hate open offices. They’re distracting. They’re loud. There’s often little privacy. “The sensory overload that comes with open-office plans gets to a point where I can barely function,” says one 47-year-old graphic designer who has spent more than two decades working in open environments. “I even had to quit a job once because of it.”

For as long as these floor plans have been in vogue, studies have debunked their benefits. Researchers have shown that people in open offices take nearly two-thirds more sick leave and report greater unhappiness, more stress, and less productivity than those with more privacy. A 2018 study by Harvard Business School found that open offices reduce face-to-face interaction by about 70% and increase email and messaging by roughly 50%, shattering the notion that they make workers collaborative. (They’re even subtly sexist.) And yet, the open plan persists–too symbolically powerful (and cheap) for many companies to abandon.

As with so many things today, we have Google, at least in part, to thank. Open floors have existed since the secretarial pools of the 1940s, but when the then seven-year-old Google renovated its headquarters in Mountain View, California, in 2005, the lofty, light-filled result was more than a showcase for the company’s growing wealth and influence; it signaled the dawn of a new professional era. Architect Clive Wilkinson eschewed the cubicle-heavy interiors of the company’s previous office for something that resembled a neighborh
Flickr/Gary J. Wood
"Experiential" is usually associated with retail space these days, but property giant JLL believes it has applications in the office sector as well.

Toward that end, JLL has created a program it calls JLL Curae Approach. "Curae" roughly means “I care for” in Latin. As the program rolls out, the company says, landlords will be able to use it to provide tenants a variety of programming, such as wellness programs, yoga, social programming and educational seminars. JLL isn't the only one in the race to provide more experiential amenities to office tenants. Early last year, Tishman Speyer expanded its Zo suite of amenities and services nationwide. Zo provides access to various services, such as emergency day care, wellness, pet care, ride-sharing, refuel services and flower and food delivery. Part of the impetus to offer more to tenants — who are themselves trying to attract and retain talent — is that WeWork and other shared office concepts have upped the competition when it comes to making office space more appealing. Another component of JLL Curae Approach will involve providing landlords new tech, such as HqO, an app-based tenant experience platform that recently received an investment from JLL Spark. HqO will enable JLL property managers to improve tenant experience via mobile building access, real-time information about transit, and apps that provide mobile discounts, ordering ahead and group orders from retail establishments in an office building. The HqO platform also offers landlords data to mine, allowing a better understanding of the transactions, amenities and property announcements that engage tenants in a building. Through JLL Curae Approach, the JLL Marketplace for Tenants Program will leverage JLL’s buying power to source supplies for tenants at competitive prices from Office Depot’s large supply of products, according to JLL. "The offering goes beyond the traditional marketplace supplies offered to our building owners, addressing a variety of purchasing needs for building tenants," the company said in a statement.
bjarke ingels group unveils its new york headquarters in DUMBO, one of brooklyn’s most dynamic, forward-looking neighborhoods. the 50,000-square-foot studio occupies the entire block with space for over 250 employees on one floor and with plenty of room to grow. as the revitalized industrial neighborhood is situated along new york’s east river, the continuous glazing which lines the open-plan studio offers panoramic views of the adjacent manhattan skyline. designed and planned by BIG’s interiors team, the office is characterized by repeating elements which offer a coherent continuity to the sweeping, open space.

the bjarke ingels group studio space is sited at 45 main street, directly between the monumental brooklyn and manhattan bridges. the neighborhood is defined by its like-minded creative residents and design-oriented companies. developed by two trees management, the BIG studio offers a range of opportunity for collaborative work. a private rooftop for gathering and conference meetings, in addition to the pre-existing 9,500-square-foot roof space designed by james corner field operations. the full-sized cafeteria is commonly used for informal meetings and events throughout the year. the scale of the building allowed for the expansion of BIG’s workshop, which includes two large fabrication and assembly spaces with wood working and digital fabrication.

the lofty interiors offer space for the studio’s large-scale models and furniture mockups. a gallery along the south side connects east to west. this gallery is flanked on one end by exhibition shelves with the studio library for building samples opposite. the space is illuminated by a grid of 150 pendants designed by kibisi across the north side, and a variety from the ‘alphabet of light‘ series by BIG with artemide. transparent enclosed meeting rooms feature scoop-chairs organized by color, with hues ranging hot to cold. the visual continuity of the massive studio is further obtained with the use of three unique steel finishes — chromatized steel, hot rolled steel and galvanized steel — which are strategically incorporated throughout the space.

Star Tribune
Companies and building owners throughout the Twin Cities have invested millions this year to re­design and renovate their offices to better suit their organizations and appeal to workers. Modern kitchens with high-top seating, collaboration areas made for informal meetings, and adaptable office furniture with standing desks have all become the new standard for office renovations. While many of those features are predicted to still be prevalent in 2019, architects and designers say new design trends have emerged, with some clients investing in more privacy for their open offices, heavily branded design that reflects their company ethos, and more adaptable layouts.

Branded environments

Many clients want their workspace to reflect their company, a marketing tool that helps organizations stand out to prospective clients as well as a way to reinforce company culture among employees.

"They are really coming up with unique ways to define themselves," said Natasha Fonville, brand manager of Minneapolis-based Atmosphere Commercial Interiors. "That beautifully branded experience is really going to keep trending and keep elevating the spaces around us."

At the new downtown offices of Sleep Number, the company's emblem is throughout the space on the wall and ceiling with Sleep Number settings on some of the tables.

At Field Nation's new offices downtown, which were completed this summer, a network of orange piping that runs electricity to light fixtures was designed as a representation of a technological network.

No receptionists

Some companies have decided to do away with front-desk receptionists, sometimes using technology to direct guests to where they need to go or having a more informal entry area.

Betsy Vohs, founder and chief executive of design firm Studio BV in Minneapolis, said 75 percent of her clients don't really need a receptionist to answer calls or greet guests. "Having them at the front desk isn't the best use of their time and energy," Vohs said.

This was the year that the individual cries against the open office became a chorus: from loss of privacy and concentration to an increase in coworker friction, it seems that employers benefit more from the cost-cutting layout than actual employees. That’s why this year we saw several alternatives that aimed to become a bridge between both worlds, keeping the open layout for bottom-line purposes but providing workers with flexible spaces that better adapt to their working styles.

Here are the top five open-workplan case studies of the year on Frameweb, Frame and the Frame Awards.

‘The open-office backlash is having a moment, with many in the industry increasingly calling for the return of cubicles in order to save dwindling attention spans – Apple Park employees were said to be ‘in revolt’ over Norman Foster’s valley of a plan in their new headquarters. Gensler saw this as an opportunity to draw a flexible line: in order to make working styles as democratic as possible, instead of equalising they decided to respect the preferred layout of each team member. During the design process, every one of the 500 employees was offered a choice from a variety of spaces, both open and enclosed, public or private, to accommodate their focus styles.’

‘Many companies are focusing on implementing these human-centric structures within their office spaces – but unlike SinnerSchrader’s Prague office, they can’t say they have a skate park in their office. Within the studio, the main corridor is fashioned as a diagonal axis, one that opens up all of the elements of the space in a skate-able route. Employees can cruise along from the main entrance to the open terrace or stop and chat with a colleague along the way.’

‘To present a space conducive to such freedom of use, the interior design team took some radical measures: all doors were removed, with the exception of meeting rooms and bathrooms; they also turned the central area into a marketplace, with an open kitchen that effectively serves as the social hub of the office. And here’s what might be the most radical decision: the entire office, all 470 sq-m of it, has but a single rubbish bin. The idea behind this is that walking to dispose of items keeps the body active and refreshed, but the longer the path, the more oppor
Nicole Mason
No. More. Open. Offices.

Corporations think that open offices are an architectural gift to their bottom line. In some ways, they’re correct: Open-plan offices save the biggest companies in the United States millions of dollars by reducing the square footage each employee requires them to lease, according to one analysis. An open-plan office also has the added benefit of making a company look innovative, even if the organization is anything but.

So it’s no wonder this paradigm has reigned for decades: These offices don’t just save money, they make companies look good, too. Yet this year, something changed. The conversation around how these office designs affect the people inside them got louder. Meanwhile, a slew of new research suggested open-plan spaces are actually remarkably bad for workers.


Open offices promised more collaboration–and thus more productivity–between workers. But a 2018 study out of Harvard Business School found that moving to open offices leads to a decrease in face-to-face interactions between employees, with the number of emails and messages shooting up. The study shatters the myth that the open office truly makes workers more collaborative.

Open offices can also make employees less productive, especially people who need to focus on execution-based tasks. These offices are so distracting, in part, because they lack acoustic privacy. That means that you can overhear every one of your neighbor’s phone calls and conversations. It’s a problem for creative people in particular, as a 2018 survey of creatives showed: 65% of creative people need quiet or absolute silence to do their best work. Open offices can’t deliver on that desire.

Open offices also tend to lack any kind of personal privacy–and that has an outsized affect on women. A remarkable study from 2018 reported what happened when two local government agencies in the U.K. moved from a traditional office to an open plan. They were surprised to find that many of the women suffered from feeling like they were on display all the time, which led to some women feeling like they needed to dress up more. Others noticed their male colleagues ranking female job candidates on their attractiveness, which was easy because there was so much glass in the office. “Visibility enabled these men to judge and rank women according to their sexual attractiveness, just like men on the nudist