Office space: simple design for the complexities of the everyday.
We spend most of our daily lives at work and most of that is inside offices. The modern office, when devoid of flexibility, chance and choice can make the working environment a difficult space to inhabit.
Reena shares a thought on variety and choice in office design and her recent readings of Quiet, by Susan Cain.
Travelling on a London bus, I often enjoy having the space and time to read. I recently came across a book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which has really resonated with me on a personal and professional level. I enjoy getting to understand different personalities and characters, and how this becomes an integral part of all aspects of design.
At Mowat & Company we have recently, and in the past, designed offices; a space where we spend 74% of our time. I found the extract below relevant to the work we have been doing, and wanted to share the nugget of wisdom that we should remember when designing; we are all different, and our workplaces should be designed to reflect the flexibility that is essential to our daily lives:
“Some companies are starting to understand the value of silence and solitude, and are creating “flexible” open plans that offer a mix of solo workplaces, quiet zones, casual meeting areas, cafes, reading rooms, computer hubs, and even “streets” where people can chat casually with each other without interrupting others’ workflow. At Pixar Animation Studios, the sixteen-acre campus is built around a football-field sized atrium housing mailboxes, a cafeteria, and even bathrooms. The idea is to encourage as many casual, chance encounters as possible. At the same time, employees are encouraged to make their individual offices, cubicles, desks, and work areas their own and to decorate them as they wish. Similarly, at Microsoft, many employees enjoy their own private offices, yet they come with sliding doors, movable walls, and other features that allow occupants to decide when they want to collaborate and when they need private time to think. These kinds of diverse workspaces benefit introverts as well as extroverts … because they offer more spaces to retreat to than traditional open-plan offices.”
Extract from Susan Cains Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (P94)
We designed BBH studios, which is part of the crown estate in Soho to include a large atrium for the whole company, new staircases to circulate through, up and across and get people to move around during the working day (most people used to take the lift even down one floor). There are also small cosy spaces for thinking and discreetly plotting out ideas around the edge.
When designing BRE’s 2637sqm Open Innovation Hub we included a simple and elegant staircase at the centre to help desk workers to walk around and exercise. The design gets people to explore the space and this encourages little spontaneous encounters to spark ideas or swap news. To encourage people to linger we designed seating and casual collaborating spaces with views onto the surrounded wooded parkland, just to prolong that casual chat. These window alcoves have movable panels to give different levels of privacy for different activities and styles of working.
As we continue to design spaces for the future with our clients, we need to be present and be aware of the way the world is moving, culture is continually being shaped, and the way our societies evolve. As we go forward, we should design office spaces that accommodate the complexities of the individual and their lives and allow them to exist in tandem with the working environment.
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