Data-driven design has been a holy phrase in architecture for some time now. The ability to refine and apply information on any range of topics, from movement to sun paths to air quality, hold enormous potential to positively impact design not just for one party but for all. Decisions can be made faster, buildings can be built better, inhabitants can be made more comfortable.
But in order to draw meaningful conclusions from data, one must first have large and relevant data sets to draw from - something few architectural practices are able to do. Look instead to tech offices, whose arcane business models are strengthened and distinguished by their ability to do just that. WeWork is a particular leader here, with data forming the backbone of their ever real estate deal, construction sequence, and design choice. Even the "vibe" of each interior space is a carefully calculated design decision, one informed by thousands of data points.
WeWork has emphasized the use of architectural data from its earliest days, at first using their swaths of information merely to help make their co-working spaces stand out amongst the crowd. Today, with market dominance established, the data takes a much more profound role. The sites of new WeWork's are considered in combination with a number of factors: proximity to cafes, gyms, and transit hubs among them. Interior design options are reduced to "kit of parts"; like Steve Jobs' turtlenecks and Mark Zuckerberg's t-shirts, the idea here is to reduce time wasted in decision making.
"The word 'tailor' is really important and very specific," explained Nicolas Rader, MIT-trained architect and head of Powered by We's design team, to Metropolis Magazine. "It's not 'custom'. We still need to be able to leverage all of the understanding that we've built through the data collection."
That can mean slight regional differences in WeWorks across the world. In Argentinian WeWorks, communal spaces are larger because workers tend to gather during lunchtime (not so among the 'al desko' lunchers of the US, for example.) In Japan, elevator lobbies play music to help pass the 15-20 minute wait time for elevators. “We wouldn’t have known that had we not used analytics to study cultural behavior,” said Rader to Metropolis.