CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati Designs New Workplaces, Addressing Post-Pandemic Challenges

CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati has created a pilot project for Sella Group’s Open Innovation Center in Turin, Italy, addressing post-pandemic challenges. The new workplace design features automated desk sanitizing, collaborative digital platforms, and smart windows to ensure health, safety, and sociability.

Innovation practice CRA has unveiled an experimental project in collaboration with Sella Group, Italy’s largest privately owned and independent banking group, to design the company’s Open Innovation Center. Focusing on pandemic-resilience, the pilot project “is based on the premise that most companies are likely to keep promoting mixed remote-working arrangements – but that human interaction in the office is irreplaceable”. Hosting the Sella Lab dedicated to startups and fintech initiatives, among others, the proposal will centralize shared activities and key connecting areas. The design suggests introducing an ascending sequence of terraced pods that serve as meeting areas around the main stairwell.

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Courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

What is the role of the office in the post-pandemic future? Even if a dose of remote working is desirable, physical offices hold firm as a beacon for innovation. It is only in shared workplaces that we can establish those ‘weak ties’ among casual acquaintances that are crucial to producing new ideas and strengthening company culture. These ‘weak tie’ relationships are at risk when we work alone since we tend to get in contact remotely with those people we always collaborate with. With the project for Sella’s Open Innovation Center, we strive to put forward a resilient design alternative for the future of our office, which will have to be safe and sociable. -- Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab.

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Courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

Fostering creativity and new ideas, the scheme “proposes new ways to sanitize desks with UV-C light and manage clean air in a hot-desking environment”. In fact, according to the architects, during the week, lower occupancy requires switching to a “hot-desking paradigm”, where space saved is used to establish facilities dedicated to informal meetings and the exchange of ideas. Workstations are therefore optimized and seat allocations are managed in order to enhance team member interactions. Moreover, “the same desk is used by different individuals at different times of the day and week – with sanitization between every user, using UV-C disinfecting lighting”.

Part of a series of ongoing experiments on innovative workspaces led by CRA, this project introduces with new Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV), to eliminate the spread of viruses; and a “smart window” system handles air changes directly into each individual window. Air exchange is reduced between different spaces, while continuous circulation between indoor and outdoor is enhanced. 

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Courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

The project draws inspiration from the Open Innovation paradigm, as theorized by Harvard economist Henry W. Chesbrough. With this design, we go beyond the traditional image of the open plan filled with individual desks, and we replace it with a more complex layout that fosters creativity and promotes safer ways of sharing space. In face of the events of the last few months, it is also critical to rethink the role of the technical infrastructure that animates a building, such as the HVAC system. -- Andrea Cassi, partner, and project manager at CRA.

Sella Group’s Open Innovation Center

  • Architect: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati
  • Creative consultancy: Italo Rota
  • CRA Team: Andrea Cassi (Project Manager), Chiara Morandini (Project Leader), Marco Caprani, Serena Giardina, Anna Morani
  • CRA Graphic Team: Gary di Silvio, Pasquale Milieri, Gianluca Zimbardi
  • Structural engineering: IngeMBP
  • MEP: Projema
  • Safety, fire protection, and acoustic engineering: Arching
  • Leed: Get Consulting

We invite you to check out ArchDaily's coverage related to COVID-19, read our tips and articles on Productivity When Working from Home, and learn about technical recommendations for Healthy Design in your future projects. Also, remember to review the latest advice and information on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

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Cite: Christele Harrouk. "CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati Designs New Workplaces, Addressing Post-Pandemic Challenges" 13 Oct 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati

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