From assigned cubicles to open plan coworks, workspaces have been transforming their design strategies following society’s changing lifestyles. While traditional layouts encouraged more independent work (avoiding social distractions), adjusting to new technologies and ways of thinking has enhanced productivity while respecting communication, wellness consciousness and the benefits of feeling comfortable at work.
Architects have followed these changing trends, proposing diverse workspace typologies, adapting to multiple working styles, and organizing them to create optimal productive spaces. Among them, Spanish women-led architecture offices from different backgrounds and styles stand out for introducing layouts that redefine what is commonly known as a workspace. Below we present a selection of innovative refurbishment projects, all of which showcase flexible and dynamic workspace design.
Interior architects and designers have often claimed that a well-designed office space will translate into greater productivity, creativity and worker satisfaction –yet the impact is greater than most tend to imagine. Recent studies suggest that good design positively impacts company culture, fosters a sense of community and creates a healthy, happy and motivating environment. In fact, it directly influences the recruitment and retention of talent: “workplace design significantly increases the attractiveness of employers to potential candidates.” Proper lighting, a flexible layout and biophilic features are all important factors to consider during the planning stage. But to fully address user comfort and well-being, these must be combined with excellent furniture design. After all, integrating high-quality ergonomic pieces is a simple way to boost mood and enhance functionality and aesthetics when creating or redecorating the workspace.
Many associate bathrooms with small, simple and practical rooms with no defining design characteristics. Historically, they have been conceived as merely functional environments strictly programmed for hygiene, privacy and ease of maintenance –often with no room for creativity. But as lifestyle changes have placed health and wellness as a top priority, contemporary bathroom design has been reimagined accordingly, shifting towards spacious personal retreats intended for comfort, relaxation and recuperation; an escape from a chaotic outside world. Because we tend to spend most of our time inside the home, many recent discussions naturally revolve around residential bathrooms, overlooking another setting where we also spend a significant number of hours in (around one third of our lives to be exact): the workplace.
Incorporating the Environmental, social, and corporate governance objectives, the 45,000 m2 Office Tower in the Europaviertel in Frankfurt aims to be one of Germany's most sustainable office buildings. Designed by UNStudio in partnership with Groß & Partner in collaboration with OKRA landscape architects, the project focuses on environmental and social sustainability as an integral part of Frankfurt's green network. The ecological agenda includes a low-carbon load-bearing structure and recyclable construction materials. The architecture program offers a public urban space to add value to its surroundings to encourage communication and gathering.
Providing an end-to-end design and construction framework for creating low-carbon workplaces, Canoa is a design tool with an embedded marketplace that aims to reduce the environmental impact of commercial interiors. Operating under the circular economy principles, Canoa seeks to keep goods in use for as long as possible, design out waste, and help preserve natural resources while supporting businesses, designers, and suppliers in carrying out commercial retrofits.
Selected as one of Archdaily's Best New Practices of 2021, Canoa is a New-York based start-up founded in 2019 by designer and entrepreneur Federico Negro, with the purpose of delivering environmentally conscious working environments for a wide range of businesses. Canoa is a business-to-business marketplace for low-carbon office products, ranging from furniture to lighting and accessories. The company focuses on providing conscious, durable furniture and prefabricated units with traceable materials and manufacturing that can be easily moved and reused.
As the discourse about the way we work continues past the original pandemic concern and past the hybrid, remote, or what was once called traditional office space; employers and employees alike are still revisiting mental comfort requirements of a post-pandemic worker. While there are many types of work environments and worker needs that have to be addressed separately (besides the white-collar or knowledge worker), from a design and policies front; one particular, newborn model has been popping up in recent years, thus far seen through some unique, smallscale yet norm challenging Japanese offices.
Having a physical location as a workspace has many inherent benefits, such as bringing employees together in a collaborative environment and giving companies the opportunity to create culture and identity. But when hybrid and remote work began to rise in the early stages of the pandemic, many wondered it this meant the end of the physical office. However, now that two years have passed, the pattern has been clear: instead of being completely replaced by remote methods, many companies have adapted to new employee needs and conditions by opting for team-based, comfortable and flexible spaces that foster creativity, collaboration, and productivity.
Office buildings are known for being utilitarian, efficient, and rigid. While this typology has earned a reputation for adopting rectilinear grids and open layouts, modern designs have begun exploring new alternatives for the contemporary workplace. Moving beyond standard work rooms, meeting spaces, and support zones, these projects are reimagining the relationships between envelope and program. This is a larger movement towards rethinking the formal and spatial characteristics of where we work. While this trend is being explored globally, cities have begun embracing new office designs at a larger scale.
MVRDV has unveiled the design of a terraced office building created for the agriculture company Lankuaikei. Set within a rapidly developing area of Shanghai, the 11-storey structure covered by a curved technological roof that follows the stepping structure is conceived as an agricultural oasis that showcases the company's vision of food production. With an extensive sustainability agenda, the project encompasses various strategies, from the extensive use of greenery, renewable energy to low-carbon materials, addressed both with high tech and low tech solutions.
Heatherwick Studio has been selected to design an office building in Madrid for the Spanish department store chain El Corte Ingles. The studio's first project to be built in Spain, Castellana 69 embodies a comprehensive sustainability strategy while also promoting a new vision of the office space. Developed together with local practices CLK architects and BAC Engineering Consultancy Group, Castellana 69 features a green inner courtyard, taking advantage of a strong connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The 2020 COVID-19 outbreak has deeply redefined our relationship to public spaces. Fear of transmission (both direct and indirect) has closed schools, restaurants, office buildings, and transportation hubs, and has limited access to other densely populated locations and shared spaces. We have also learned that COVID-19 primarily transmits through the spread of water droplets from infected individuals, especially in scenarios of close contact, such as prolonged indoor activities. As a result, new building regulations have been put in place that reduce the circumstances in which the disease can spread. These safety precautions include mask mandates, redesign of ventilation systems, and social distancing policies. In this article, we will focus on social distancing.
Foster + Partners have begun construction on Avenida Cordoba 120, a new 35-story office tower in Buenos Aires. Sited between the traditional city center and the main entrance to the Puerto Madero harbor area, the project is designed to become a landmark building along the city's skyline. Balancing structure and nature, the tower is made to create a new standard for office design in Argentina and the larger region.
Part of the CAC’s “What’s Next” series. Going beyond the typical lecture or panel, this workshop lays out clear-cut steps for preparing your office for a returning workforce under social distancing guidelines.
What simple, design-minded adaptations make for a healthier office? This program is geared to employers, building managers and others charged with reopening an office space. Get the tools to do so safely and confidently from Todd Heiser, Co-Managing Director of Gensler’s Chicago office, hosted by CAC President and CEO Lynn Osmond.
The year is 1985, you’re packing your briefcase to head to the office, where you’ll sit behind a desk to do some paperwork. Fast forward to 2020, and you’re having a conference call with the entire team from the coffee shop across the street. Relatively, not much has changed; work is still being completed by the end of the day, it’s just with a different scenery.
Employees nowadays are looking for something more than just a job behind a desk. They want to work in a dynamic, inspiring space that adds value to their knowledge and promotes their mental and physical well-being. But this wasn’t the case a century ago. Take a look at how offices evolved throughout the years, and what we can look forward to in the future.