Posts tagged with "Office Interiors":

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Québec's Centre Est-Nord-Est smartens up with a new barn-like headquarters

A hub for woodcarving, the quite Québecois village of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli has long been a top destination for specialized artisans and connoisseurs for the past three decades. They've come from around the world to immersive themselves in an ever-growing hive of activity and exchange. Anchoring this fledging scene is the Centre Est-Nord-Est residency program, for which makeshift premises were called home until recently. Designed by Québec City-based Bourgeois / Lechasseur architectes, a brand-new 3000-square-foot facility furnishes the burgeoning platform with well-appointed live-in studios, shared common spaces, and administrative offices. Located on the outskirts of town, the angular, monolithic structure strikes an impressive profile. The barn-like building is reminiscent of the region's vernacular farm architecture, often constructed to withstand extreme weather conditions. Its sharply-pitched, metal sheet-clad roof encapsulates a series of bedroom mezzanines, directly adjacent to five individual ensuite workshops—as well as double-height multifunctional rooms—while a large seemingly disguised courtyard cuts through its core. Centre Est-Nord-Est's recessed, wood-lined entrance hints at the material palette prevalent inside; where white-glazed, gypsum-board walls, and polished concrete floors are juxtaposed by vast expanses of plywood paneling and delicately implemented metal accents. This multifunctional space, the true heart of the project, serves as a meeting point, lounge, exhibition area, community kitchen, and dining room. One accesses a quieter library zone via a voluptuously curved spiral staircase. Carefully framed skylights are carved out of the sloping ceiling, flooding the upper level with natural light while the main floor is mostly lit through large exposures, leading to the adjacent cut-out courtyard. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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WeWork is imploding. What happened to its plan to redesign the world?

“Everything we do at WeWork should be done with intent and meaning for maximum impact,” said Adam Neumann, the recently ousted CEO and cofounder of WeWork, in a 2018 blog post. “This starts with every space for every member and scales to every building in every city. In 2018, we want to have an impact on the buildings we occupy. In 2019, it will be the neighborhoods WeWork is part of, and by 2020, the cities we live in.”  This bombast was characteristic of the businessman known equally for his tequila-fueled screaming bouts and Kabbalah-enhanced executive meetings, whose oversized persona in many ways came to define the company. To meet the megalomaniacal goal of a WeWorld as well as the more quotidian needs of making flexible office spaces, the We Company amassed a large team of architects, designers, and technologists through both hiring and acquisitions. The company was itself cofounded by an architect, Miguel McKelvey, who WeWork’s recently-departed chief growth officer (and then CTO) David Fano claimed rather hyperbolically in a 2015 interview in Architect built a lot of the original WeWorks with his bare hands.” McKelvey remains WeWork’s chief culture officer. This cultish blind faith is—or was—characteristic of WeWork acolytes. In the wake of a botched attempt to take the We Company public, exposés on Neumann’s excessive spending, unpredictable behavior, and self-dealing, and revelations that the company was more or less out of cash and has little prospect of turning a profit in the near future, confidence has flagged, even among true believers. Once valued at $47 billion, and after an infusion of cash from SoftBank which included an unprecedented $1.7 billion “golden parachute” for Neumann to leave his post, the We Company is now worth "just" $8 billion.  WeGrow, the company’s foray into for-profit education led by the former CEO’s wife, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann (cousin to Gweneth Paltrow), will close at the end of the academic year. The fate of its other numerous side projects, such as Rise by We, a gym, and the housing initiative WeLive( which is currently under investigation in New York City for possibly illegally operating as a hotel) are uncertain. WeWork is also likely to divest from the high-profile conversion of the former Lord & Taylor building in midtown. But perhaps most distressingly, the company is expected to lay off as many as 4,000 people this fall, according to some estimates, with untold more to come. But even those plans have been hampered: the company can’t afford to pay severance. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t look like we’ll all be living in WeCities in 2020. With WeWork shedding its properties and staff and finding itself on less steady ground day by day, what does that mean for the company’s architects? Uncertainty reigns.“It’s been disheartening to find things out through media instead of the company itself,” said one WeWork employee to AN (the company declined to comment on whether those layoffs might include architects and other design employees). Designer Dror Benshetit, who was hired for WeWork’s “Future Cities Initiative” in partnership with Di-Ann Eisnor, formerly of Waze, has been sacked along with his team, according to current and former employees. Fashion designer Adam Kimmel, former chief creative officer, has just stepped down. Most of the architecture and technology higher-ups from Case, the design tech company that WeWork acquired in 2015, have departed in the past several months, including Federico Negro, WeWork's former head of design, and David Fano, former chief growth officer, who left in October. That said, architects inside the company who were willing to speak to The Architect’s Newspaper reported feeling relatively secure in their positions. Creating workspaces is WeWork’s core enterprise, and employees have noted that at conferences given by executives, the work of the architects at the We Company has been largely praised. However, the constant uncertainty and erratic nature of the business has driven many to leave the company in advance of any possible layoffs. Others are staying, some with the hope of cashing in on severance deals, not of keeping a job in the long term. “I find it sad that the person who made this business happen was an architect, but it was his business partner who ruined it,” lamented one WeWork employee, speaking of McKelvey and Neumann, respectively. Building WeWork Founded in 2010, WeWork’s design ambitions became clear in 2015 when the company acquired Case, a high-tech Building Information Modeling consultancy. This made sense: WeWork is more or less a real estate company masquerading as a Silicon Valley-style startup. It owns very little of the buildings it occupies, including the much-talked-about Dock 72 that just opened in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, which The New York Times reports is still largely empty. Instead, it leases spaces, then redesigns them and offers them up as flexible rentals to other businesses—from brand new startups to tech giants like Facebook and IBM to legacy publications like the Atlantic The biggest news was, well, BIG. In 2018, WeWork named Bjarke Ingels its “chief architect,” an unprecedented move for a company like WeWork. But it spoke to its ostensible high-minded design goals. Ingels’s firm BIG did design the Manhattan WeGrow, as well as other projects. However, current and former employees who requested not to be named for fear of reprisal reported that most of Ingels’s actual architectural responsibilities had been delegated to Michel Rojkind, the architect who serves as WeWork’s senior vice president of architecture (Rojkind could not be reached for comment). “It wasn’t anything more than a marketing thing,” said one former WeWork employee of Ingels’s appointment. Ingels reportedly receives no salary, having opted instead for compensation in equity alone, a regrettable move in light of recent events. (Representatives for Bjarke Ingels and BIG declined to comment for this story.) It wasn’t just notable names—WeWork hired architects, lighting designers, project managers, and other design professionals by the dozen. “There was a lot of hand-wringing early on about how many architects were leaving the industry to work at WeWork, and there was a fear that WeWork was sucking up the best architectural minds,” recalled one former employee. The company also formed another architectural spinoff, Powered by We, which brought its know-how for designing workspaces to external corporate clients, like the Swiss bank UBS. Insiders report the division has yet to turn a profit. But despite all the present-day disorder and uncertainty, many employees are happy to stay. “I don’t want to work at a normal architecture office,” said one architect who spoke on condition of anonymity. “ As tumultuous and crazy as the year has been for the whole company, I think it’s a good thing that they disrupted architecture practice; it’s an industry that needs some disruption.” “At an architecture office you’re not encouraged to try other projects or make it better; it’s just, ‘This is the system, this is how we do it,’” the employee added. But WeWork lets architects ask, “How do we make things better rather than just following traditions?”—something they didn’t feel able to do in traditional architecture offices. WeWork’s ability to “disrupt” architecture is due not just to some vaulted startup ethos nor its ability to pay higher salaries. Another meaningful difference is who the designers work for; WeWork is its own client. While it may work with architects of record and contractors, for the most part, WeWork’s architectural labor supply chain is vertically integrated. Everyone from the lighting designer to the architectural software engineers are on staff.  There is also a hope that former WeWork architects might bring this new perspective with them when they return to the industry and that the industry might respond, for example, by putting technology on the same level as other aspects of design. “Architects have a lot to offer, but it’s time to take risks. We need to learn to want more for ourselves and for the industry.” Buildings = Data  Beyond all the hype surrounding the company, at least one of its divisions was living up to the Silicon Valley unicorn moniker that investors had ascribed to it. A former WeWork employee described the architectural software arm of the company as “One of the more technically advanced offices in the entire AEC [Architecture, Engineering, and Construction] sphere.” The employee went on to say, “We’ve got a pretty intelligent system around BIM, around data, around workflow and processes.” These developments happened relatively behind the scenes, though hardly secretly. WeWork regularly published blog posts about its use of 3-D laser scanning, machine learning, and data collection.  This architectural brain power, along with easy access to new BIM and parametric technology, did, in fact, give WeWork an edge in its core business: designing office spaces. It’s as a design practice that WeWork could truly be understood as an innovator. To be clear, it isn’t in the often-mimicked design aesthetic of its office spaces—with its exposed brick, neon signs, midcentury modern knockoffs, and formaldehyde-expelling phone booths. What is new is how WeWork has been able to design with tremendous efficiency at scale in part thanks to its voraciously collected user data. Similar to the way social media companies harvest untold amounts of data on their billions of users, WeWork was swimming in data on the workers occupying its office spaces around the world. In February, some WeWork employees had begun wearing shirts that said, “Buildings equal data.” The largest office leaseholder in New York City was using data to shape everything from what buildings to rent to how to lay them out. Through a variety of tools, WeWork was harvesting its tenants data the way Facebook exploits its users—as unwitting sources for generating new, targeted services to generate even more revenue. WeWork embedded sensors in conference rooms and phone booths, tracked “user behavior” on its app, and tested out computer vision and location beacon systems. “Imagine a conference room that can tell you how it feels, that understands what the inhabitants might be feeling,” said a company blog post that asked, “What would the Google Analytics of buildings look like?” Last year, WeWork used virtual reality headsets and EEG brainwave monitors to see how people responded to different “vibes.” For example, “Spaces with more natural light and brighter finishes are associated with significantly higher levels of focus and interest.” While WeWork wanted to collect users' general emotional response—one test subject described wearing the headset as “empowering”—its central interest, of course, was creating environments ideal for work. Of course, WeWork, along with tech companies and creative firms, has created a new sort of standard which other companies want. “A lot of corporate America works in environments that are stifling and boring,” said one Powered by We employee. “Retaining and hiring young staff has been hard for them. [Powered by We] is a way of changing a workplace by changing the interiors.” With this data, WeWork claims it was not only able to make the design and building management process more efficient and targeted, but also able to introduce new custom automation into its design of its mass-produced office spaces. They are often created from a sort of kits of parts—which included pre-determined selections of wallpaper, kitchen fittings, furnishings, etc.—inside the many buildings the company has leased, or less frequently, owned. WeWork had also developed custom software to help the company’s designers automate desk arrangements throughout their spaces. More desks means more money, after all. Recently, in the Avery Review, philosopher Mathew Stewart referred to WeWork’s space layout algorithm as “One tool in the now endless surge of automated BIM options that aims to make the bureaucratic processes of architecture more efficient, calculable and less labor-intensive.” He added, “This produces a mystified process that hides the social and political character of design decisions. The contemporary production of architecture is a complex global web of supply chains, logistics, labor, and legal and political infrastructures.” Some former WeWork employees disputed this characterization. In a company blog, former senior researcher Andrew Heumann said that they just want to get rid of the “tasks that are the most tedious and repetitious.” However, design at WeWork was arguably a relatively simple problem, one in which automation could easily be introduced without tremendous technological innovation. Offices may be different shapes, but at the end of the day, they’re relatively consistent spaces. One Powered by We architect suggested that “WeWork Classic” architects weren’t “challenged.” “I would assume their job is quite boring,” the employee said. “It’s just based on efficiencies.” Multiple things can be true at once. While WeWork likely overstates its technical prowess in order to boost its legitimacy as a “startup,” and while other companies also use data collection to inform design, building, and usage in their offices, its proprietary BIM tools and automation technologies may have unforeseen, significant impacts on how architects design, especially as more and more well-qualified architects, designers, and tech professionals exit WeWork to create their own startups or work at other companies or traditional firms. If expanded beyond the simple constraints of aesthetically-unified office design, new automation tools could free up designers to do more interesting, innovative things beyond building mechanics and interior layouts. Or, as so often happens under a capitalist logic consumed with “optimization” above all else, they may just cause a flattening of design difference, ushering a new Algorithmic Realism in architecture. Perhaps WeWork will take over the world after all. At least there’s happy hour.
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Neiheiser Argyros inserts a central link in a global blockchain office

Generally speaking, no two people work the same way. Given that, global blockchain solutions company ConcenSys consensually chose an open, flexible working environment for its new London headquarters. Tasked with its refurbishment, local firm Neiheiser Argyros, creating a unique office identity and spaces for a range of different working styles. Taking form in the shell of a five-story office building, a number of workspaces and meeting rooms orbit around a central area swathed in plywood. While the office provides flexibility, partners Xristina Argyros and Ryan Neiheiser were skeptical of a floor plan that was too open-ended. Weary of seemingly endless rows of open desking, they opted instead for specific environments differentiated without partitions. On each floor, a central meeting space, or, if you will, "object," contains a kitchen, cluster of meeting rooms, and phone booths. This neutral space acts as a transition between a variety of distinct spaces, an arm that subdivides micro working environs that can be passed through without going having to open a door. Surrounding the central "objects" are an assemblage of working environments, each unique with their own material palette. Separated by theoretical boundaries, each space metaphorically alludes to a location that has an established identity for how work should be carried out—be that a study fo individual contemplation or group space to gather. In what Neiheiser Argyros call "The Laboratory," light grey flooring, white furniture, and sanitized fluorescent lights prescribe a quiet space for uninterrupted work. Meanwhile,  "The Library" is outfitted with cork flooring and dark wood furniture, alluding to a medieval study that fosters personal reflection. Then, in "The Living Room" bright orange carpeting and custom built-in soft furnishings invite informal working and casual conversation. Read the full profile on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Fogarty Finger frames the Meatpacking District with glass, white oak, and black marble

Located across the street from Chelsea Market on 14th Street is a towering 270-foot-tall office building clad in sleek black metal panels and a glass curtain wall. Designed by CetraRuddy Architecture and opened last fall, 412 West 15th Street is the kind of new stately architecture that turns heads in New York’s largely brick-laden Meatpacking District. Spanning 130,000-square-feet across 18 floors, it offers tenants incredible views of its surrounding historic structures as well as abundant access to natural light.  Boston real estate firm Rockpoint Group and local company Atlas Capital called upon Fogarty Finger Architecture to design a corporate interior for a finance company within the newly-built tower, which the Tribeca-based studio finished up earlier this year. Led by Robert Finger, co-founder of Fogarty Finger and director of its interiors division, the main goal of the office project was to build a comfortable and hospitable space that framed powerful perspectives no matter where a worker might be sitting.  Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.    
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Elkus Manfredi breathes new life into Charles River Associates’ Chicago office

Rectifying the aesthetic gaffes of the past is not always an easy task. For the transformation of Charles River Associates' Chicago office, it was a question of converting a previously disjointed, dim-lit, and crowded office into a daylight-filled, expansive workplace. Boston-based architecture firm Elkus Manfredi Architects refurbished the two-level, 35,620-square-foot complex into a unified outpost for the international consultancy firm. Hoping to not make the same stylistic mistakes as the property's previous designers, Elkus Manfredi opted for a scheme that champions a timeless aesthetic. "Just because there is a trend, it doesn’t mean you have to follow it," explained the firm's senior workplace strategist & designer Linda MacLeod Fannon. "Charles River Associates' Chicago team truly investigated what was right for them versus what everyone else is doing.” Working closely with the company's internal team, Elkus Manfredi put forward a paradigm-shifting intervention that caters to different activities, tasks, and points of interaction. A balance of private and public areas was introduced, allowing the company's employees to accomplish quiet, focused, heads-down work but also to engage in spontaneous interactions. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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AMAA embraces industrial decay with its own factory-to-office conversion

Over time, everything is romanticized and appropriated as nostalgic pastiche. Whether it be pastoralism—the idealization of rural life by a privileged elite in search of perceived simplicity and retreat—or the age-old bourgeois aspiration of emulating bohemian culture. For contemporary Europe, this sentiment comes with the mitigation of its manufacturing past. While, the glamorization of rustic life is indulgent, ignoring the harsh realities, the desire to rhapsodize the aesthetic qualities of machine-age architecture comes out of necessity: what does a society do with vast swathes of a crumbling postindustrial landscape. For some, the answer has been to convert old factories into sprawling cultural complexes. For others, it has been to raze these depilated zones and develop new architecture. A handful of historical industrial buildings, throughout Europe, have received a listed or heritage status in recent decades. Strict governmental regulations determine how these landmark-sites are renovated and adapted for new use. But what should happen to the rest of Europe’s less-glamorous industrial architecture? And what have studios, such as AMAA, done to adapt them? Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.
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ZGF Architects designs choose-your-own-adventure office space in Portland

Expensify is an expense management software company, so it’s fitting that its newest office in Portland, Oregon, is set inside one of the city’s historic bank buildings. Located on the corner of Southwest 5th Avenue and Stark Street, the 103-year-old First National Bank, or the “marble temple,” does not look like the home of an emerging tech enterprise. But the San Francisco–based brand has outfitted the four-story atrium and other spaces to respond to its need for flexibility without compromising the integrity of the structure.

Designed by ZGF Architects, the office reflects Expensify’s self-described “choose-your-own-adventure” work setting. Employees have an array of seating options, from a 41-foot-long communal table to a plush swing set, a classy boardroom, and a speakeasy-style salon with leather booths by Restoration Hardware—all except for personal desks. This goal of creating a 100 percent agile workplace drove all design decisions both large and small, according to Alan Gerencer, principal of ZGF.

Expensify also wanted its office to be a place where employees could directly connect with each other and the national landmark building. Gerencer explained that the interior was completely shelled out when they began work. “It was bare concrete,” he said. “Our effort was to define this space and still respect what was existing.”

To do this, ZGF referenced both the obvious and minute details on the building’s exterior as well as its Art Deco, skylit interior. For example, the firm imagined a set of floating conference rooms immediately visible from the bank’s main entrance that resemble a tree house. Built with glass and blackened steel, the triad of windows on the boxy structures mirror the bank’s expansive vertical windows. Angular chandeliers from Nemo Lighting, reminiscent of the opulent hanging lamps found in old banks, gleam inside. Additionally, the oak flooring by Kährs and millwork used throughout the entire office pay homage to the patterns of oak leaves and acorns on the historic bank vault doors.

Even the oak wood–clad private booths on the third floor, designed for quiet work and conversation, feature a Scandinavian gabled roof design that’s defined with the exact shape and proportions of the classical X-shaped balustrades and grilles nearby. All of these varied work areas allow employees to interact with the historic space on many different levels.

Because Expensify is leasing the office space, ZGF laid out the interior architecture to “gently touch” its historic core. “This whole structure could essentially be removed,” Gerencer said, “and no one would ever know Expensify was there.”

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Studio O+A’s design for the Slack Headquarters puts employees’ heads in the clouds

When Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield approached Studio O+A to design his company’s new San Francisco headquarters, he talked about wanting a design that would embrace the natural beauty of the West Coast, from the Cascadian forests of his youth to the California mountains where he loves to hike. It was up to the designers to figure out how to pack the wonder of landscapes like Joshua Tree and Yosemite into the 132,269 square feet of office space spread across six floors of a midrise downtown building. Sure, you can hear them saying, no problem.

The Studio O+A team came up with a neat conceit: The headquarters would be organized like the Pacific Crest Trail, with each floor mimicking a biome that a hiker would travel through on his or her journey. The lowest floor is covered in the warm brown tones of the Southern California desert, with potted cactuses to match, and successive floors above climb through climes, culminating in a forest-themed level with dappled overhead lighting and birch bark screens. The design is meant to orient workers as they navigate the building, a helpfulness inspired by the ethos of hiking, according to Primo Orpilla, Studio O+A cofounder and principal. “There’s a certain trail etiquette about helping people along the route—it’s about learning and discovery, and we used that as a design philosophy.”

Rather than mimicking nature literally, Studio O+A loosely translated landscape features like waterfalls and mountain lakes into custom details like cascading seating steps and sculptural lighting installations. Circular meeting nooks on the forest-themed floor are inspired by rings of trees known as “fairy circles.” To finish these designs, the team selected materials “you might not expect inside,” said Verda Alexander, cofounder at Studio O+A. “We were able to bring the outside in…with plants and materials like concrete block and gravel.”

The Slack office is an evolution from Studio O+A’s earliest work for tech giants such as Facebook, for which the firm stripped back warehouses to their raw industrial bones. “That was workplace 1.0,” Orpilla said, “and this is workplace 3.0.” While parts of the Slack office do flaunt exposed structural surfaces, overall the design is more additive than subtractive—more focused on building the company’s unique visual identity than creating a tabula rasa.

Such evolution is part of how Studio O+A keeps its designs original, even after working on dozens of tech offices. “We aim to never repeat details; we want the work to be special,” Orpilla said. “People come back to spaces like that.” Not that it’s easy to constantly rethink the way people work. “It does drive us crazy,” Orpilla said, “but it’s a good crazy.” Nothing a nice hike wouldn’t fix.

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BIG shows off its new full-block office in DUMBO

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has completed its move to Brooklyn, setting up shop in a new 50,000-square-foot office space only a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Bridge. BIG has consolidated its 250-person office onto a single full-block floor near the top of 45 Main Street in DUMBO. Designed by BIG’s in-house interiors team, the office is full of furniture and lighting fixtures from the Danish design firm and frequent BIG collaborator KiBiSi. The move to a larger office meant that the studio was able to quadruple the space allocated to its two fabrication and assembly spaces. Completed pieces can then move to an extra-height, skylight-lit room for displaying large-scale models and mockup furniture. A gallery on the south side of the floor connects the office’s eastern and western wings. The chairs inside of the glass-enclosed conference room are color-coded in reference to the studio’s monograph Hot to Cold and range from mild to vibrant, a flourish repeated in the perimeter-lining bookshelves. Rounding out the new office’s perks is a private roof deck that the studio can use for events and conference meetings, which is separate from the building's 9,500-square-foot green roof designed by James Corner Field Operations.
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Studio Gang's new Guggenheim Foundation HQ artfully makes space

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the Guggenheim Museum’s open, spiral atrium is fitting for an institution that’s wrapped up in democratizing art for the world. The space exudes an air of transparency and collaboration that’s translated across the museum's various exhibitions, big and small. What’s not on display are the behind-the-scenes spaces where the Guggenheim Foundation employees dream up the exhibitions seen on the white walls of the iconic mid-century building. For decades, the 200 people employed by the Foundation have sat confined to compact working quarters in a downtown Manhattan office building that inconveniently forced employees to waste time traveling to the Upper East Side museum by train. Now, thanks to an interior by Studio Gang, the Foundation’s new offices match the architectural efficiency of the museum and provide better accessibility all around. Located high up within the former US Steel Building, known today as One Liberty Plaza, the 30,000-square-foot headquarters features a bright, open office-plan that brings together the Foundation’s 18 departments and hundreds of staff members for the first time in the institution’s existence. To create as much room as possible, Studio Gang gut-renovated an entire floor plate in the column-free tower. The design team then integrated various types of workspaces into the design, including single-use cubicles, conference rooms, lounge areas, a reading room, and a canteen, to encourage new modes of formal and casual collaboration. They also outfitted the interior with a muted color palette and chose sustainable materials to regulate noise and heat, creating an overall atmosphere of calm and focus.  “One of the biggest problems the Foundation previously faced was that the departments couldn’t interact easily; they physically couldn’t see each other,” said Margaret Cavenagh, principal of interior architecture at Studio Gang. “So we decided to think about the new design as a series of city blocks with anchoring spaces.” Studio Gang placed individual workstations up against the windows or walls, giving employees ample opportunity for daylight, while collaborative spaces and private offices backed up against the core. A main circulation route, going east to west, was placed to serve as a laneway between the two ends and features the Foundation’s massive library and archival collection along its walls. “Once we had this urban-scale street running through the space, corners became plazas, and the open areas and collaborative spaces became easier to get to as well,” she said. Office design is an often overlooked form of architecture, but Studio Gang gave careful planning to each and every detail and kept some of the building's original elements. The original polished concrete gave the floors a clear and clean appearance, which helped maintain the modernist, industrial aesthetic of the structure. The exposed ceiling was amplified in style by integrating ceiling fins made of recycled water bottles from Turf Design. This helped create a unified look above and improve the acoustics. Upon entering the Foundation, Studio Gang displayed a massive model room, Cavenagh’s favorite spot. It features splayed-out models of the Guggenheim Museum itself, where curators and designers create mini mock-ups and layouts for exhibits. This sets the tone for an active, but manageable mood within the spacious environment. In the old office, employees used to be stepping over each other and there wasn’t room for quiet work or loud collaboration; the new office gives employees the best of both worlds. “We’re always doing interiors work thinking holistically about the space as an extension of architecture,” said Cavenagh. “We’re passionate about how we build for the future. The Guggenheim is stepping into a new chapter of growth and we hope this office will help them work smarter and feel better about their daily environment.”
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WeWork is using user data to chart their meteoric expansion

With a quarter million members in 283 buildings across 75 different cities (and another 183 locations in the pipeline), WeWork is on an expansion tear that’s grown to include retail, education, and maybe even full neighborhoods somewhere down the line. With the company’s first ground-up building, Dock 72, nearly complete in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, AN spoke with the designers and researchers who are making WeWork’s growth possible and tried to divine where the company is going next. In a conversation on the future of data and workplace design at the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Devin Vermeulen, creative director, and Daniel Davis, director of fundamental research, discussed how WeWork is “refining the future of the open office.” Most architecture firms design offices as one-off projects and rarely collect feedback once the spaces are occupied, but because WeWork both designs and manages their co-working spaces, the company can collect post-occupancy data. Through the collection of data via user feedback and integrated sensors, the company has created a massive pool of information from which to build its design guidelines. Planning a floor layout within the constraints of existing buildings can prove challenging, and WeWork is constantly tweaking and updating its offices based on tenant feedback. Every WeWork location outputs a massive amount of what Davis calls “data exhaust,” the information collected as a byproduct of tenants going about their day. Davis points out that data is just a proxy for user interaction, and the feedback collected through WeWork’s room booking app or surveys is just one metric of how their occupants feel. The design of each location changes accordingly based on a user’s needs. Underutilized conference rooms can either be reconfigured to make them more appealing—cramped rooms can be reorganized, and dark rooms can be lit differently—or repurposed into different uses entirely. There’s no reason that a lesser-used conference room can’t be turned into a lounge if it draws tenants. Feedback is aggregated and forms the core of WeWork’s design guidelines worldwide. The key to translating those guidelines across 22 countries is that, as the senior vice president and head of design at WeWork, Federico Negro, describes, only 90 percent of the guidelines are used across all offices. The remaining ten percent varies to adapt to local markets. When WeWork expands into a new city or state, it hires local architects to adapt its traditional model. This might mean a long communal table in Scandinavian offices as everyone gathers to eat lunch together, or larger meeting rooms in China, where one-on-one meetings are eschewed for team gatherings. The local architectural team is vertically integrated with the maintenance staff and utilizes feedback on trash routes, the ease of changing light bulbs, and other practical considerations when creating a layout. As hyped as the bromance between Bjarke Ingels and WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann has been, the Danish architect won’t be contributing much to the company’s day-to-day architecture work; the first “chief architect” will be focusing his attention on marquee projects like the WeGrow pilot school. The ultimate goal of the collaboration is to help WeWork expand into neighborhood planning, something outside of their current design scope. WeWork’s furniture and lighting solutions may appear similar to what's used in other spaces, but everything at WeWork is designed and fabricated by in-house teams. The resultant pieces are tested in WeWork offices, tweaked, and rolled out as kits-of-parts for designers to mix and match as they see fit. On a recent visit to WeWork’s New York City headquarters in Chelsea, the sixth-floor lounge had recently been revamped with plants, technicolor couches, and custom lighting fixtures. The airy palette might have seemed novel to those familiar with the company’s darker coworking spaces of five years ago, but as WeWork grows and matures its aesthetic, what works in the headquarters will ultimately trickle down to its older locations. Negro describes the process as rolling out design like “software updates." Circulation has been given special emphasis in the company’s design considerations, according to Davis. While his team’s algorithmically-generated desk layouts may optimize the number of seats in a WeWork office, guiding people to navigate those spaces in a certain way helps encourage face-to-face interactions. The most obvious intervention is the staircase; at the Chelsea location, the stairs have been relocated to the center of the floor and connect to floating “sky lobbies." Each floor is anchored by its stair, and circulation flows around it out of necessity. That circulation can help guide and divide the energy of the floor, keeping raucous lounge get-togethers distinct from the more subdued private call booths or conference rooms. The company is continuing to expand into both new industries and client groups. During the time of writing this story the company announced that it would be jumping into the real estate brokerage game with WeWork Space Services. Enterprise clients like IBM now compose 25 percent of WeWork’s tenants and represent a new design challenge for the company, but having core information from its prior tenants is helping the design team navigate the transition, said Negro. As open offices continue to evolve, architects and interior designers have tweaked layouts and materials to optimize worker comfort and balance privacy concerns. Will the increasing availability of data help designers refine their solutions in the same way WeWork has done?
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Harvard study suggests open-office layouts hurt communication

Open-plan offices are all the rage. Companies continue to strip away walls, push desks together, and create higher energy environments in the name of fostering face-to-face interaction, but a new article titled "The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration" published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences presents findings that suggest that open office designs might actually reduce in-person interaction. The article reports on a study conducted by Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban of Harvard Business School that is the first to quantifiably measure human interaction before and after implementing an open-office floorplan. The researchers tracked productivity among 52 individuals and discovered that taking away physical barriers caused employees to erect their own methods of isolation. The sample population was outfitted with badges that would measure the frequency and length of conversations, and that data was combined with email and instant message tracking. At the end of the 15-day study, researchers had found that employees spent 72 percent less time interacting in person and instead sent 56 percent more emails and 67 percent more instant messages, and that those messages were 75 percent longer on average. The company also reported that overall productivity had decreased after the layout change, which researchers attributed to less information being conveyed over email than in person. This dramatic change in interaction patterns was attributed to employees' increased visibility and lack of privacy. Once coworkers were able to see each other’s screens and more easily overhear conversations, they reportedly wore headphones more, cutting down on approachability, and tried to look busy at their computers, which meant sending more emails. Ultimately, the report found that the projected increases in productivity and promised spontaneous meetings ran up against the fundamental human need for privacy. Researchers also cautioned that while removing barriers would seem like an intuitive way to have employees engage with each other, mandated social interaction was much less efficient than occasional meetings. The downsides of designing office- and barrier-free workplaces, other than the acoustic challenges, aren’t new. AN questioned the trend in 2013 after a series of articles raised concerns that the privacy-communication tradeoff wasn’t working in employees' favor. A growing number of workers are also searching for quieter environs and wellness spaces outside of the office. While it’s unlikely that this report will be the final nail in the coffin of trendy industrial workplaces with rows of undifferentiated benching, it may help architects and interior designers keep privacy in mind when designing these spaces in the future.