Posts tagged with "Office Interiors":

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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.
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Fogarty Finger designs a domestic office for a financial firm in Flatiron

Most of us would prefer to keep our work and home lives separate, but as the line between office and living room continues to blur, the professional world is increasingly trading staid benches for plush couches. New York-based Fogarty Finger, together with Kevin Dumais, have recently completed a top-floor office in Manhattan’s Flatiron district that brings a homey touch to what would otherwise be a sprawling floorplate. 119 Fifth Avenue, smack dab between Union Square and Madison Square Park, might seem like an odd location for a wealth management firm. It’s not Wall Street, but as Fogarty Finger cofounder Robert Finger describes, financial firms are beginning to scout for locations that set them apart from their competitors. In the case of 119 Fifth Ave., the client requested a different type of workplace that would feel more like an extension of his home; he even brought in his own furniture, said Finger. The result, an 8,000-square-foot office for only six employees, uses soffits, residential furniture, and soft natural lighting (the ceilings are high enough for clerestory windows) to avoid feeling cavernous. Taking advantage of the office’s top floor location and soaring ceilings, Fogarty Finger and Dumais highlighted the historic cast iron building’s skylights over the central gathering places by framing them and illuminating them from within at night with installed lights. The building’s original ornate elevator frame and French windows were kept and restored as well. The design elements help further delineate the office’s programming. A more traditional office space adjacent to the reception lounge has been carved out with filing cabinets, cone-shaped overhead lights, and a specialized desk system, and the carpeted floors of the meeting rooms denote the transition from one discrete area to the next. Doors and partitions were specifically arranged to allow views framing the entire length of the floor, and contemporary art was strategically placed throughout to break up the larger spaces.
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A new wave of social and relaxation spaces bridges the gap between work and home

As anyone used to late-night emails knows, the nine-to-five workday is a thing of the past. But while innovative companies have traded cubicles for open, flexible office plans, people are seeking even more elastic social spaces that foster wellness and connection—both in the office and out. Consider them an updated version of the "third space," common areas where people go to unplug, reenergize, and decompress. "When we first got involved in workplace in the '90s, our interest was, ‘How can design contribute to creative communities?’" said architect Clive Wilkinson, whose Los Angeles firm has designed the interiors of the Googleplex campus and offices for other leaders in tech and media. "We were in a prehistoric era when cubicle farms still ruled. We’ve come so far since then," he continued, citing the shift from the afterthought coffee rooms of the 1980s to the "Starbucks workplace" of today’s laptops-and-lattes company cafes. "A large part of the social space in the workplace today is somewhere between a boutique hotel and your home," Wilkinson explained. "Depending on the type of client, it can go more one direction or the other." The aesthetic shift is due in part to the influence of designers like Philippe Starck, whose hospitality designs brought a glamorized domestic environment into public spaces, but it’s also a result of the premium put on today’s knowledge workers, noted Wilkinson, who is writing a history of offices tentatively titled The Theater of Work (Frame Publishers). In one of his firm’s current projects, a new headquarters for Utah bedding-manufacturing company Malouf, an entire building will be designated for nonwork areas, including an Olympic-size swimming pool, barbershop, and spa. It’s not just in the office where people are feeling the change in work culture. "There’s a real flattening now between what is considered work with a capital ‘W’ and all the other side projects that people are interested in," said Richard McConkey, an associate director at Universal Design Studio (UDS). "There's not such a clear division between work, home, life, cultural projects, and hobbies anymore; that's why all these multifunctional spaces are occurring." UDS has developed on a number of projects that blur the lines of live-work-play, including MINI Living, the car brand’s Shanghai entry into the coliving concept of small private spaces surrounding shared semipublic spaces. But the UDS project that perhaps best represents the growing thirst for gathering is London’s Ace Hotel, the lobby of which has been called one of the city’s most popular coworking spots, although it isn’t officially one at all. Ian Schrager’s Public hotel in New York is similar in attracting nonguests to spend their days there, usually with laptop or phone in hand, even during off-business hours. "The classic 'third space' is between work and home,” said architect Melissa Hanley, cofounder, CEO, and principal of San Francisco architecture and interior design firm Blitz. "I think of it as, ‘Where’s the place I naturally gravitate to, because I feel best there?’ That can be a pub or a coffee shop; it could be the decompression or ramping-up zone." To bring that energy back to the workplace, Hanley’s firm has created game rooms and social hubs—it even has a speakeasy in the works for a client. But while the ping-pong tables of the past may have been a distraction, today’s game rooms, cafes, and bars are reflections of a company mission. “Work is happening even in these ancillary spaces. These third spaces we're creating are in support of the company’s bottom line," Hanley said. So what advice would she give to a prospective client? "There's just such an incredible amount of data in support of creating more human-centered spaces in the workplace—the benefits are innumerable." That’s why, from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, there’s a new crop of businesses catering to the need for a retreat somewhere between work and home. Beyond the traditional barbershop, clubhouse, or nail salon, these next-gen spaces tap into the growing wellness trend: Chillhouse, a monthly membership spa in New York, offers massages and manicures in an Instagram-friendly space focused on self-care; Nap York allows visitors to catch a snooze on an Airweave mattress for $10 a half hour. Then there’s Calm City, the roving meditation studio in a renovated RV, founded by Kristin Westbrook. An avid meditator who had trouble finding a private place at her hectic Rockefeller Center office, Westbrook was inspired by the food truck trend to create an oasis of calm for stressed-out New Yorkers located just outside their offices. "I've always wanted a Superman’s phone booth on every corner, a pod that you could go jump in and be transformed," Westbrook said. That break can be a crucial antidote to the stresses of the day. "Human beings are social creatures, and with many of us working longer hours and living alone in large cities, the feelings of loneliness are certainly very real and powerful," wrote Anita Cheung, cofounder of Moment Meditation, a modern mindfulness club in Downtown Vancouver, B.C., in an email to AN. "Membership in a club and a consistent (and manageable) schedule of activities outside of the ‘nine to five’ allow people to develop other facets of their lives beyond who they are at work, as well as instill a greater sense of community." That’s part of the mission of the Battery, a private member’s club in San Francisco that has taken a cue from the social clubs of the past to create a place for connection and conversation—no business or tech talk allowed. "We try to provide a little bit of an escape from your day-to-day operations," said founder Michael Birch, whether it's a moment for a cocktail, a pause between meetings, or just a place for serendipitous conversation. To facilitate that human connection, designer Ken Fulk imagined the interiors as sumptuous settings for the club’s wide range of programming and events—a mix of large, high-energy spaces to be around people, and smaller, more intimate groupings. "I think people are seeking real connection again," Birch said. "People have disappeared a little bit onto the online world. We very much discourage technology use in the club: We don’t allow people to have laptops out after 6 p.m., we don’t allow photos, and we don’t allow people to talk on their telephone other than inside a telephone booth." The relationship between work and life can be even more blurred in spaces that blend the two like never before. Take New York coliving and coworking space The Assemblage, which has two addresses in Manhattan (and a third on the way), as well as The Sanctuary, a retreat center outside Bethel, New York, near the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival. Though workspace is at the core of The Assemblage's offerings, the company encourages members to get out of their offices and connect over communal breakfasts and lunches. It also features "intention altars" and offers wellness programming like meditation, breathwork, and yoga, "all under one roof, so that individuals can experience this fluid living/working and balanced lifestyle," wrote Magdalena Sartori, the company’s chief creative officer. "Erasing that distinction between work and life empowers individuals to create their own schedule and lifestyle," she added. But as we trade the typical greige workplace environment for a more holistic, humanistic approach, are we simply going farther down a work-obsessed rabbit hole from which you can never clock out? When even the workplace pretends to be a third space, one filled with simulacra of the outside world, are we worse off than we were before? Maybe not. If the offices from the Industrial Revolution to the year 2000 were "rehistoric," as Clive Wilkinson put it, how will people look back at the way we work today—with increasing flexibility to break away from our desks—100 years from now? "They’ll think that we woke up, that suddenly this was the beginning of a work age," Wilkinson said of the turn away from military- or factory-inspired workspaces. "We’re almost at the place now where we’ll remain stable for the next 100 or 200 years, because I think humans have finally understood how communities work in a workplace, how they need to support each other and communicate.”
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Architect Brandon Haw hews a stunning dermatology office out of fiberglass

A massive light-filled loft on 5th Avenue is a prime canvas for interior architecture. Unless, of course, the client brief requests eight treatment rooms, a nutrition center, two cryotherapy care centers, a reception area, a retail area, and a few support spaces to go along with it. Then, things get considerably more complicated. These were the opportunity and the accompanying complications architect Brandon Haw faced when he was tapped to design the New York Dermatology Group (NYDG) Integral Health and Wellness flagship office by his friend Paolo Cassina, the Italian designer. “We grappled with the idea of how we could put this much activity in this wonderful, big space and yet somehow hang on to the light and volume,” Haw said. “With that in mind, I began to play around with the idea of these light, ethereal curtains around the treatment rooms. As the idea of the curtains started to gel, we asked, ‘What if we created a pod and put that in the middle, so that you come into the reception area along the very large windows overlooking 5th Avenue and then follow that line of windows around to your treatment room?’” Haw began sketching a wavy line suggestive of such a curtain and was considering a modular screen system when he and Cassina spoke with Fabio Rombaldoni of Sailing, who had worked on a number of residential projects as well as yacht interiors. The trio came up with the concept of using a yacht-hull maker to fabricate four different panel molds that joined together seamlessly to form an organic, wavy pod in the center of the space. “It was custom-made by hand in Italy, and it was quite amazing,” Haw explained. “The panels are imbued with color and the consistency by the process itself with no external spraying or painting.” The opalescent white fiberglass panels were mapped out in Italy at full scale like a giant puzzle and then exported to the United States where they were assembled. Haw and his team paired the subtle, shimmery white pod with bronze fittings and used the existing industrial dark-wood flooring. Then they lowered the ceiling plane by creating a bespoke wood baffle so that the eye would be drawn up to the edge of the 11-foot-tall pod and then to the sleek wood planks. To continue the airy aesthetic in the enclosed treatment rooms, Haw selected pulverized quartz flooring that is bright and a little sparkly but extremely durable and easy to clean. To outfit the rest of the office, Haw and Cassina delved into what they felt a wellness space should be: “sumptuous, luxurious, comfortable,” Haw said, where people feel “comforted, but at the same time get a sense of clinical efficiency.” To truly embody those descriptors from wall to wall, Haw and Cassina designed a line of contract sofas, seating, and side tables specifically for the NYDG office that will be commercially available later this year. The furniture is sleek, with unexpected cutouts and an emphasis on smaller love seats, which accommodate one or two persons, rather than long sofas. (You might have a friend with you, but when was the last time you cozied up with random fellow patients? Exactly.) “The way I come at architecture and design is all about the use of the space and lifting the spirits of the people functioning within the spaces—both the clients who are coming in and the employees who are there every day. Timeless elegance was at the forefront of this project, and there was a great attention to detail.” This attention to detail and creative process make the paradoxical space—open and private, light and dark, comfortable and clinical—look and feel just right.
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NICOLEHOLLIS studio designs a high-contrast office for itself in San Francisco

Almost every architect has horror stories about the Client from Hell, the unpleasant entity whose capriciousness or bad taste leaves the designer fuming. Arguably, though, the hardest client to design for is yourself. San Francisco’s NICOLEHOLLIS studio took on the tough task of designing an office for itself, in an old loft in the city’s South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood. Whereas it formerly ran its business in an old machine shop, the studio now operates out of a 5,000-square-foot single-floor office in a building that could command a corner in SoHo or Tribeca. The build-out, led by Hollis, takes advantage of “terrific” natural light and gorgeous views across the city to offer its designers (and visiting clients) an elegant, high-contrast office that’s both a lab for deep focus and a collaborative, social workspace. The office is a study in black, white, and light. Working with Inna Baranova, the studio director for interior architecture, and Adele Cunningham, the studio director for residential projects, Hollis crafted custom white central workstations with built-in standing desks that are both naturally lit and illuminated with FontanaArte’s Avico pendants. Although it’s often tough for light to reach the center of the floor plate in converted 19th-century factory buildings, NICOLEHOLLIS had the opposite problem—windows on all four sides. Hollis said she and her team used window treatments and UV filters on all the window panes. Conference rooms occupy prime window real estate, because clients like to soak up the views, she added. NICOLEHOLLIS carefully considered employee areas, too. Office kitchens are often drab afterthought spaces, decorated only with break-room signage and passive-aggressive Post-it notes. Hollis designed an island that encourages her staff to socialize, and there’s a large table for family style lunches. Back at work, the materials library is divided by boards charred using shou sugi ban, a Japanese technique that burns wood to preserve it. Throughout, the office is sandwiched by gray poured-concrete floors and a white concrete ceiling. “The white allows us to clear our heads and take a fresh look at our work,” Hollis said in an email. “Black is grounding and adds depth and shadow in contrast to bright light.” Hollis’s custom piece near the entrance exemplifies the NICOLEHOLLIS approach. “The reception desk is my ode to Donald Judd,” she said. “I take a lot of my cues from fine art. I love Judd’s work—its spatiality and relationship to context. The desk is also mirror polished brass and makes a strong statement about the studio’s ties to materiality and craftsmanship.” The studio works mostly in California, on residential and commercial projects, including plenty of offices. Hollis said the firm recently completed a Silicon Valley office, and it designed an office for HALL Wines, in the Napa Valley. But there’s another office project closer to home. NICOLEHOLLIS now boasts more than 50 employees, so Hollis and her team are looking to expand the space they’re in now with individual work spaces, as well as more conference rooms, materials libraries, and dining areas.
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FreelandBuck throws the cubicle wildly off-grid for this L.A. office

With their recent designs for the Los Angeles offices of international media company Hungry Man Productions, architects FreelandBuck explored the decorative potential of the average office cubicle with whimsy and explosive exuberance. The New York City– and Los Angeles–based architects renovated the interior of an existing 8,000-square-foot warehouse structure in L.A., upending the traditional office layout and utilizing abstracted decorative molding profiles as cladding for cubicle walls. The effort was fueled by an adventurous client that wanted a “dynamic and lighthearted working environment.” That desire resulted in a quizzical collection of stacked cubicles—each one turned askew—organized around a collection of shared open spaces. David Freeland, principal at FreelandBuck, explained that the firm set out to deconstruct the prototypical office and to “engage office culture in a way that makes it not mundane or rudimentary.” In plan, it looks rather chaotic, a byproduct of the firm’s playful massing approach that conceals a finely tuned organizational scheme designed to facilitate the musical chairs–style teamwork approach Hungry Man promotes. The offices are used for everything from client meetings to production projects and even casting calls and photo shoots, circumstances that require the spaces to function as a casual backdrop and formal business environment all at once. As a response, the plan is broken up into several zones: a clustered private office pod near the entrance, a dining and meeting core in a far corner, and an open-office work area in another, capped by a mezzanine filled with more private offices. After every few steps, the shifting and patterned cubicles create an entirely new and different view, framing recognizable, but ambiguous, glimpses of other office areas. The cubicles stack in certain places to create thresholds, resulting in casual indoor rooms lit by soft skylights above. They are also meant to be decorative and act as display cases for Hungry Man’s extensive collection of legacy props. The cubicles are wrapped in MDF cladding produced by a line-based CNC mill and fabricated locally to create a “fantastically inexpensive” finishing material that, for the architects, approximates the “roundness and supple depth” of a line drawing. “We wanted to make a playful connection to the office cube as a fundamental unit of typical office space,” Freeland explained. “Part of breaking loose from the conventional associations of ‘office cubicle’ was to use it for different purposes and organize it in different ways.”
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Some Apple employees are reportedly unhappy with workspaces in the new $5 billion Apple Campus

Apple’s new $5 billion headquarters has been in the works for almost six years now and it recently opened its doors, only to reportedly receive complaints and criticism from some employees. A controversial building from its conception, rumor has it that Apple Park has been met with dissatisfaction from certain workers over its open and collaborative workspaces, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. The late Steve Jobs imagined the complex as a rethinking of the modern office—“I think we have a shot at the best office building in the world,” he said—and instructed London-based Foster + Partners to design a building that would fit all 12,000 Apple employees under one roof and include access to perks like a wellness center and cafes. Additionally, Apple Park moves away from private offices and cubicles and uses an open floor plan, bench seating, and shared desks. Although this design was intended to encourage collaboration between workers, some employees reportedly want the cubicles and old offices they left behind. Recent rumors of discontent among high-level Apple staff come from the notable Apple podcaster and blogger John Gruber. On his podcast, as reported by Silicon Valley Business Journal, he described how Apple’s Senior Vice President of Technologies Johny Srouji demanded a separate space outside the main building for his team. Reports of similar arrangements for other Apple employees were echoed by Bloomberg. Concerns from Apple workers were also echoed in a recent Wall Street Journal article that stated, “many will be seated in open space, not the small offices they’re used to. Coders are programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting.” It is doubtful that Apple anticipated this response from its staff, but this conflict continues the ongoing discussion surrounding collaborative and progressive workspaces.
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Kayak office’s takes flight with an aeronautical design

When Beinfield Architecture set out to create a new headquarters for travel search engine Kayak, it turned out that client and architect both had movement on the brain.

Bruce Beinfield, principal at Beinfield Architecture PC, explained that Kayak wanted to entice young, educated professionals from New York City to come out and work for the company in Stamford, Connecticut. The “reverse-commute” would be worth making, the team postulated, if Kayak could deliver a cool place to work.

The resulting headquarters is located just off a Metro-North Railroad stop in a formerly abandoned police station designed by Yale University architect James Gamble Rogers. “We wanted to celebrate the raw materials of the existing structure and let those elements energize the space,” Beinfield said, adding that the existing building was largely untouched during the renovation as a result.

The long, narrow structure is wrapped in neo-Gothic-style ornamentation, its brick walls studded with grand, punched openings. The double-height main floor—partially subdivided during the renovation—is topped by a concrete roof supported by dramatic, open-web steel trusses. These elements frame the soaring space and are referenced throughout the project as visual and symbolic anchors.

Kayak envisioned the patinaed headquarters containing not only top-notch collaborative offices, but also an awesome accent piece: a full-scale section of a vintage airplane fuselage that would symbolize the company’s airline-travel focus. The historic building’s nature precluded altering the structure physically, so the 20-by-30-foot fuselage couldn’t be dropped in as was originally planned. Instead, Beinfield constructed a replica within the building from new components. The elliptical fuselage is installed on the far side of the main level and is used as a large meeting room and workroom. One end of the cabin is sheathed in glass, while the interior surfaces all around have been peeled away to reveal a ribbed structure made from castellated beams. A catwalk connects the aircraft body to the rest of the space, reaching a smaller mezzanine meeting room and a circulation core beyond.

The sleek fuselage is clad in reflective aluminum along its belly, which on the floor below creates a catenary-shaped ceiling for another glass-enclosed meeting room. Distinct offices and open-air seating areas populate the main level beyond. Large semicircular lamps hang from the rafters above, while lengths of ductwork and piping zoom in and out of workspaces—like travelers making connections at a busy airport.

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O+A crafts an unexpectedly modern workplace for a finance company

“Finance” usually conjures images of staid blue suits, brass plaques, and hallways lined with nondescript carpet. But when wealth-management firm Cambridge Associates moved from Menlo Park, California, to San Francisco, Amy Callahan, the firm’s managing director of operations, sought out San Francisco–based design studio O+A to “push the limits of a traditional workplace.”

O+A design studio director Mindi Weichman spearheaded the project, helping Cambridge Associates select a stripped-bare circular space with wide-sweeping views of San Francisco. “The footprint was definitely challenging,” she said. “At first, they thought they wanted private offices for all the principals and senior associates, with everyone else in an open space. But the initial planning for this showed that the perimeter would become very inefficient. We suggested workstations with large barriers so that there would be secluded zones and privacy, but no wasted space.”

From there, open desks custom designed by Knoll were provided for the rest of the employees, and other spaces were created for varying levels of privacy—from the self-explanatory conference and quiet rooms, to the library (communal, but not social) and then the kitchen area, which serves as a place to hang out and have informal gatherings.

This design strategy required toeing the line between traditional and modern office typologies. For example, keeping the concrete floors “took a bit of convincing,” Weichman said, but it created a harmonious interplay with more classic components. “[Cambridge Associates] wanted to tell a story of permanence and timelessness—and just as steel and glass serve as symbols for those values in architecture, they also convey cost and quality in the professional world.” Walnut was used extensively throughout, lending old-school warmth to the space, and a limestone wall in the reception area is polished, but not traditional.

While these client-facing areas remain conservative, with a neutral color palette of burgundy, navy, and olive, components such as a sculptural horsehair fixture by Apparatus and tessellated walnut walls in the conference rooms keep things interesting. Local art consultant Laura Grigsby contributed architectural, abstract paintings, and photographs for additional texture and color.

Employee-only areas are more playful. In the kitchen, the ceiling is peeled back to display the building’s infrastructure—just a dash of industrial aesthetic. “They wanted to show that they have an edgy side, but in a more refined way,” said Weichman. “The design is relative to whatever is happening to the space—the kitchen is a casual, louder, and more entertaining space versus the conference room, where things are clean and more buttoned up.” In the hallway, a string of weighted pendulum lights by Roll & Hill also add levity. “They can be moved, but I think the employees are scared to touch them,” laughed Weichman.

Ultimately, O+A presents a fresh approach to the now-ubiquitous open-office model replete with “standard start-up amenities.” Though there is a distinct lack of Ping-Pong tables and kegerators, the main pillars of the modern workplace—flexible seating, natural light, opportunities for socialization and relaxation—are thoughtfully well executed.

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How wellness is influencing the workplace

As sustainability becomes the new normal, designers are turning their focus to how people are affected by their surroundings and looking to new measurable standards that provide concrete frameworks for making healthy buildings. We examine one standard up close and break down how it can guide a project from start to finish.

Performance certifications like LEED, Passivhaus, and Green Globes have changed the way we think of baseline environmental concerns, but a new set of rubrics looks to build on those standards. The concept of wellness in many ways is an extension of the environmental movement, as it expands the ideals of building performance to the human experience.

There are several programs that fall under these formulas, such as Fitwel, developed by the General Services Administration (GSA) and Center for Active Design (CfAD), and the Living Building Challenge by the International Living Future Institute, which is more focused on the envelope of a building. Both are both great resources for making healthier and more livable places.

The WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is a “performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of buildings that impact the health and well-being of the people who live, work, and learn in them.” It is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and has been employed by engineering firm Arup for its Boston office—designed by Dyer Brown Architects—and by the American Society of Interior Designers for its Perkins +Will–designed headquarters in Washington, D.C. Others, like SOM Interior Design partner Stephen Apking, use the WELL Standard as a guideline for projects outside the U.S., such as the Japan Tobacco International (JTI) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The key to WELL’s success is its ability to use scientific evidence to support claims about wellness that have until recently been too esoteric. “Research is required to take it from the anecdotal to something that we can clearly define, with added value,” said Apking, who reported that clients are often convinced by the data and metrics that support WELL.

The standards are useful for giving clients an idea of how to design a healthy workplace, said Apking, who explained that the research into the measurable qualities of building environments has led his team at SOM to push wellness more aggressively. He cites a Harvard University study that focuses on air quality. It found that though LEED buildings get to a point where they do help workers, they should also remove carbon dioxide in addition to VOCs. This is how wellness can go beyond environmentalism and how science can help give clients more specific assurance rather than just anecdotal tales of healthy environments.

At Arup’s Boston office, it has developed a physical prototype for simultaneously quantitative and qualitative performance assessments. It sets up a continuous air-quality feedback system that monitors air quality, noise, and thermal comfort. “The sensor kit was a way to connect in a multidisciplinary way with the other parts of Arup that are advanced in building software systems,” said Mallory Taub, sustainability and WELL consultant at Arup, explaining the monitoring system. “Talking about metrics is extremely important for understanding these design strategies and how your space is performing. Is it making an impact on the people who are using it?”

However, it is important to keep in mind that people are not just numbers. Working with its in-house operational psychology team in London, Arup developed a survey with a series of questions that solicit responses that follow the seven features of WELL. How much are employees using sit-stand desks? How are the dining spaces working? How are lighting and acoustic systems working?

Similarly, designer Ilse Crawford—in her book A Frame for Life—explained the design of her London studio:

The space is laid out as an apartment, with the intention of keeping the space as domestic as possible, while allowing for us to function as a creative studio. Throughout we have used materials and elements that stimulate rather than curb the senses: wood, stone, proper rugs, plants.… The office of the future has a lot to learn from the hospitality industry. It should be a place where people feel good and grounded and motivated. The office of the past was essentially about control, a white-collar factory predicated on measurables and human ‘machines’ rather than people.

When it comes to the WELL framework, Apking also said that the early conversations with the clients allow him to organize the projects conceptually around employee well-being from the start. “It is not easy for clients to talk about this. WELL helps us lay out the concepts that we want to pursue in the design.”

To dive deeper into what wellness means in the workplaces, The Architect's Newspaper looks at how the ASID headquarters, Arup’s Boston office, and the JTI headquarters have manifested the seven concepts of WELL.

Air

Designers must address issues of air quality standards, including ventilation and filtration systems, to control moisture and reduce harmful particulates.

The shape of the JTI headquarters by SOM helps to draw in fresh air, which is then filtered by a hybrid system that also conditions the air through a radiant system in the ceiling tiles, cooling the air with chilled water. This produces an “even coolness” that is both energy efficient and comfortable.

Because Arup’s Boston office is on the tenth floor of the building, it replaced the air handler in the building so that it could have all the systems needed and be able to take on more capacity in the future. It also used an on-demand control system that allows different ventilation depending on occupancy. Conversations around cleaning and facilities maintenance are important for keeping up on this feature.

Light

Beyond the simple specification of lighting devices and the daylighting strategies, WELL calls for light to be controlled in more sophisticated ways that mimic natural and comfortable levels and types. Circadian lighting designs and glare controls for both electric and natural lights.

Arup’s lighting designers used the ceiling as a luminous surface by casting light onto it in an even way, reducing glare and dark spots. They also received a WELL innovation credit for their design of an electric circadian lighting system at Arup’s Boston office that changes color throughout the day to mimic natural daylight patterns. This involves more blue tones in the middle of the day and warmer tones at the end of the day, which gives the body cues that the day is progressing. The ASID headquarters includes an automated shading system made by Lutron that senses when to control light levels from the exterior.

Mind

Because the Mind feature is the most esoteric, it requires post-occupancy surveys to be conducted to verify that the design is accomplishing its aims. Beauty, design, and a sense of natural connectivity are all included.

For JTI, SOM created environments that it wanted to make “joyful” and “optimistic.” Working with artist Liam Gillick, it developed a series of colorful canvases that move through the building along a staircase. Additionally, Lake Geneva and nearby mountains can be viewed from meeting spaces, and the cafeteria at the top of ‘‘the building has a stunning vista.

At the ASID headquarters, biophilic design strategies such as incorporating natural materials and patterns are employed alongside spatial and architectural configurations meant to inspire and give a sense of subconscious well-being. Plants give a sense of peacefulness and add a splash of color, while a soundproof meditation room gives respite from the office environment.

Water

While environmentalism focuses on reducing water usage, wellness is about water quality.

In order to guarantee a base level, this feature sets standards for water purity, targeting inorganic and organic contaminants as well as agricultural contaminants and public-water additives.

Because the municipal water testing doesn’t take into account aging pipe infrastructure, Arup added a chlorine filter to the water line of its building to ensure that drinking water tastes great. Arup also upgraded to a sparkling-water dispenser so that everyone remains hydrated. At ASID’s headquarters, placing water dispensers in desirable areas promotes healthy hydration habits, and no one is more than 100 feet away from water at any time.

Comfort

The comfort feature includes thermal, acoustic, visual, and ergonomic criteria, not only considering ADA accessibility, but also protection from noise generated inside and outside the building. At the ASID headquarters, Perkins + Will used donated furniture by Humanscale, including “Quickstand” sit-stand desks complete with the Humanscale ergonomic setup of monitor arms and adjustable under-desk keyboard trays.

Arup’s office used sit-stand desks by Teknion and monitor arms by Humanscale, with smaller individual work areas and more common space. To mitigate noise, the designers used mechanical systems that met lower criteria for noise allowances as well as a range of finish materials that make the space quieter. Armstrong acoustic tiles reduce noise, and the office is fully carpeted with Interface carpet tile that has an organic pattern as part of the biophilic strategy.

Nourishment

By providing quality snacks and office meals, WELL-certified workspaces create an environment conducive to wellness. Transparency about these foods, such as ingredient lists, nutritional facts, and allergy information are required. Unprocessed foods and fruits and vegetables are crucial.

Arup’s Boston office likes to brag that it has one of the best office nutritional programs. At first, employees were reluctant to give up their beloved bagel-and-donut breakfasts, but now the office kitchen has a healthy spread that meets WELL standards, as well as a weekly food delivery with transparent ingredients and nutrition facts clearly stated.

Fitness

The fitness feature requires a design that encourages movement. This can be simply in the form of fitness incentives from the employer, or it can mean the programming of fitness spaces and equipment into the design.

JTI’s continuous landscape loops inside and outside the building both vertically and horizontally right). The stairs circle and weave through the building up through each floor, which gives employees an attractive walking path instead of elevators. The meeting points, such as the conference center and the coffee and dining spaces, are woven through the building. The fitness center is also along the continuous landscape, which gives people the option of working out indoors and outdoors.

Want more on wellness design? Read how it's spreading across hospitality architecture and beyond. Workplace Wellness Resource List Arup Boston Carpet Interface Tile Crossville Paint PPG - Ecos Imperial Countertop Okite Wall Tile Mosa Wood Tree Frog Plastic Laminate Doors and Cabinets Pointe Cork Wall Forbo SOM — JTI HQ White Carrara Marble Stair Treads Staminal Stone Artwork Liam Gillick Carpet Interface Table and Chair Arper Acoustic Metal Ceiling Trisax Pendants Arne Quinze Impact Lighting Stool La Palma Perkins + Will — ASID Task Chairs and Sit-Stand Desks Teknion Humanscale Automated Shades and Lighting Control System Lutron Grade Glazing and Doorway System Haworth Chairs and Tables Steelcase + Coalesse Keilhauer Herman Miller Bookcase and Conference Tables Herman Miller Ergonomic Desk Accessories Humanscale Credenza and Mobile Conference Table Bernhardt Design Television LG Additional Furnishings ATG Stores Davis HBF Additional Finishes Cosentino Shaw Contract Nevamar Sherwin-Williams Armstrong Additional Fixtures Kohler