The Office and Place

Our thoughts turn to the new 500,000 sq ft Foster-designed, London HQ for Bloomberg and the news that whilst housing 4,000 staff it won’t have any significant canteen spaces. By not providing vast dining options, Bloombergers will be encouraged to get away from the office and physically leave the building at lunch, and presumably at other times.

We believe at Nord that offices provide more than just somewhere to work. Successful commercial developments make a positive impact on the neighbourhood and support other local businesses and enterprises whether they be coffee shops or key cutters. With international food stations, yoga rooms and hairdressing facilities provided in-house, there is a danger that major new office developments could deplete rather than enhance their local surroundings.

The challenge for developers and owner occupiers is to offer their tenants and workforce spaces which address an increasingly diverse set of workplace needs that stem from the convergence of work and social life. Connection and community are as important in modern office design as natural daylight and generous floor to ceiling heights. We know that we can we make offices to facilitate exchange, collaboration and social interaction, but in doing so are we constructing spaces that are simply too good to leave?

It seems that some of the best ideas are coming out of the co-working operators. They have pioneered the blurring of traditional office spaces, realising that lounges and booths can sit alongside offices and meeting rooms to provide flexible options for working and interaction. Their “members” are afforded a sense of community but not tied to their desks or workstations because of the temporary nature of their leasing arrangements. External guests and businesses are regularly invited in to provide talks or services as part of a regular programme of professional and social events. And local food trucks or catering firms benefit from co-worker custom.

As tenant needs evolve, so developers respond to produce, what we hope, are better buildings. The imposing and cavernous formal reception is making way for a more interactive and fluid ground floor space which is inviting rather than sterile and restricted. Spaces within office developments are more permeable and at their best extend to outside areas giving life to the building and the street. The aim must surely be to create outward facing properties that are vibrant and useful to their location and not isolated and closed to the street.

Dynamic working environments are an active addition to the world of commercial offices. They engage with local businesses in a multitude of ways and foster a sense of community, both for their members and externally. Michael Bloomberg who has been instrumental in the design of his London HQ was quoted as saying that the creation of the new office has been guided “by the principles of collaboration, innovation and productivity”. Sounds a lot like co-working to us!

Images of White Collar Factory courtesy of AHMM

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