Threefold Architects deliver new coworking space Paddington Works
Inspired by Brunel’s iconic station, the design uses a limited palette of simple and robust materials that give the the space an industrial and civic quality.
Finding new ways to ensure that workers can be productive without sitting side-by-side has become a massive challenge for designers. With hybrid workplace models rapidly becoming the norm, IVC Commercial present seven smart ways to define and delineate the open plan workplace.
As any designer worth their salt knows, the floor has a huge impact on the visual perception of a space, so breaking it up can be a great way to create clear activity areas and help workplaces stay agile. Mixing between carpet tiles and luxury vinyl tiles is one way, but shape can also be used really effectively. Geometric forms can be used to mark areas with pattern, while also helping to fine-tune the feel of the space. Hexagons are a prime example of this, bringing a strong natural influence – beehives, snowflakes etc – connecting areas through colony-like formations of wood and stone effects, as can be seen in Studio Moods’ bespoke modular vinyl collection.
If the pandemic has taught us anything about collaboration, it is that the virtual world isn’t without its drawbacks. Another Teams meeting anyone? The office is expected to become a place where collaboration is a priority. With project teams completing tasks remotely and gathering together with more intent, this shift will see an explosion of pod-like formations breaking up open plan spaces. Pods are a great way for project teams to come together in relative isolation and, as a bonus, they can double-up as private working spaces.
With working from home forcing many workers to feel isolated and anxious, the last thing they need is an office that makes them feel the same. But they also want to feel they can work in safety should they not be comfortable in a more formalised seating environment. High-back furniture – sofas in café-style booths – can be used to provide a sense of ‘open solace’. In these settings, workers still feel they are in a shared and populated space, yet alone enough to feel safe and confident.
The modern company is built around IT infrastructure, but the pandemic has highlighted just how frail this can be at times. Poor acoustics, creaking WiFi and a lack of plugs make supposedly agile workspaces far less agile. Workers huddling in the same spot because that is where the WiFi signal doesn’t drop out, or queuing up because it’s the only place quiet enough to hold a Teams meeting, are signs of a failed design. Ensuring spaces can meet the flexible and wireless needs of the company is going to be super important moving forward.
Too much time spent indoors has shown just how much we need to feel at one with the natural world. Travelling from a cramped home set-up through to an urban landscape and into an office devoid of greenery does little to build this connection. We all know the positive power that plants can have on workers, so using them as a way to create activity hubs adds real purpose. Semi-circular arrangements around bistro-style tables offer shielding and serve far more purpose than stiff, suspect-style line-ups against a wall.
By its very nature, the agile office is far more of a complex acoustical problem for designers. Frankly, the need to employ micro-hubs of productivity, as well as providing scope for larger gathering zones and places to relax, all while removing fixed structures to create a feel of openness and collaboration, is a bit of a noise nightmare. Acoustic panels and surface treatments can help to combat echoing, noise-filled spaces in areas most prone to suffering.
Agile is adaptable. Spaces that can transform their role, accommodate shrinking or growing numbers and even change location are sure-fire ways to impress clients with the agile (née adaptable) place you’ve created for them. The future holds uncertainty for the modern company – and don’t forget that clients are acutely aware of this. They too are worried about the impacts of constantly shifting restrictions and our capacity to cope with a return to more densely populated offices – and they need reassurance that their workplace can cope.
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The acoustic specialists have transformed a roof terrace building on Old Street into a working case study on flexible and modular design using their own products.