For numerous design practices around the world, the office of the future is one that focuses on the needs of a new generation of workers; a generation who places a premium on smart tools and systems, and creative and collaborative processes. These workers understand that the workplace is no longer confined to one particular typology, but should rather be fluid. Depending on requirements, this may mean working remotely, or sharing a desk with someone else from a different company.
The one constant in the 21st century office may then be a lack of uniformity. Gone are the days of office cubicles neatly lined up in a row. Today, offices with adaptable spaces are what architects and interior architects strive towards.
According to world-leading design practice Gensler, this is especially true for consulting and professional service firms. As they note in their Workplace Trend report:
“To increase real-estate efficiency, professional services firms will continue to reduce space. This high-performance workplace will consist of a variety of settings that provide choice and balance among work modes. Technology will be an enabler of communication and mobility wherever work happens.
“The office will be the focus of face-to-face engagement with clients and colleagues. Future-proofing will be a high priority, with greater flexibility to accommodate head-count shifts and evolving work styles cost-effectively within the same footprint.”
If they manage to incorporate smart, flexible, fit-for-purpose spaces, offices have already won half their sustainability battle.
Global engineering firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff is one of the latest examples of this model of agile office design in Australia. Together with designers from JPE Design Studio, it has delivered a 21st century-minded fit out of its offices in Adelaide.
The WSP Workplace, which stands on the corner of King William Street and North Terrace in Adelaide CBD, needed a clean slate after their business was integrated. Not only did the company’s 1,100-square-metre office need to provide an inspiring environment for approximately 90 staff, it also needed to be flexible. Due to the nature of the business, the offices would rarely be fully occupied at any one time. With this in mind, WSP set out an 80 percent desking ratio target.
Level one of the building was the primary focus area for the team’s flexible design strategy. This floor had impressive views to the street, and was highly visible from the street. Its “sheer verticality”, however, was the prize design feature, with a floor-to-floor height of almost four metres.
The design team took advantage of this height, bookending the space with a series of elevated meeting rooms, or ‘pods’, which could not be booked by employees. According to JPE Design Studio, this created opportunities for intimate and informal gatherings, as well as a different perspective of the workplace.
In addition to the modern, flexible configuration of level one, the architects also transformed the entire northern side of the building into a social space. This aimed to promote informal interactions – critical to the success of a newly merged business. Here, a blend of kitchen facilities, meeting spaces, and elevated decks give staff and visitors an opportunity to appreciate city views from a heightened vantage point.
“[This project] reflects progressive office trends with an adaptable layout, promoting collaboration in a dynamic and interactive fit-out,” said the 2017 South Australian Architecture Awards jury. Together with two other projects, the WSP offices was commended under the Sustainable Architecture category.
“We felt that this project was exemplary in working around an existing base building to integrate environmental technologies,” the jury continued.
“This project strived to create an office environment that would be a company showpiece for ESD.”
WSP’s new Adelaide space is expected to set a benchmark for the firm globally, capitalising on smart mobile technologies and a number of other flexibility-inspired workplace tools.