by By Mark Damant
Merging into the City, Merging into Learning, Merging into Life
The urban working environment is evolving at an accelerating pace. As cities cycle ever faster through changing industries and areas of specialization, new approaches to building design have become a necessity. To this need for greater adaptability add another feature of today’s corporate landscape: the constant drive for innovation. Workplaces must enable and support cross-collaboration and the creative process. In addition to workplace and work practice evolution, as cities rapidly alter course, nations will follow suit, heightening and broadening the importance of the new design approaches.
Look up the word innovation in the Oxford dictionary and you immediately encounter this example sentence: “Innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organization.” Not surprisingly, the words were uttered by a Silicon Valley CEO. The truth of them can no longer be debated.
The imperative for organizations to innovate has become a drumbeat. Staff reviews consistently recognise that learning and development is important in both professional and personal lives. These themes are mission-central to generations of people that are also used to the rapid changes in technology, industry and ways of working. The “new” is easily accepted and adapted to, and there’s no question that health and well-being are ultimately key to both employers (who receive direct benefits from having a more engaged staff) and employees (who lead more fulfilling lives when they’re more engaged professionally).
Woods Bagot’s merging of computational analysis and design, called SUPERSPACE, suggests that a deep multi-dimensional analysis of city and city context and the merging of that understanding into the interior will create spaces and places that define new building typologies not necessarily exclusive to office, residential or institutional. Like cities, workplace buildings could be designed as precincts, neighbourhoods and quarters with a large degree of ambiguity about their future use.
SUPERSPACE uses digital technology to test multiple solutions and organisational possibilities to ensure that space can be adjusted to multiple solutions and configurations, noting that the ultimate form of sustainability is the ability to adapt easily to multiple futures, without complete renewal (a highly indulgent form of waste).
Organisations are increasingly spending more time adapting to new technologies and working in new ways. If the working environment is to simultaneously take on greater degrees of flexibility and become a place of learning, it can only follow that clusters of buildings intended to serve as campuses (with unallocated in-between spaces, large open floor plates and multiple configuration possibilities) will become more and more prevalent.