The Lobby is the Living Room.

The lobby has long been understood as a transient space, one that people either walk through or wait in before reaching their final destination. Walking or waiting, one thing has been thought of as clear – the lobby is not a place we stay in for long. Until now.

The accelerative force of the pandemic has reframed the lobby as we know it, evolving from a throughfare waiting room into a multi-purpose public space capable of making people stay. The lobby of tomorrow needs to be comfortable, welcoming, and social – functioning like the living room of the workplace.

With roots in the more formal parlor, the humble living room has long been the heart of the home by providing a relaxed place for conversation and for entertaining guests.  In a future that undoubtedly incorporates working from home, it follows that the comforts of home life should find their way into the office.

Lobby in use at 367 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Couch comfort in a breakout area of the lobby at Tengda Center Workplace in Shanghai.

Imagine this: your journey into your office building involves a walk through a park via a familiar barista who knows your morning coffee order. Instead of rushing into an elevator, you sit down in a plush armchair of your choosing to wait for your 9 am meeting – enjoying wireless charging for your devices and fast internet while you appreciate the fresh air, greenery, and relaxed atmosphere. Slightly later, your client finds you easily thanks to the open plan and – because you made use of an in-house app to order – two croissants arrive right on time to fuel a relaxed and collaborative conversation.

Greenery all around at Central Park Lobby, Perth.

Sounds good right? The pressure on employers to entice their employees back to the office, and to attract new talent, means that companies must consider how to intensify the use of their spaces. The lobby needs to elevate its capacity as a social space – and lose some of its past formality – in order to really perform.

Coffee and snacks can be easily found in Central Park, Perth.

Meetings over coffee at 347 Kent Street, Sydney.

Lunchtime in full swing at International Towers T2 Lobby, Sydney.

Additionally, lobbies can build upon their living room capacity to host and entertain – accommodating functions, talks and events. For building owners, this means a chance at extra revenue as the space can be hired out to external parties – plus a further opportunity for their building to serve the city it stands in.

The future of the lobby is one of usefulness and invitation – they need to be designed to make their users feel continually, rather than transitorily, embedded in their city, community, and company.

Early stage render for the Keppel Tower Redevelopment in Singapore. Of note here is the capacity for the space to host meetings and events for the wider community.

Greenery and fresh air proposed at 55 Pitt Street, Sydney (early stage render).

Plenty of room to sit, work and watch the city activity at Collins Arch lobby, Melbourne.

This shake-up also means that a lobby can serve a city. Conjuring an Italian plaza, the future lobby could take on a civic persona by extending its comforts to the wider community. A push to a lobby’s inherent multi-purpose potential would create a space where a freelancer can write over lunch, an artist can exhibit their work, a café owner can sell slices of his mother’s famous chocolate cake, a start-up can pitch a new idea to the business upstairs, a tourist can get directions from a friendly concierge, or an office worker can buy the perfect handbag – all at the same time.

Central Park lobby, Perth.

Talk to Ray Yuen about The Lobby is the Living Room.

Ray is an Australian Designer with family heritage from Hong Kong. His mixed cultural upbringing has shaped him into a designer with a focus and strength in creating unique designs that are culturally specific and brand defining for his clients. Over the past 13 years he has designed numerous high profile projects in Hong Kong, Australia, London and Singapore. His key experiences are in commercial projects, including retail, workplace and hospitality.

He is currently based in Hong Kong, working with China’s top mixed-use developers and innovation-driven multinational corporations. His clients include HP Inc, Tencent, Vanke, Nike and Google.