The Workplace of the Future Design Competition revealed a wealth of fresh ideas and a bit of uncertainty about exactly where we’re headed.
(page 5 of 5)
HONORABLE MENTION: NEXUS: The Locomotion of Business by team: Sara Willhoite, Angie Tjisnoyo, Matthew Ford, and Mina Lee
Courtesty Sara Willhoite
Indeed, the entry titled NEXUS: The Locomotion of Business—which earned an honorable mention—took that notion literally: It’s an ofﬁce on a train. Acknowledging the correlation between mobile workers and supporters of high-speed rail, the project—by a group of students at the School of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati—reimagines the typical Amtrak Cafe Car as something like the lobby of a boutique hotel. There is a range of individual and collaborative work spaces, tricked out with interactive screens and mood lighting. The appeal is undeniable, but I see a nagging gloominess to it. We have all these communication tools, and all these environments in which to collaborate—yet we’re always on the move. A workplace is our daytime home—and should ideally offer the same kinds of comforts, in the service of our own productivity. Putting it on a train seems like the ofﬁce design equivalent of a car cupholder, an unfortunate necessity. But the challenges of ceaseless motion are real. Where is everybody going?
Acknowledging the correlation between mobile workers and supporters of high-speed rail, the project reimagines the typical Amtrak Cafe Car as something like the lobby of a boutique hotel.
Courtesy Sara Willhoite
We know the answer intuitively: to the face-to-face meetings we’ve learned are necessary to buttress all our keyboard-to-keyboard interactions. What that means in practice is a cohort perpetually in the air (and occasionally on a train): an expensive, unsustainable, exhausting reality. In Eckhart’s CoLAB proposal, the team notes that shift in the structure of organizations; we’re way past a top-down hierarchy, and are even moving away from the tendency toward collaboration among internal teams. The dominant future structure, Eckhart suggests, is the collaboration among companies. If that’s the case (and many of us work that way already), then—to borrow an analogy from technology—the work space becomes a platform, merely the structural basis for a variety of activities conducted by a variety of people. “That’s something we’re trying to do,” van den Dries says. “We often collaborate with a group of graphic designers and we say, ‘Feel free to come join us and visit.’ We see that as a model.” That would mark the biggest shift in work space design in a hundred years. What does it do for institutional identities? Who will pay for these places? Where will they be? (In cities, no doubt.) We’re moving toward an uncertain future, and in the Workplace of the Future Design Competition all that uncertainty was evident.
Upper Level: 1 Standing kiosks 2 Booth 3 Work bar 4 Presentation lounge 5 Group standing station Lower Level: 1 Entrance 2 Restroom 3 Touch-down bench 4 Cafe 5 Standing ad lib 6 Cega chair with pull-down touch-screen and body-heat-absorbing thermofabric 7 Standing kiosk
Courtesy Sara Willhoite