The Workplace of the Future Design Competition revealed a wealth of fresh ideas and a bit of uncertainty about exactly where we’re headed.
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RUNNER-UP: CoLAB by Eckhart, team: Teun van den Dries, Frank van Haalen, Britt Brijder, Sander Mulders, Pauline Quast
The runner-up entry—by Eckhart, a 170-year-old Rotterdam-based design ﬁrm—indulged in more science-ﬁction bells and whistles, albeit informed by the leading deﬁciencies of today’s workplaces. “The common thread we see is that people are not generally in the ofﬁce anymore,” says Teun van den Dries, director of the ﬁrm. “They still have desks, but I doubt that more than twenty percent are in use. Most of the people are either on the move or in meetings.”
The idea merges the open-plan office with walls embedded with touch-screen technology.
Eckhart’s project, called CoLAB, imagines a component system of partitions with embedded screens, built in a range of sizes, from large walls to single workstations to integrated chairs. (The Titan crew would feel at home.) At the top of Eckhart’s wish list of imagined features is “active noise reduction”—a system that would suck out
the noise from space, like a room-sized pair of high-end headphones. It doesn’t exist yet in a workable form, despite van den Dries’s hopes. “The most important limiting factor in every project we do is acoustics,” he says. The large, unpartitioned spaces in vogue today (especially when inserted into the rectangular glass boxes of contemporary Dutch architecture) create a sense of activity—but also a din that can go beyond the healthy. “It’s a compromise between getting interaction going, and having sufﬁcient noise reduction.” CoLAB tried to strike that balance by putting a ﬁnger on an inevitable trend in workplace design: the convergence of technological devices and architecture, in the form of embedded computers. In that imagined future, the machine isn’t the computer on the desk or the tablet on the table, but the thing we step inside of when we arrive for work. It’s a reversal of our current situation: rather the computer being our workplace, our workplace becomes the computer.