When it comes to the modern workplace, particularly for information work, the office is no longer about one assigned workstation per person; it’s about getting the most effective use of your space.
Maybe you travel frequently for work, or perhaps you split your time working from an office, a coffee shop, and a home office.
In any case, all you really require is power, internet access, and a flat surface. So you probably don’t need a designated desk, and your company probably doesn’t need to pay for vacant space and the resources associated with it.
So, how can companies decrease real-estate costs and consumption of resources? And how can employees work more effectively and collaboratively while also maintaining a seamless connection to the technology they need to work?
These are questions we answered when we entered – and won – the “2012 HP/Microsoft Smart Office Challenge.”
The challenge was to design an office space of the future, with the only requirement that it feature HP and Microsoft technology. Our team included 10 architects and interior designers from MulvannyG2 Architecture’s DC office, where I’m the managing principal. We partnered with New York-based industrial designer, Zachary Feltoon, my son and the owner of Zac & Company.
Like many corporations today, our team represented three generations in the workplace. This was beneficial because we wanted a solution dynamic enough to fit a wide range of working styles and technological preferences — in essence, to mimic how people actually work today.
We began the process with a series of design charrettes and eventually chose a modular concept that went beyond the traditional office environment.
Flexible and sustainable space planning
Our collaborative design, called HP MIMIC, is a movable workplace that can be customized by touching a screen or an app. This allows users to transform their office environment to match work styles, user requirements, and company culture.
Since the panels turn and modulate, the space can seamlessly convert from a closed, private space to an open, collaborative one. Walls can be used to share work or display a presentation; they’re made of rigid aluminum and fully wired so they’re ready to “plug and play.”
The design also features a collapsible system of rotating electrochromatic glass modules that are controlled via a HP tablet interface. This isn’t in production yet; however, a prototype (built by HP) was presented at the Alt Design Summit in Salt Lake City in January 2013.
Along with accommodating individual workers, this design also helps with sustainable space planning by allowing companies to grow organically and adjust space as needed without having to make costly changes. Too much of the wrong space drains resources.
MIMIC addresses the balance between how much space is required at a given time with the need for flexibility. It also increases opportunities for collaboration and “aha” moments with colleagues. Emphasizing efficient movement and taking advantage of the natural interaction that occurs in workspaces is critical to fostering creative environments.
Ultimately, work is about the exchange of ideas, so workspaces should encourage and enhance creativity. Mobile technology has liberated us and expanded the concept of the office, but people still want to collaborate in-person.
In exploring more effective methods of collaboration, we are actually encouraging better ideas. It also acknowledges that what happens in the negative space surrounding workspaces can be as important as what happens at the desk itself.