It seems that offices have become the big sexy in design lately: with their starchitect designers, indoor playgrounds, colossal interactive areas, bright colors, and high style glimmer that's nothing like the beige industrial purgatories we may remember. As flamboyant images of adult playlands go viral (note the offices of Facebook, Red Bull, Google, etc), the era of the vapid cubicle farm may have finally come to an inglorious end. Recent studies have shown that "enriched work environments" can significantly effect productivity, increasing it as much as 15% to 30%. If the work habitat is inviting enough, the new thinking goes, employees will never want to go home.
So, should every office space now be remade into a playground?
The answer, according to studies like this one, is no. While the new paradigm suggests that an open office design can help create community, connect people, foster collaboration, and leverage uniqueness—"maximize the human capital" of a workforce—people also need a space of their own, free from distractions. The structure and flow of an office needs to include everyone, both openness for the extroverts and sanctuary for the introvert. (You never know where the shy lone geniuses may be lurking.)
Mindful of both the art and the science, Knibb Design undertook a comprehensive design strategy for the offices of the renowned Media Arts Lab (MAL). As can be seen in the rendering above, fastidious attention was given to lighting, surface, material, and ambience. The objective was to create a beauty that was both subtle and unobtrusive, built on soft tones with punctuations of color. The surroundings needed to be alive enough to be aspirational yet quiet and undistracting for contemplation. A space balanced in a zen space of interactivity and retreat—part drawing room, part den.
Below, some of Sean's formative sketches as the concept developed.
Below, a topographic site plan constructed to represent how our design would divide up the space dimensionally. Cigarette packs indicate various work areas. (On the left side between the unfiltered Camels and the red dots and below the yellow tape is where the lounge area in the rendering above is situated.) The yellow tape represents the movement flow lines for the space.