Shared spaces? OK, but for what purpose? The way we live and work is changing, so the places we live and work in are evolving accordingly. So if employees are no longer in the office every day of the working week, what should we be doing with the freed up space? “Either we take the opportunity to reduce the amount of space or we improve the quality of the increased space we have. My preference would be the second option. When employees do return to the workplace, it should be a pleasant place to be,” explains architect Jean-Philippe Nuel. To achieve this goal, developers and builders must think carefully about the well-being of users by introducing solutions such as more spacious working and meeting spaces, more natural daylight, and more spaces in which to socialize and interact. “This approach breaks with the accepted practice of the past, and aligns better with the expectations of our new generations.”
Materials for well-being
Colors and materials are key to well-being. Wood to reduce stress, ultraviolet lighting and virus-repellent surfaces for a healthier environment, electronically controlled switchable glass partition walls that transition from transparent to opaque for privacy, and noise absorbing materials for genuinely comfortable sound environments... There are many combinations of such materials that make it possible to invent modular spaces that meet precise needs and preferences. “Easily movable furniture can also encourage this modular approach,” continues Jean-Philippe Nuel. Looking further than materials and sofas, well-being is also a function of ventilation and outdoor access, because whether in an office or hotel, taking a break on the terrace whenever possible is always preferable to a whole day spent in an enclosed room.
Rethinking space in terms of an entire neighborhood
Even for those who prefer remote working away from the office, maintaining concentration at home can be complicated: no dedicated room, feelings of isolation, less equipment than in the office... Perhaps the solution lies in rethinking our neighborhoods?
The flexibility offered by teleworking outside company premises must be matched by the provision of coworking spaces. Some real estate developers are already working on schemes that bridge the gap between company headquarters and home by creating dedicated coworking spaces nearby. These workspaces would have all the shared facilities not available in the home, at the same time as allowing individuals to work in a quiet space, but without any feeling of isolation. In addition to sharing hardware like printers, etc., this solution provides the opportunity to include a reception area and a range of other amenities, such as concierge and meal delivery services. This thought process revolves around a global package of facilities, rather than a succession of unrelated services.
Hotels as interactive spaces
This type of service package is nothing new, because some hotels have been offering it for a long time now: there is accommodation, of course, but you can also welcome clients in a meeting room, and round off the day with a drink or a meal at the bar or in the restaurant, before de-stressing in the spa. You also have the option simply using the hotel to work alone in a welcoming and dedicated space in the lobby. So could we be seeing some office environments adopting hotel practices in their attempt to create a more welcoming and appealing atmosphere?
More and more hotels in our cities are taking this opportunity to become more open to their neighborhood. Inside and outside, it turns hotels into valuable spaces for doing business and interacting with others. “Hotels already have facilities in place to meet many such needs. It is a service delivery space that can offer a broad range of options beyond its primary functions. So we need to reinvent it as an interactive space integral to its neighborhood”, says Jean-Philippe Nuel. Looking particularly to Asia, we see mixed development schemes that allow apartment building residents to use the services of a hotel located in the same building. The architect is the lever in this convergence of uses: “A home can go some way to providing an office-like environment, and the places we are used to working in can come close to providing the comforts of home,” with social interaction spaces, sofas and rooftop terraces.
Decompartmentalizing the functions of a shared building so that it can evolve to reflect changes in society by embracing new uses and/or users is a sustainable way of thinking about our buildings.
Credits : Yakobchuk viacheslav/Shutterstock; Deliris/Shutterstock; Dean Drobot/Shutterstock