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spaces that



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“next” generation


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Workplace empowerment Together is exactly the way Generation Y prefers to work... Mark McCrindle, Social Researcher

Looking at the last four generations, trends show we are moving towards moral thinking, casual rather than formal; a greater overlap between relationships & areas of life and a ‘work to live’ attitude.

Why? Y and Z generations are looking for: 1 Socially connected 2 Fun and entertaining 3 Cool and socially desirable 4 Life-enhancing 5 New and innovative (Mark McCrindle)

An understanding in these top motivators is imperative in order to design ideally for contemporary and future users. These drivers emphasise the importance of an innovative, trendy and social work spaces.

From supervision to empowerment Social researcher, Mark McCrindle, in his book The ABC of XYZ: Understanding the Global Generations, marks these changes within the workplace and describes how whilst the key management system for Baby Boomers was supervision, it has moved towards a system of empowerment. This system shifts towards an employee focused work space as opposed to an employer focused office. This leads to the transition of the traditional hierarchy of relationships within the office to become a more fluid network of relationships. As a result, the spaces we design within an office must accommodate for this fluidity: showing a change from the traditional grid of individual workspaces to a wider variety of spaces which treat all employees with greater equity. This develops from a deeper understanding of how space has the ability to dictate the way we work.



technology explosion


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Un-tethered communication A firm’’s ability to attract, motivate and retain talent is directly related to the level of engagement inside the business. David Croston, Inside Communication, 2013

Communication Research has found that line managers spend between 60% and 80% of their work time involved in some form of work communication, and 40% of their time is spent communicating with their team members — equivalent to two full work days per week. Enterprise Social Networks, or ESNs, are set to radically change the way we connect, communicate and collaborate in the workplace. As work has become increasingly collaborative within teams, between disciplines and between practices, successful communication is vital as it directly relates to the level of engagement and success of a company. Technology has extended our boundaries for work, allowing more fluid and accessible communication where physical proximity is of little importance. Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are able to manipulate the virtual environment in terms of how workers connect, communicate and collaborate. The physical work environment also has the ability to improve the way employees carry out work.

Technology Technological development has led to the un-tethering of workers from the traditional permanent workdesk. • • • • •

1 06.1 million tablets sold in 2012, an 84% increase from 2011 36 billion device applications bought in 2012 alone 87% of the world’s population have a mobile subscription 25% of 2yr olds have used a smartphone Calling is ranked 5th in terms of application usage for average owner of a smartphone • Average computer user checks 40 websites a day • We consume almost 3 times the amount of information that a typical person consumed in 1960 The rapid rate of change in technology has allowed workers to work almost anywhere. As technology continues to make our lifestyles more mobile, the spaces designed for work are no longer confined to the realms of an individual desk. Workers are able to work in spaces that are more appropriate to their individual needs and to the various tasks they may be required to perform in one day.



highly collaborative cultures


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Transitional workspaces Work is becoming a process, not a place. Philip Ross, Chief Executive of the Cordless Group

The contemporary office is currently undergoing a shift, physically and behaviourally. Offices are currently shrinking with a greater use of more shared spaces encouraging collaborative work. There has become a wider range of work settings within an office, allowing for workers to not only collaborate, but also be dispersed for certain tasks.

Teamwork has time and time again shown its superiority over individual effort. The great “Aha!” breakthroughs happen when people put their heads and hearts together, in person. Leveraging Complexity, 360º, Steelcase

The idea that the amount of work produced is dependent upon the hours an employee can remain at their individual desk is outdated. Research shows that a large percentage of the average worker’s day is spent completing work tasks away from their individual desks, and as a result individual desks are often unused, making the traditional grid structure of an office inefficient and impractical. People will say they’re in their workstations 80% of the time and the data shows that actual utilisation is half that. The current generational and workplace trends both support a move towards a more collaborative approach of work. As processes become more complex, we become more inter-dependent. The current structural grid of most offices acts as a limitation on levels of collaboration. By providing numerous transitional spaces from private to public areas, different levels of collaborative work and formality are catered for.

Levels of collaboration: • Internal within teams • Between disciplines • Between firms/practices



activity based working


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Faster-decision making The office is no longer a place where people simply process and execute tasks, it becomes a place where people meet to collaborate and create. NBRS+PARTNERS Architectural Intern 2012

Activity Based Working embraces the future and the changing habits and attitudes within the workplace and is shaping the future direction of office design. Individual workspace are now ‘unhinging’ from the likes of a desk. Offering choice, adaptability and mobility, ABW appeals to a majority of the working population and its widespread adoption has yielded a positive change in workplace practice. ABW in workspaces demonstrates a change in management attitude where adaptability and choice are increased and collaboration is encouraged. Mobile devices such as smartphones have also led workers to be untied to their personal computer and permanent workdesk, giving users greater choice of their work space. The Activity Based Working (ABW) philosophy is to make work more enjoyable, effective and efficient. ABW benefits include: • • • • •

Offers improved service to clients regardless of place and time Aims for transparency and faster decision-making within organisation Improves sustainability in business Develops a culture based on trust Saves up to 25% on square metres



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unimposed space


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Support freedom & choice ...freedom over space frees the mind of unwanted conditions, leaving the mind free for greater thoughts... Veronica Ho, NBRS+PARTNERS Architectural Intern 2012

Effective workspaces are built around giving users the choice to control their environment - a space that they will want to work in. Fun spaces are those that offer an element of play and choice to their users. By creating enjoyable space, productivity is improved and a balance of work hard, play hard is promoted. ‘Ah-ha!’ moments rarely occur in traditional, structured places, but happen in informal spaces that offer freedom to the student.


“Supporting human and environmental health is fundamental to product performance requirements and people’s wellbeing.” Angela Nahkian, Steelcase Director Global Environmental Sustainability

There are elements of human nature that are unchanging amidst our everchanging surrounds. These aspects of our nature need to be considered for physical and mental comfort in order to maximise workplace efficiency. A wide spectrum of transitional spaces allows workers to control their working surroundings in order to maximise their comfort and efficiency. A wide variation in spaces allows occupants to have greater choice over their work space, thus maximising their physical comfort. As comfort has been seen to have a direct correlation to the level of productivity, the physical and mental comfort of workers is not only of interest to the individual worker, but also to the success of the company. Additionally, the ability to manipulate the work environment allows users to feel a sense of belonging and confidence, feeling a sense of worth and input to the company.


impose choice FUTURE 17


working modes


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Intuitive working environments Hard-working spaces can be just as much of a tool as anything else a team uses to innovate. By supporting all the modes of work — focusing, collaborating, learning, and socializing — every square foot of an innovation space can become an efficient workshop for new ideas How Place Fosters Innovation, 360 Research, 2010

Multi-modal workspaces Successful workplaces are multi-modal, accommodating for various activity modes. These modes span from being highly-structured, individual work spaces to generatively collaborative environments. Accommodating for this range of modes helps encourage innovation through providing the flexibility to work in different settings. The working environment has the ability to promote certain activities and modes of working. Notions of these modes are dependent on factors including the level of formality and collaboration. Physical environments have the ability to be indicative of which working mode is encouraged or expected.





Social Media

Presentation Screens







In recent times, the emerging tendency for firms to grasp the potential benefits of collaborative work has seen greater emphasis being placed on these types of working. Collaborative work blends informal and formal modes, embedding a culture of exchange and conversation. This exchange between co-workers calls for adaptable spaces which can be manipulated to suit the group and task at hand.






flexible & adaptable


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Supporting sponteneity a person needs to constantly switch their mindset in carrying out tasks of different natures, from creative to productive to managing business. Brenton Russell, 2010

Work activities: • Absorbing new ideas

• Documenting knowledge

• Researching

• Archiving completed work

• Discussion & debate

• Relaxing

These tasks all require very different environments. The mobility of technological advancements should enhance not only the virtual environment of the workplace, but also the physical environment. The physical environment must also respond to this mobility and fluidity. Fluid furniture that can be reconfigured allows the user to adapt the space to suit their needs. Their creation of their own work space allows workers to express their human need for territoriality and makes their environment ideal. Consider:


Flexible Environments; “Hardware” that supports systemic change + churn


Adaptable Spaces: “Software” that is responsive + fluid


Portable: Technology that moves with staff


Virtual: Commitment to highest levels of connectivity



innovation & creativity


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Driver of growth, performance & valuation innovation is the “secret sauce” of a business success Harvard Business Review, 2009

Innovation: Flexible, inspiring, collaborative, hard-working tool, reflection of culture and brand, social. “Forward-thinking companies are starting to realise that employees who have a sense of purpose and feel connected to the organisation and its values are more productive and motivated. They are better able to cope with work stresses and are more creative and innovative, and thus fuel company growth.” Innovative spaces need to be flexible, social, inspiring and collaborative. The working environment needs to work hard to support its users and reflect the culture of the users as this has been proven to be related to productivity and motivation. As the type of work is increasingly collaborative and less structured, the office must reflect this fluid movement and flexible way of working and accommodate for a diverse range of working styles. The stretching of workplace tasks demands more of workers, often requiring them to be creative and develop new products and ideas. CEO’s ranked creativity as the most important quality needed today and as creativity is a product of structured flexibility, the physical environment of these workers has the ability to manipulate their levels of creativity by altering the space they work in. Innovation is the stretching of workplace tasks and investing resources into developing new ideas/products.



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proportion creates nodes


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Activityscape: Presenting opportunities ...purely social environments possess a ceiling that rises to the highest point... NBRS+PARTNERS Architectural Intern 2010

Through enclosing a space of varying heights and proportions, the envelope intrinsically suggests the degree of focus for users. Some purely social environments possess a ceiling that rises to the highest point in the building; this airiness and sense of void create a relaxed attitude, cueing the users to form relationships in a similar manner. Forming the more focussed or directed discussion space are a slightly lower roof form to emphasis the focus required in the more rigorous thinking. However, the structured and less structured spaces are still inextricably linked by the beams that rise and extend following the roof form, subtly creating the implied focal nodes in the distance.

Time for two

The goal is to present a variety spatial opportunities not spatial demands.

These areas are designed for groups of two or three to collaborate within. They are moderately enclosed as to discourage others from disturbing the group work and are moderately quiet. These spaces encourage a two/three persons workspace through the size of each space and also through the distance between each user. In these spaces, everyone is seated equally, suggesting equal involvement in their collaborative work.

Private Spaces These spaces promote individual work and are adaptable to give the user choice of their environment and thus, a sense of empowerment. They provide a sense of enclosure to encourage minimal disruptions and a feeling of safety. These are designed to be quiet spaces.

Team Spaces In these spaces, team members work individually sitting in close proximity to their team which allows for convenient collaboration if needed. These spaces provide an in-between space for teams to work privately but also to come together with ease.

Come Together These spaces are for large groups of approximately ten to come together and collaborate. The users have control to define the space as they desire and that is ideal for their task. These areas would typically generate a vibrant hum.

Down Time

Project Time A variety of team spaces accommodate for all kinds of groups to connect. Everyone’s involvement is encouraged and these spaces allow for more noise. It is up to the team to adapt these spaces to suit the number of members in the team and to create a sense of comfort.

Down time spaces are spaces which users would come to when they need a break from their tasks. These areas have different levels of privacy so the users can choose to have a quiet individual down time reading a book or listening to their music, or to sit aside with their friends and talk about their weekend plans.



furniture forms modes


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Reconfigurable environments ...elastic entities help develop the adaptability necessary to make these spaces productive and appealing places... NBRS+PARTNERS Architectural Intern 2010

Furniture indicates the working mode The conversation between architecture and the human scale suggests an elastic nature of occupying space, implying that work can occur anywhere. Like any other designed space, working environments require careful consideration of the typical postures and activities that are fostered. Furnishing space with the right furniture is central to making spaces usable for different work modes. Workplace philosophies can be embedded into the environment through considering furniture and its placement. Furniture selection and arrangement can indicate different levels of collaboration, the organisation’s core values and also visions for working life. Ideally these worthwhile investments are efficient, comfortable and useful in promoting productive work environments. Furniture often works when it is flexible in placement but also adaptable for use. Since different workplaces demand different degrees of spatial flexibility, furniture requirements vary greatly. Some specialised spaces may require fixed furniture to imply a more structured working environment, whereas some may be open to extremely mobile furniture for a constantly evolving workplace. Spatial flexibility can be developed through mobilising and configuring the surfaces we work on.



colour encourages creativity


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Dynamic environments ...colour subconsciously alters people’s mindsets... NBRS+PARTNERS Architectural Intern 2010

Colour is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance work environments. Although the field of colour psychology is relatively young, studies relating to this area show that colour affects our perceptions, moods and behaviour. In an age where visuals are prevalent ways of remembering and communicating spaces, colour has never been more relevant to workplace design. Although meanings of colour are context-specific and highly-personalised, the physiological effects of colour can be generalised. Warm colours (i.e. red, orange, yellow) are thought to encourage feelings of warmth, hostility, comfort or anger. Cool colours (i.e. green, blue, purple) tend to soothe, calm or even induce sadness. Since the perception of colour is rarely a completely unified experience of a singular hue, different mixes in colour palettes can collectively generate different effects. Designing colour into the workplace can make use of its immediate effects. It can subliminally inspire, encourage action (e.g. red), stimulate creativity (e.g. orange) and soothe eyes from screens (e.g. pale green or blue). Neutrals (e.g. brown, white, cream, greys) can add depth or open up rooms, providing a point of contrast to more adventurously stimulating colours.



case study: macquarie university student commons 32

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Spaces to connect NBRS+PARTNERS are currently converting a section of the old library at Macquarie University. The space is titled MUSE: Macquarie University Student Experience. The space includes student collaborative study spaces, spaces between formal academic spaces and purely social spaces. NBRS+PARTNERS’ design philosophy, emphasises the importance of connection & choice. To create a space ideal for the students, the students must be able to choose. Imposing a prescriptive space, no matter how expensive or cutting edge in design, will not yield the best results for collaborative interaction. Offering adaptability and choice allows a sense of ownership over the space. The focus is to provide a space in which students have control over their environment, making it a fun space to be in. The space is also designed to allow instant connection – to wifi, to the university, between students and to the outside world. The space is not only fun, but efficient - A place to get things done. MUSE ‘Bassline’ is a layering of spaces which provides a diverse range of spaces to suit a variety of activities. The layering of spaces includes: • • • • • •

 rivate Secure Spaces P Time for Two Project Time Team spaces Come Together Down Time/Unwind


Private & Secure Individual Spaces

Project Time

Work - Fixed display areas and loose working tables allow for a more structured environment for students to direct their own learning.

Discuss - All loose furniture, the breakout space emphasises the possibility of learning in a social space. A feeling of privacy encourages efficient collaboration.

Team Spaces


Come together

Concentrate - closed-off areas with tables, which when in sets of six, can be connected for collaborative learning settings. The six also allows smaller groupings to be made, their non-fixed nature allowing for several scenarios during class time or group work. Ergonomic chairs, which are comfortable seating and also loose, such that they can be moved around.

Change of scenery - Bassline’s ground floor position allows utilisation of the connection to the outdoors. This space could be used for meeting, discussion, individual work or social time.

Furniture can be arranged into groups of several sizes to meet the needs of the group. Spaces can easily be changed to suit the number of people in collaboration and the mode of work.



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future working places


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2050: Beyond the Third Workplace ... now moving towards workplaces which are task-driven in their design. NBRS+PARTNERS Architectural Intern 2012

Beyond the third

Workplace Activity Based Livin

g: A look into the futu

re of our cities

The way we work is shifting and slowly, the places we work in are adapting to match. As we discover more and more about the methodology behind working habits and what influences productivity, we can adapt the working environment to improve our levels of efficiency and comfort within the workplace. As each year brings forth a new way of thinking and culture, the changes made between now and 2050 can radically improve the process of work as we know it today. The Envision 2013 team, sponsored by NBRS+PARTNERS, considered the possibilities of the workplace in 2050. This investigation seeks to discover how the way we work fits in amongst our changing urban landscape and responds to this by proposing new environments for work. A close examination of the current technology, generational and workplace trends led to an exploration of future design solutions of the workplace. A discovery of the shift towards collaborative work highlighted the need for a fluid network of relationships between all members of the future office. Additionally, as technology is advancing rapidly, the mobility and fluidity of work is made possible in the virtual environment, calling for a response of the physical work environment.

Discover the shape of your new workplace



NBRS+PARTNERS Sydney: +61 2 9922 2344 Melbourne: +61 3 8676 0427

Spaces that Work  

Spaces that Work (2013) is a publication about 21st Century workspace trends and how the places we spend our vocational lives should be shap...

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