We are in the midst of a work revolution—a major shift in when, where and how we work. With this shift,
our needs and expectations of the workplace have evolved, and the typology of the office building is evolving
as a result. Although this evolution manifests differently around the world, four common trends can be seen.
First, the need for adaptable spaces to respond to new ways of working; second, a rising demand for design that supports employee health and well-being; third, a parallel shift towards a more holistic approach to sustainability; and fourth, developments that seek to contribute to the quality of the city.
In this article, we look at three innovative offices around the world that illustrate these trends. The new Google headquarters in London, by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Heatherwick Studios, has made headlines, with critics declaring that it heralds the age of the ‘landscraper’ and a future of horizontal cities. Its real innovations, however, are much more subtle.
Laisné Roussel’s office proposal for the Nice Meridia Urban Technopolis aspires to redefine the nature of the workplace, while also setting a “new standard for bioclimatic offices”.
Finally, Unilever’s new Jakarta headquarters by Aedas emphasises community and collaboration while responding to the unique elements of the Indonesian context.
The typology of the modern office building originated as a white-collar factory, applying the principles of the assembly line to administrative and clerical work. The ‘skeleton frame’ construction of the early skyscrapers enabled open floor plans and glass façades that flooded interiors with daylight. Layouts reinforced the organisational hierarchy of corporations, with closely supervised general staff at rows of identical desks and executives in private offices.
In early offices, windows were often placed at a height to restrict views outside, providing daylight while preventing distractions. Advances in air-conditioning and artificial lighting in the mid 20th century made such architectural stratagems unnecessary, enabling deep-plan office towers where only the privileged few worked near windows, with daylight and views. This freedom from local climatic conditions also gave rise to the archetypal modern office building: the glass-clad towers that dominate central business districts and office parks around the world today.
Adaptable spaces for new ways of working
Supporting employee health and well-being
A more holistic approach to sustainability
Contributing to the quality of the city