Will desks become redundant? That was the big question posted to our Commercial panel at World Architecture Day by Peter Bill, journalist for the Evening Standard and Estates Gazette. With the recent advances in technology and many people working from home or coffee shops on tablets, the future of the commercial sector building is a highly contentious issue.
Confronting the challenge on our panel were Manuelle Gautrand of Manuelle Gautrand Architects in Paris, Ken Shuttleworth from Make Architects, Barry Hughes from HOK and David Warrender of Foggo Associates who designed the gleaming Cannon Place building where we held this year’s World Architecture Day event.
Hughes was first to respond to the query, referring to the phrase ‘plausible alternative’, allegedly a term often heard in the HOK London office. He went on to point out some of the reactions often seen by architects confronted with the various working options now afforded to a large proportion of employees, especially in the creative sector. ‘Overdone meeting rooms’ and ‘breakout spaces’ were referenced although Hughes did confess, ‘I’m not sure that bean bags foster creativity but they do enable a different approach that sitting at a desk which is clearly the way to go’.
While there is still some margin for differences in working practice, what our panel could agree on was the growing importance in providing a client with a strong image for their brand. Both Gautrand and Warrender spoke about their Citroen Flagship Showroom and Cannon Place development respectively, providing strong case studies for consideration.
The Citroen Flagship Showroom in particular displays a clear vision of the car manufacturer’s brand identity as ‘a very playful building, full of voids and cars’. Gautrand referred to the structure as ‘a building full of dreams’, taking the user back to their childhood with a light-hearted approach to aesthetics. She concluded that ‘employees must feel like they’re working for somebody’, a sentiment that is often lost when working remotely.
Also on the agenda was the question of mixed-use facilities, a style that we see with increasing regularity here on the WAN Newsdesk. With the question of redundant desks still hanging in the air, Hughes suggested that larger commercial developments of this nature can have a transformational effect for a wider community, stating that ‘the buzz of bringing people together has driven the city forward’.
Shuttleworth, whose large-scale buildings can be seen across London, also made a rather poetic reference in light of this subject: “The city is like a kitchen garden. You plant something and let it grow, then cut it down and plant something new.”
Reports from World Architecture Day