Feb 22 2021

"The decision for the office must be encouraged"

Office worlds are changing rapidly at the moment. The Berlin architecture firm Kinzo is experiencing this directly in its planning for renowned clients. A conversation with office partners Karim El-Ishmawi and Chris Middleton about new expectations. 

How do you currently assess the demand for office projects - also against the background of the Corona pandemic?  

Very few companies can clearly state their future needs in the current situation, so there is no denying a certain reluctance at the moment. How much space will still be needed in the future? How do the rigid rental concepts still fit with new forms of work that have suddenly become flexible? In order to be able to address these questions intensively, many companies are currently seeking advice. Because old space formulas can no longer be applied across the board. 

Even if the demand for central office space may decline overall, most are interested in a qualitative increase in the New Office and are now much more open to flexible working models. The more the standard workplace shifts to the home office, the greater the future demand for high-quality office space for collaboration and unplanned exchange. 

Are you currently involved in office projects and are there any adjustments regarding space planning and use, hygiene concepts, etc.? 

In the course of the Corona pandemic, the planning of a large law firm changed fundamentally. Here we went through alternative scenarios at the last minute and rescheduled accordingly. Due to currently vacant office space, many companies are suddenly open to desk sharing and coworking, classic workplaces are being reduced in favour of meeting rooms, of which there were always too few in the past. 

To meet the current requirements, we have also initiated various product developments. For example, a product for the home office, which is still in the planning stage, as well as various concepts that make it easier to continue using the open-space office.

Newsroom of the German Savings Banks and Giro Association in Berlin. © Schnepp Renou

You often design products yourself. How do you select the manufacturers of the products and how does the collaboration proceed? 

Product developments are a welcome addition to our day-to-day project work. Sometimes requirements arise from a project that give us the idea to develop a new product. Sometimes, however, manufacturers approach us with concrete requirements. 

In any case, the development of products is always a joint effort between manufacturer and designer, which we enjoy very much. After the "design phase", we usually hand over the lead to the manufacturer and comment on the individual development stages up to the final product. 

One of the current products is the DisCo protection concept. How does this product respond to the changed requirements in the pandemic? 

We originally designed the DisCo (Distant Communication) protection concept for our own office. We want to maintain the all-important eye contact with each other, but at the same time offer a certain degree of protection. But above all, we want a product that, in terms of sustainability, still has a right to exist after the pandemic. 

With its different colours, it loosens up the open office landscape and, in addition to acoustic shielding, offers the user a tinted view of colleagues as if through ski goggles. 

Cosmetics company AmorePacific in Seoul/South Korea. © Schnepp Renou

How do you think office planning will change in general? 

At the moment, many people work predominantly from home. Companies will therefore question their office space in terms of size and quality. Before Corona, the possibility of working outside the office was considered a sign of innovation and change. The crisis is leading to a rethink, away from classic routine patterns, towards more self-determination and flexibility. 

The conscious decision to go to the office, because that is where the collective has its physical location, must be specifically encouraged. Only in a place where people meet, exchange spontaneously and work together creatively does something like a culture grow. Only there can networks emerge.  

What does this mean for office concepts?

Work processes, activities and offers that determine the working day must be considered much more consistently as the basis of planning. The more attractive the architecture, the more it acts as an ally of corporate culture and working methods. Networking is an enormously important aspect in the context of the current culture of New Work

The place for this should connect different groups and enable opportunities. In this context, mono-functional spaces are increasingly losing their justification. It is therefore a very demanding task to develop a well-functioning office. Many things come together there that also influence our daily lives: Working, communicating, relaxing in between and doing sports, all these activities overlap. 

In addition, the office has to create a strong identity because many different people come together there. We therefore want to create places that enable a sense of community to develop.

Author: Broekman+Partner

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