Interview mit Peter Ippolito, Ippolito Fleitz Group

"The office has to be a place where I want to be and not have to be"

After the lockdown, the working world is taking off again. We spoke with architect Peter Ippolito about the changing demands on the working environment.

Jun 21 2021

Mr Ippolito, have you noticed any changes in the requirements for the design of working environments as a result of the Corona pandemic? 

Many companies are reducing office space because they have learned to get along well with less presence. It certainly also plays a role that many offices are no longer owned by the company, but are rented for greater flexibility. 

A current topic that many still have ahead of them is the transformation of repetitive space layouts with workplaces lined up next to each other into lively working landscapes. This is because the pressure from the changing demands and expectations of employees on the office environment is increasing. A lot is changing here right now because companies are also more open-minded. 

The pandemic has led to a shift in work, among other things. What does this mean for the future relationship between living and working spaces? 

Generally speaking, with regard to the home office, we need to avoid, on an emotional level, getting up with work every day and going to bed with it at some point. For that we need typologies. With higher incomes, the study comes back into play, which seems to have been largely lost in housing typologies in recent years. However, I don't think it's relevant to include a full-fledged office workspace at home. 

With today's prices per square metre, many simply cannot afford it. But there are plenty of solutions for in-between spaces even in smaller flats that avoid having my computer on the dining table. This requires ideas, for example, to make furniture more flexible or to maintain a minimum of discretion and ergonomic comfort even in a small space. For us as designers, this is an invitation to be creative and a great opportunity. 

Aktion Mensch Headquarters, Bonn 2020 © Ippolito Fleitz Group/Philip Kottlorz

Conversely, what incentives does an office environment need to be attractive today? 

In the office, workplaces are falling away that can also be somewhere else. The desk as a classic place of concentration will therefore certainly be reduced in offices. Instead, topics revolving around cohesion, integrity and corporate culture will increase. 

The task will be to create innovation and collaboration processes in the office that are embedded in the spirit and energy of the company. Precisely because employees can work from anywhere, the office has a great integrative power to bring people together. This is where the values and meaningfulness of work are communicated. 

How can this be achieved in concrete terms? 

The office must be a place where I want to be and not have to be. This is subliminally connected to a paradigm shift, which is lived differently by every company. New Work and the design of the working environment are only the surface. Conveying a comprehensive idea of work can only succeed credibly if it is universal and also affects the respective management culture, organisation, processes, etc. of the company. 

This often involves changing the traditionally vertically organised decision-making structure to a more horizontal one. If the greater involvement of employees is desired, they also need space to develop. However, this goes far beyond the design of the office environment, because it is about negotiating togetherness.

Pegasus Home Desk by ClassiCon © Ippolito Fleitz Group

What role can interior design play in this? 

Interior design expresses the corporate culture. The design process therefore has a lot to do with really knowing the company and making it distinctive. It's about making the office a place where employees can experience the management idea, corporate culture and appreciation. 

The danger here is the well-intentioned but pointless distribution of trendy work furniture. It is much more about creating a "brand space" in which the employee is in good hands, is challenged and encouraged and can have stimulating, even unplanned encounters - a balance of security and inspiration.

How can the different demands that different generations have on the working environment, for example, be combined? 

I think it's less about age. Rather, there are very different ways of working today. The task of interior design is to give this diversity a space and an inviting opportunity. The great thing is that we can design spaces with a wide range of offers today. But it's not so much what we build, but the process of getting there that matters. 

Bringing people and their needs into this process is at least as important as what we design. That makes it extremely exciting for us, because we are moving from a rather rigid design idea to a dynamic design of processes. A project is never finished, it is constantly changing. We have to think about this further development and possibly also accompany it. 

So it's about shaping change? 

Change is always associated with fear or hope - we have seen that in the debates about the home office. We have to come to terms with the fact that our society is constantly changing and see this change as an opportunity. A well-designed working environment can make it possible to experience the productive side of change. It does not depict people as part of a system, but conveys that they are important. 

Peter Ippolito studied architecture in Stuttgart and Chicago. In 2002 he founded the Ippolito Fleitz Group together with Gunter Fleitz. In addition to his design work, Peter Ippolito has been active in teaching on several occasions and is often requested as a speaker or as a member of competition juries. 

Author: Broekman+Partner

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