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Future Office charrette: Zaha Hadid Architects

Future office opener 3
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ZHA advocated a public ‘marketplace of ideas’ on the ground floor, with increasingly private spaces higher up

ZHA’s original entry revolved around creating a ‘work-life ecosystem’, which consisted of a network of occupiers and collaborative opportunities inside the building with design at the heart.

Building on this concept at the charrette, the practice presented several design options including an office building with a public ‘marketplace of ideas’ on the ground floor, with increasingly private spaces higher up the building. The architects proposed that the existing atrium should act as ‘the breathing heart’ of the building. ‘We’ve used [the atrium] to bring life into the centre of the space, so people can look across the floorplate and in between floorplates,’ said Uli Blum, associate at Zaha Hadid Architects. ‘It is very important to create a connection between people.’

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The design also recognised the emerging binge-working trend, with sleep pods on the upper floors, allowing occupiers to compress their workload into intense stints followed by periods of rest. 

The plans had a heavy emphasis on sustainability, with a vegetable garden on the roof and a mechanism to catch rainwater for use in the toilets. A green wall comprised of plants was proposed to run through the building, which would act as a natural filter, cleaning the air through the building. 

Yodit Stanton, founder of OpenSensors, a data company specialising in how to build cities of the future, was brought in to explain the use of technology. He said that ‘a nervous system of data’ would be created inside the building itself, providing useful information for the occupants, for example, on the traffic and air quality outside and Wi-Fi energy use within the building. 

Judge Jon Allgood praised the change from public to private space higher up the building, saying that it worked well with the less valuable office space being on the bottom floors. Despina Katsikakis welcomed the eco-friendly design. ‘What I like about it very much is that it treats this building as a living organism,’ she said. ‘It produces data, it leverages data and it’s using that to create a constantly changing experience.’

 Zaha Hadid Architects Q+A 

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Team: Arjun Kaicker, head of user parametrics; Yodit Stanton, founder of OpenSensors; Uli Blum, associate; Tiago Correia, director at Zaha Hadid Architects (USA)

Where did you begin with your Future Office concept?
We have been researching this theme for a few years now. Recently, we have established some external partnerships to further develop our key idea: ‘From office space to work-life ecosystem.’

What did you learn as a practice?
We learned there are enormous opportunities for developers and designers to join forces to create office spaces that encourage integrated communities of many diverse disciplines and foster a sense of ownership, in addition to driving business success. Through this partnership, the workplaces of the future can be made more efficient, sustainable, and valuable. 

What was it like to work without a computer?
We often use physical models to develop our ideas, so we felt at home. Through our quick sketch models, we were able to conceptualise, visualise, and test ideas very quickly. 

What was the best part of the day?
The presentations by all the teams at the end of the day. Fantastic to see both a diversity of creative proposals and a recurrence of shared themes. The feedback from the expert panel was invaluable for us to continue to evolve our ideas. 

What would you have done differently? 
Larger font text on our diagrams, it was hard to read for the jurors. 

How did you prepare your team to meet the complexities of the project at hand? 
We brought a multidisciplinary team to the charrette. In our presentation, each team member used their unique skills to present our design principles from four different perspectives: architect, workplace consultant, computer scientist, and real estate developer. 

Would you do it again – and why?
Definitely! We learnt so much from the day by sharing ideas with such inspiring and forward-thinking designers, real estate professionals and workplace experts. We met great people who share our enthusiasm for the future of the office and who we hope to keep in touch with. We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the day. 

Do you have any regrets?
Time went by so fast that we forgot lunch and missed out on the excellent hospitality of The Crown Estate. 

Do you have any good tales from the day?
Amazingly, none of us lost any fingers or superglued them together. Paul Finch’s roundup, summarising each proposal with a catchy reworking of a classic movie title was a great highlight! 

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