Are connected buildings the workplace of the future?
Connected buildings – that is, spaces linked horizontally and vertically – bring people together, both physically and virtually, into like-minded communities. The shape of the buildings is key to successful organisations in the future.
Having a deep understanding of how people’s behaviour will evolve is key to creating workspaces that respond to the ways in which people want to work. Two significant influences that disrupt human behaviour are urbanism and digitisation.
Architectural studio Woods Bagot is fascinated with the idea of the ‘creative network’ in helping to think about the workplace of the future. The idea that a network can be self-tailored, multi-faceted and strategic is a major shift. Your network is no longer only the people that you have physical proximity to – your colleagues, your neighbours, your schoolmates – its reach can be global. Digital technology is having a profound impact on the way we collaborate and share ideas with other people.
At its core, co-working is the living embodiment of the idea of combining a physical space for like-minded people to innovate and socialise, and offering flexibility via activity-based working. The best brains in the world don’t have to work for a company – in fact, they probably don’t want to. As a company, how do you attract the best talent, on their own terms, to your organisation? The next generation of business needs to be constantly on the lookout for the ‘brains’ and to know how to attract them.
The best brains want:
- Buildings that add value to the communities in which they exist,
- permeability at the ground plane, a blur between inside and outside of the organisation,
- space for health and fitness, such as bike parking, showers and outdoor space,
- connected space, both horizontally and vertically, and
- buildings that are iconic, not because they are flashy but because they create a better experience for people within them.
I think a lot of people get hung up on the aesthetics of co-working (the ping pong tables and the beer taps), but what is actually attractive to the next generation is the fundamentals – geographic freedom, choice, diversity, community and experience. Further to this, global tech company clients are focused on how to connect to their local communities, as well as to their customers and partners. The more physically connected it is, the more authentic these connections are.
Co-working spaces show us we don’t need hard lines between different entities – the idea of secure, separate, corporate entities will change into the future. The connection between corporates and their communities, and within these communities, is the primary key driver for the future tech company and it is changing the shape of buildings. We call them ‘connected buildings’, because everyone breathes the same air.
Written by Sarah Kay, who is an architect and workplace designer, and a director at Woods Bagot.
Image: NAB Docklands by Woods Bagot. Photo by Shannon McGrath.