New London Architecture

Pandemic ‘makes the case for the office’

Friday 16 July 2021

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David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

 Visions of the future workplace ranging from external, COVID-safe pods to arenas of connections to super-green workspaces utilising rooftops and prioritising health and wellbeing figured at a Pecha Kucha session run by NLA last week. And one contributor even suggested that the pandemic has ‘made the case for the office’, bringing a healthy new awareness to employers of the different, sometimes conflicting needs of the workforce.

The session involved six short presentations and propositions, Toni Riddiford of Stride Treglown suggesting that the pandemic has ‘firmly put the individual in the driver’s seat’, even if there are no one size fits all answer – just a collection of different scenarios to suit different workers, sectors and areas of the city. ‘The office as a physical entity will prevail but will need to respond to the new habits and behaviours we’ve all learned’.

Abigail Glancy, a student at the London School of Architecture presented a manifesto for future workspaces based on a ‘Green Mile’ concept that she hoped could reimagine the workplace and ‘democratise the City’. Glancy’s ideas propose a city which reconnects with nature, weaves together education with work and promote the circular economy alongside green technology.

But it was Benjamin Koslowski of Fletcher Priest that said that the pandemic has ‘really made the case for the office’ presenting slides from award-winning animations the practice has prepared on future office ideas. The ‘brave new landscape of work’, said Koslowski includes local work hubs as organisations embrace remote working but also offices as destinations that supports work and organisational culture but also life outside of work. We must try and move away from measuring everything just in square feet, he added, but the pandemic has been positive in that it has
Other speakers included Mijail Gutierrez, presenting his ideas for the ‘Arena of Connections’ designed to put people at the centre of design, reinforcing culture, and including spaces designed to cater for multi-generational workforce, as well as a central gallery and sky garden. Tom Lambregts and Paneet Hoonjan of Landsec spoke about Dashwood, its ‘boutique tower’ near Liverpool Street Station and the way it seeks to cater for a host of different work styles. Finally, Michaela Winter-Taylor of Gensler talked through an innovative office concept the practice has come up with. The Hexa pod is based on compact modular cells inside the hexagon honeycomb structures, with adaptable, Covid-safe, wheelchair-accessible structures and meeting spaces with sustainable features such as solar panels that could be used by the community at weekends. ‘London's economic recovery is reliant on encouraging its workforce, tourists and visitors back’, Winter-Taylor said. ‘Innovative solutions are required to convince people to return, post-pandemic in a safe way, and inject life back into our city centres.’
Listen to the full webinar here

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David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly


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