Katie: Tell me about creating one of a kind spaces for corporate offices.
Richard: The most dynamic industries understand that the work environment directly affects the employee's energy and well-being, and therefore their performance and engagement in the corporate goals. Corporations differ widely per industry, location, age group, and line of work, and each corporate entity has its own culture, history, directives and politics. Creating meaningful one-of-a kind spaces requires a deep understanding of the corporation's culture and personality.
Katie: What are some of the most unusual offices that you've designed recently?
Richard: An advertising agency we recently completed had an aversion to anything even closely related to what they referred to as the "corporate cube farm." They were young, dynamic, creative, and successful. The work/social aspects of the staff were blurred and individual expression was encouraged in the environment. One space we designed for them was an open-platformed informal meeting area that, with a few quick adjustments in furniture and lighting, became a theatrically lit stage for live bands to perform on at after-hours office parties.
We also designed an elevator lobby; a glass box was fitted with a series of digital projectors. The content of digital loops, or shorts, is created and projected onto the surrounding walls at will by the staff and ranges from video portholes into the ocean to clips of 1960s TV shows.
Katie: Can you tell us about designing creative "think-tank" or even "war-room" spaces?
Richard: In the same project just mentioned, our version of the think tank was a media/presentation room with HD projection capabilities. The entrance to the room is a pair of 12-foot high sliding baroque inspired red doors. The large table is a white glass, marker-writing surface; the chairs are Louis the XIV-style, dipped in red rubber (upholstery, frame and all); and the projection screen descends into a giant baroque frame.
Katie: When it comes to office design, how do you blend both flair and function?
Richard: Good design is first and foremost a creative effort that aims to solve a problem of functional need, i.e. something one can sit on, a device to produce a product, or someplace in which people can work, play or learn. If design meets functional needs concisely and without adornment we call it minimalism. When the personality (of designer or client) begins to enter into the design process and expresses itself in terms of style, pattern, color, or proportion, these additive elements are layered on top of the basic functional solution in various degrees to the satisfaction of the parties involved. Thus, a chair can become a simple Shaker design, or a carved, gilded, Baroque extravaganza.
Katie: How do you see offices evolving in the coming years (assuming that employees still commute to offices of course)?
Richard: Offices will always exist to a certain extent due to several reasons. Teamwork time or face time cannot be completely replaced by virtual communication. People need a sense of belonging to a group or place in order to further its goals, whether it be making a profit or saving the planet. They must see how others look, dress, style their hair, etc. to feel connected.
However, I see a much less structured environment in the future where more flexibility is afforded the individual. People needing to work together will work out their own schedules and work assignments, knowing that success is measured only by completing a given assignment successfully, on time and on budget. If they want to do that at midnight, so be it. The workplace will accommodate the blur between work and social activities. Younger generations are already fully engaged in multitasking their social and work lives. They spend time in the office, working and socializing with peers simultaneously, and they stay in the office longer after work, taking part in post-work day entertainment.
This is not to say that people will not be able to, with technology, have the flexibility to work off-site. They will continue to do so, but to get ahead they will have to develop a keen awareness of when showing up in person is required.