Insights

The architecture is a container, it matters what’s inside

Today’s pace of business outruns the pace of architecture. The future workplace will be ever more vibrant; with its own unique characteristics and personality.

2021-06-15

By Wing Leung
Director – Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen

Office design – both interior and exterior, has seen ground-breaking changes in the past decade.

While the interior design has focused on supporting a new generation of knowledge workers with flexibility and freedom of choice, the exterior has embraced bold forms that externalise the success of a business.

There are human factors to take into account. The millennial or Gen-Z population, known as “digital natives”, prioritise self-expression, comfort and choice at work. Those raised prior to the digital age, “Digital immigrants”, value privacy and status, imposing influence in visible forms such as enclosed offices and wildly designed architecture.

The architecture is a container, it matters what’s inside section

Enclosed offices are not here to stay. Not only because companies need to become agile and let go of traditional hierarchy, but because the occupants have very different demands. The interior architecture needs to progress to match a new generation of users. In turn, it influences how people behave and perform.

We can illustrate the power of dynamic spaces with just one example.

A global financial institution came to us a couple years ago to upgrade its Hong Kong headquarters. Although the existing workplace enjoyed a premium location and certain degree of prestige, one of the challenges was to attract the right talent. Research revealed that a substantial amount of candidates registered in the main reception of the building lobby, but never arrived at interview. Why?

They found the work environment not matching their career aspirations. Here’s the reality: the younger generations are looking for a very different work experience; they are afraid to be locked into a single position and many of them work multiple jobs; and they are not afraid of failure and want to learn from the best. A workspace needs to support these.

Following months of planning and stakeholder interviews to understand what type of young talent the financial institution wanted to attract, we came up with a design solution that was refreshing and welcoming, breaking hierarchy with a sense of empowerment.

The flexibility and technology integrated into the office space also demonstrated new possibilities. It becomes a fluid space for users to shape, define and most importantly, change.

As designers and architects, we have the professional responsibility to help our clients and end-users be at their best. To facilitate work and learning, and enable the success of individuals and businesses.

Lilith Games is a successful Chinese gaming developer established in 2013. Its new Shanghai office is designed as an organic environment which blends different aspects of life together to allow inhabitants to do what they want to do, whenever they want. It supports creativity and inspiration - a place where “digital natives” can feel comfort and pride.

Today’s pace of business outruns the pace of architecture. The future workplace will be ever more vibrant; with its own unique characteristics and personality.

We must look beyond aesthetics to creating buildings that enable inhabitants to feel and perform at their best. By transforming the individual experience and outcomes for businesses, we in turn have the opportunity to transform society.

Change will become ever more pressing as Gen Z and beyond enter the workforce. But the solution is simple – design for people.

Take a step back. Rethink the relationship between the container (exterior) and the content (interior). If we want the next generation to get the best out of life and work, not only must we think hard, but we must think differently.

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