Principal Point


The Future of Office Space


“We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there” - Charles Kettering 1876 - 1958.

Note that the title of my article in this edition of AQ could have easily been “The Office Space of the Future”. The reason I chose the title “The Future of Office Space” is because in my opinion there is no futuristic office imaginable to be fully automated and dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) for instance. Office and working space has for the last decade already dissolved into an exciting and interactive space for people to meet, collaborate, coordinate and be inspired by the interaction with people. It is not going away, in fact it is being perfected.

The majority of the population of the world will live and work in megacities by 2020. Workspace will become more competitive and in demand at the same time as cities get more crowded. Creative, smart and efficient design will be needed.

In this day and age of a digital era, globalization through the free flow of information, the transportation interconnectivity and the spread of democracy not just in our political life but also in our working life, has made interactivity amongst workers more frequent. Creativity, productivity and problem solving has always been a team effort. This interactive working platform has been taken to another level in this age, not to individuality and independence, but to inter-dependence.

The digital age has of course made being connected (note: does not necessarily mean working), so much more rapid and easy. However this connectivity is often mistaken as being working. In fact, being so connected has interrupted the working person as never before. Getting notifications, bells, flashing banners, screens that light up at the slightest touch or movement, has distracted people from getting together a train of thought that is longer than 5 minutes.

I like the fact that it is now challenging to create office space that are inspiring and dynamic as this age has become post the industrialization and mass production century. Living and working has dissolved into an ever changing situation. One does a myriad of things in the same day or hour, even. Exercise, listening to music, relaxing, working, eating, quiet reading, having a coffee or even chatting with friends and family happens anywhere, anytime and anyhow. Yes, there is no privacy, but its incredible freedom to live the way one wants.
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An interesting quote from DLR Group principal Jeremy Reding - "At a time when mobile devices allow employees to work from the comfort of their homes or enjoy the sights and sounds of a coffee shop, office amenities need to become the gathering spaces and communal hubs where people want to spend time. Offices will always be where people come together,” Reding said. ― “But they have to be so much better than working at home because you want to come in and be a part of that energy.”

It is important to note that working in a team is more productive as Yahoo has found out. As Architects and Designers, we constantly experience the improvement of quality and emergence of new ideas due to the interaction of many minds. This interactive working atmosphere however needs to be supported by the management and work environment. The working environment has evolved into spaces that promote a “work and play”. Facilities catering for the energetic working force, to drive away boredom and promote creativity like casual sports, cooking equipment, gyms and showers, lounges and coffee machines are only some of the examples that have crept in to the working place. These have been highlighted by employers and corporations, to attract the best minds in the market.

Paul Tanjung Tan, Architect and Environmentalist. Currently Principal of ARKdesign Architects and Editor-in-Chief of ARKdesign Quarterly, AQ e-magazine.