Editorial: The New Constant: Change

June 1, 2007

Imagine changing your socks once every 14 days ... putting on a clean shirt every 90 days, or donning fresh pants once a year." These are the rather unexpected opening words from Carol Jones in this month's NCIDQ forum article. While the introduction might conjure up less-than-pleasant thoughts about personal hygiene, it is, in fact, a perfect illustration to describe the scenario that occurs in most office settings with regards to change.

With technology appreciably changing every 18 months and most major corporations undergoing substantive business changes every three years, notes Jones, "the work environment fundamentally changes only once every 10 years, typically coinciding with a lease expiry." Adding to the equation, she points out that a new generation enters the workforce every 15 to 20 years.

What does this suggest to the interior design community about how the office of the future might look? If practitioners hope to keep their designs current and supporting the needs of their clients-while keeping pace with technology-it is imperative that the workplace becomes an environment that easily adapts to change. In order to accomplish this end, designers need to consider a new business model that centers around the concept of a global workforce that is enhanced through flexibility and mobility, according to Caroline Hill and Camille Venezia in this month's IDEC column. "The appropriate work environment for the global and mobile worker both encourages innovation and quickly adjusts to the ever-changing and competitive global marketplace," the authors write.

To address these objectives, Hill and Venezia offer the following guidelines (among others) to the A&D community:

  • Design spaces that encourage movement, interaction and collaboration.
  • Consider a greater variety of settings in the workplace (e.g. cafés, bars, brainstorming rooms, and more "residential" settings).
  • Focus on human-centered design that allows for individual customization of workspaces in terms of furniture, acoustics and lighting (one size does NOT fit all).
  • Consider the "social architecture" (existing informal social systems and communication patterns) of employees, and design spaces that nurture those systems.

This last point was perhaps most salient to the client of architecture firm Delawie Wilkes Rodrigues Barker in the design of the new headquarters for Biosite Inc., the subject of this month's cover story. The human element played a key part in the design of the four buildings for the Biosite campus, which is garnering high marks from the occupants for its functionality, reports contributing writer Elzy Kolb. This fact might come off as somewhat surprising, given that the owners had their hearts set on incorporating Bauhaus principles, which are characteristically austere and strictly functional in nature.

However, the design team spent a considerable amount of time to ensure that the design would encourage human interaction with intimately-scaled gathering spaces. "They listened to how individual departments work, how they work together, and kept us involved in the whole process," comments Michael Dunbar, Biosite's head of facilities.

Similarly, the existing headquarters for Dannon Company in Greenburgh, NY, failed to meet the dynamic needs of the consumer goods giant and discouraged collaboration among its employees. As the subject of this month's photo essay, the existing grid-like office environment was re-engineered by Perkins Eastman into an open plan with curved walls to break up the monotony of the space. Additionally, the office also functions as a marketing tool for Dannon's products, with pockets in the floor plan that serve as display areas-creating a museum-like experience that seamlessly coexists amidst the everyday functions of an office.

Speaking of change, you might have noticed something slightly different about this issue of Interiors & Sources. Not only are we introducing a modified logo treatment on the cover, we are also unveiling a larger format that we feel will enhance our recent makeover and provide more space to feature beautiful projects and the latest in new product offerings. And speaking of new products, don't forget to look at our annual NeoCon® Product Preview {LINK} where you will find, as always, a sneak peek at some of the most exciting new product introductions the Mart will have to offer this June.

Change may be the new constant, but some things will remain the same.

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