Designboom interviewed Neri & Hu to understand the future of the contemporary office environment and new ways of working. To start with, they define how the office space evolved from more static into an active and modular condition.
Neri & HU is a Shanghai and London based company. Their interdisciplinary studio works internationally on numerous projects from such disciplines as architecture, interior design, master planning and product development. To meet needs of the clients they focus on the particular context and function of the each space they realize. As Neri & Hu have leaded several projects of the office building, Designboom sat down with them to investigate the future of the office transformations. Check out the result!
Designboom: You have completed a number of office projects. How has the approach to designing these types of spaces changed over time as a result of technology, and the notion of the office no longer being a fixed space etc.?
Rossana Hu: We ourselves too feel that the workspace is going to really take on a very different turn, and I would say that the key point is that people no longer want to work in a very formal space. Of course it still very industry to industry — if you’re a law firm, or if you’re a more conservative banking industry, you might still need to have a stuffy and formalized space, interior décor but, for most other people with the hi-tech element of working, I think most people just want a more casual space; and I think people also really like to work at home. Not to say that physically they will be at home, but you can transform your workspace into a home space, and I think that’s the trend that we’ve been seeing. Especially in californian, even european companies — the young hi-tech companies, they are making their workspace more like home, and that just means flexibility, it means comfort, it means you can lounge back. It also means a certain kind of mobility that you didn’t have before when you were just sitting at your work.
Designboom: How have you seen the ergonomics of furniture shifting with this change as well?
Lyndon Neri: flexibility, is important, even within the typology of the furniture itself.
Rossana hu: if you look at the evolution of where ergonomics came from… let’s just say if you’re looking at an architect’s work: when I went to school, we were still drafting with parallel rulers and pencils and triangles, and that kind of gesture that you have — often when you’re working on a deadline, you might be working day in and day out for two-three days non-stop — the kind of sitting position and the way you have to move on a drafting desk; that type of ergonomics is very different from now when you’re drafting in front of a computer.
Designboom: What is the workspace becoming? How would you maybe define it and envision it in five years time?
Rossana Hu: I personally think it is going to become more natural and it’s what Lyndon just said — that maybe a prediction for the future is that we need to look to the past for what will happen in the future. I was just thinking as you were asking this question, the whole question of ergonomics as well… I think there’s a problem when humans try to become machines. You know, through mass production, through having a much more higher level of expectation for productivity, we’re all trying to produce like machines but once we can create, and if we can create machines to take over the work of the machines, so that the machines are doing that work, then humans can go back to becoming humans, to be more creative, to work on more innovation as opposed to repetitive production. If that’s the case then it’s not so much about sitting in front of a computer or a drafting desk, drafting like machines, but it’s more about taking a notebook, sit under a tree and daydream. I am hoping that my sort of vision of future and working is to go back and return to nature so that your workspace is more like a garden. Your workspace is more like a home. It’s like a kitchen, and bedroom, and living room, bathroom all-in-one kind of space.
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