EMERGING TREND: SHARE SCHEMES OF OFFICES DOUBLING UP AS PUBLIC SPACES
BY Zoe Phoon
A growing number of offices around the world are now opening up and offering more to their local area, creating imaginative hubs not just for their staff but for the locals, too.
Building owners and architects believe that bringing offices and their local community together strengthens the identity of a space and an area as well as delivers a more interesting offering to the public.
From Sweden and Seattle to Hong Kong and London, some of these stakeholders are putting greater effort into making their properties work harder for more people.
Location plays a big part in this emerging trend, particularly in the US where more and more companies in the tech sector locate their enterprises in the city where the action is and where their well educated employees want to be, said John Savo, a principal at NBBJ, an American global architecture, planning and design firm.
These companies are also purposefully revitalising urban centres by building community and integrating businesses into the urban fabric as well as investing in it.
Some companies’ facilities, especially those at street level, are being considered as public amenities where all members of society can thrive and co-exist, be they their employees, adjoining businesses or nearby residents including children, Savo said in the Wallpaper magazine.
According to him, NBBJ’s project Amazon Spheres, opening in early 2018 at e-commerce and cloud computing company Amazon’s downtown Seattle campus, is designed as a place where Amazon staff can think and work differently.
Hence, the treehouse meeting rooms, river and waterfall features and four-storey living wall.
Elements of the Spheres, including retail spaces, will open to the public. Surrounding them will be a dog park and playing fields.
Elsewhere, Spanish practice Appareil ensures its own offices in Barcelona serve as a hub for other creatives as well, with shared offices used by other tenants including digital makers, urban planners and academic researchers.
It believes that giving buildings a more flexible role helps development and growth.
In Hong Kong, H Queen’s is all about art. Architects CL3 has designed it as a 24-storey purpose-built stacked gallery building, due to open in 2018, as a hub for the territory’s art community from buyers and sellers to aficionados.
Plate sizes from 4,000sq ft to 5,000sq ft, floor-to-floor height of more than 4.5m and minimal corridor space give tenants a spacious layout to showcase their art.
With fine dining at the top of the tower, the hope is that this mix of artwork and good quality meeting places will make H Queen’s buzz.
In Swedish city Vaxjo, White Arkitekter has deigned the City Hall as a new public living room. In addition to municipal offices, the 14,000sq m timber building will house a train station, exhibition space, tourist office, cafes, shops and meeting rooms.
Being in the middle of bustling Vaxjo creates an attractive workplace as well as a direct connection with the community.
In the south London neighbourhood of Brixton, architects Squire & Partners has reimagined a neglected 1906 department store building as a hub for its 220 staff and the locals.
Called The Department Store, the firm’s new home has three floors of open-plan offices and meeting rooms, a model shop with street-facing retail space, and cycle tracks and showers.
There are also facilities that are open to the public – the basement which anyone can book and the stylish rooftop restaurant that doubles as staff canteen.
The firm has also gone one step further by turning a former stable next to the building over to external businesses with tenants that include a post office, record shop, café and restaurant.
The plan is to build a business centre and incubator space behind this set-up.