I think it’s a bit early to be making those determinations. We’re still in the thick of this crisis, still sheltering in our homes. Until we understand the full impact of this tragedy—in social terms and economic terms—it’s premature to start reaching conclusions about design. That said, I think we can indentify some general themes.
I believe workplaces are going to have to offer more choices. O+A’s practice has always been about giving people options within the walls of an office—different types of collaboration spaces and solo work spaces.
I think this crisis accelerates that trend. And takes it beyond the office walls. The whole working from home experience—a lot of people who never did it before are finding, “Hey, this works for me.” You might say we are Zooming into our future. That’s probably going to be a greater factor in workplace design going forward.
I think the other side of that coin is that after this enforced separation, a lot of people are going to want to get back together. What did the Queen of England say? “We will meet again.” People will want to meet again, face to face across a table. The handshake may be over, but lunch with your pals isn’t over. Getting together in a room and solving a problem right there, right then isn’t over. All the things that worked well before the pandemic will come back, I think, and the things that worked well during the pandemic will be added to the mix.
So that’s the direction I can see from this early perspective—a wider mix of choices and the things we know we love stronger than ever.
We’ve all become more health conscious, so design is going to have to speak to that. In the short term that’s probably going to mean screening protocols in entrance lobbies. Many companies already have tech-based security infrastructure in their public entrances. That will likely be adapted to include fever scans or something along those lines. In the longer term I think health and wellness take on even greater importance than they already have. Every company expects state of the art communications technology. Going forward state of the art wellness technology is going to be just as important—ventilation, heating and cooling, that kind of thing.
And I think in those climates that can sustain it, we’re going to have a lot more working outside opportunities. O+A has for years included flexible outdoor spaces in its designs, but they have tended to be lounge and eating areas.
I think people are going to want to have more meetings out there. They’re going to want to take their laptops out there and work in the sunshine and healthy air.“
Studio O + A, San Francisco, Mai 2020
Editing: Jonas Demel