To kick off the start of the London Festival of Architecture, Atrium hosted a lively discussion titled “How Architecture and Design is used to foster a sense of community in the tech and start-up workspace”. The panel that was secured boasted four fantastic individuals. Chaired by the charismatic design writer Max Fraser, the speakers included Kirsten Murray from Olson Kundig, the Seattle-based design practice, Luke Appleby from KONTOR London, a boutique real-estate consultancy practice, and John McRae from Orms Architects, a London-based architecture firm.
The atmosphere was relaxed and the speakers were thoroughly prepared, which meant it was a terrifically informative and open discussion. Initially discussing how the design of workspace has shifted, the comprehensive conversation covered psychology, economics and philosophy.
A particular point of the dialogue that stood out for me was how the landscape of the global economy and the state of commerce today was defining the design of workspaces. The shift from the industrial sector to a service economy means that companies want their offices to give customers an experience, with the themes of community and flexibility present in the space. Gone are the days of marble columns and gaudy interiors that almost shout, “I am impressive!”
Start-ups are emblematic of this shift and the panel pondered how major tech companies have left an indelible mark on the workspace of today. As a result of this mark, inauthentic, copycat spaces can be found or exploitative landlords taking advantage of the “communal” workspaces, pairing a dance school directly above an office.
One final theme to touch on, out of the many engaging ones, is the idea of commuting. A question from the audience focused on the proliferation of the shared work concept and whether it was a purely metropolitan phenomenon. The panel agreed that the connectivity and mobility meant that it probably was not, with Kirsten Murray finding that Seattleites are commuting out of the city for work and living in a one bed downtown; the complete opposite to here in London.
A fantastic start to what should be a brilliant #LFA2016. Watch the talk in the video below.
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