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Creativity is already there: instructions for use.

Creativity is not a matter of being a genius, it is a matter of living in an environment and constantly adapting to it and at the same time modifying it.
So creativity can be fostered through space, enhancing well-being, flexibility and malleability of the furniture, accountability, communication and new technologies. That’s what WOW! has sustained at the conference “The boundaries of fantasy: is creativity in the office going too further?” at the  IFMA’s Facility Management Day 2017

Talking about creativity in an office environment is sometimes cause of anxiety. Workers feel like they have to do something extraordinary that they feel they can’t do, even if they don’t know exactly what and how. On the other hand, managers are struggling to create more and more innovative workplaces and ways of working, questioning, at the same time, their real effectiveness of them and trying to define where it is possible to draw boundaries.

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There’s another way to think about creativity that helps to take the pressure off: creativity is already there, it is a part of our everyday life in every environment.
The American anthropologist Tim Ingold once said that “we don’t build to dwell, we dwell therefore we build”.
Creativity arises in a constant relationship within an environment that is made of space, objects, people and rules.
A set of rules is essential for creativity, which is our own way to move inside and bend their boundaries and to keep on recreating them, like kids playing a “what if” game.
Think about the workstation of a hierarchical old-style workplace: on each desk it’s owner create his own territory, piling up papers, adding photos or other kind of objects, positioning monitors or pens in different ways. This is what I call an “inner focused” creativity, and its aim is “survive the boring routine of each day”. The challenge is nowadays to make this “already-made” creativity visible, enhance it, and use it to improve the company’s productivity.

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If we think about the Maslow pyramid of needs, we can turn outwardly this creativity, by creating a space capable of satisfying the well-being, sense of belonging, engagement, fulfilment and safety, basic needs of everyone.
How can we do that nowadays? Here we give five practical suggestions:

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 1) A malleable and pliant space.
When it’s a matter of creativity, flexibility is not enough. We need a sensorial environment that people can touch, reassemble, and constantly modify and re-invent. A multifunctional space is essential, but it is not enough: it has to be open designed, thought not just for the today’s needs but capable of adapting to ten years ahead needs.

2) Objects are actions and relationships.
“Two empty chairs, one opposite to the other, are already a conversation”. Objects are both symbols of identity both a suggestion of an action. Through furniture, managers can transmit messages and influence the behaviour of the employees, creating a space suitable for the goal they want to reach, making it easily perceivable.

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 3) Accountability and trust
Social facts, like office’s life, has always something that is unpredictable and often the project you have in mind comes out in a totally different result.
We need to accept this unpredictability, creating a working environment where two smart working keywords like accountability and trust are perceived and put into practice constantly.

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4) Space as communication and learning.
As Birgit Gebhardt has studied, it is more effective to design space, not thinking about the material side of it, but like a stage where conversations, communications and actions take place. We need to shape communication if we want to foster new perspective and new ways of interaction, which are the foundation of a creative workplace. Moreover, we have to think about the office as a life-long learning environment, where people can exchange competences and knowledge, stimulating their personal growth.

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5) The key role of technology.
As a recent Sedus’s research shows, technology is having a strong impact on architecture and design, developing the concept of a “spacial happiness” based on the capability of the individual to dominate the environment, deciding the lighting, heating, humidity, acoustic conditions. Technology is also crucial to control the unpredictability we talked about before: IoT and sensors help to collect a huge amount of data that managers can use to design more effective and more engaging workplace, satisfying the needs of each employee.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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The Better Effect Index: make sustainability simple.

Raw materials and resources, climate, pure materials, social responsibility, reuse and ergonomics: these are the parameters that make a product sustainable, according to the Kinnarps’s protocol Better Index Effect. The eco-label, designed following the designer, architects and consumers’ needs and the UN sustainability goals, is open source and can be freely downloaded

“More and more people want to make sustainable choices, so we have to make it easier to choose”, says Johanna Ljunggren, Kinnarps’ corporate sustainability manager. That’s why Kinnarps, despite the different eco-label out there, as Svanen, Möbelfakta, Blauer Engel, NF Environment and FSC, has chose to create a new one focused on important, but too often neglected, factors, like social responsibility or ergonomics, aiming to guide and change the production process and redefine the concept of sustainable object.

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Every object is indexed in 6 different areas, on which the Better Index Effect is based:

1, Raw materials and resources
2, climate
3, pure materials
4, social responsability
5, reuse
6, ergonomics.

“Every product is ranked in the various area, and you can see exactly which criteria they have, or haven’t, fulfilled. This is important. We report not only our good products but also our shortcomings”, Johanna Ljunggren continues.

The first parameter examines where the raw material come from, the condition of the process production and the resources optimization. To increase the evaluation companies have to choose FSC certified products and tissue.
The second one is about the environmental and climate impact and is based on the carbon dioxide emissions, the reduction of packaging and the use of renewable energies.
Thirdly the use of pure materials means also to avoid dangerous chemicals: phthalates, use as softeners in plastic and rubber, flame retardants, bisphenol A, used in plastic, lacquer and glue, formaldehyde, allergenic in contact with skin and carcinogenic, and VOCs, volatile organic solvents. Eco-labelled products and fabrics, water-based lacquer and laminated top are, instead, indicated for increase the air and environmental quality.

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Social responsibility concerns the company’s code of conduct and the control on the suppliers and over particular attentive situations, as the method of working in the BSCI’s list of risk countries.
The reuse, instead, follows the motto “Re:use, Re:fresh, Re:cycle”, so the possibility to redesign, repaired, and reused the object or the percentage of recycled materials in it. Reuse is the core of a sustainable object life circle: the 80% of the environmental impact of furniture is dued to materials, and therefore is crucial to make a difference to create a virtuous production process without any addition of energy and materials.
Finally, Kinnarps believes that sustainability is not just about the environment itself but also about the ergonomics and the well-being an object is capable of guarantee: furniture must encourage movements, control the acoustic impact, be easy to use and give the right light in the right place.

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These parameters are not just an instrument of analysis, but a guideline for the company transformation: Kinnarps, for example, has decided to cut off the 10% of the energetic consumption and to use only wood coming from FSC certified forests. Furthermore, Kinnarps has decided to open source the Better Effect Index in order to give to architects and consumers the change to make valuable choices and to cooperate in order to design a more sustainable production cycle.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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Will technology create happy workplaces?

Augmented reality, cloud services, wearable devices, IoT: these are the four technologies that are changing our ways of working and living, and these are the tools we can use to start to build a happy office: they increase our ability to manage our time, our relationships, the environment we live in, our professional growth. These are the main findings of the research i-Enjoy by Sedus, presented with the app se:connects for agile and smart working spaces.

Technology can give a crucial support in the office, either it is “passive”, meaning as a tool for a better environmental comfort, either “active”, for an implementation of the working activities. Technology really has several advantages like a better organization of the working time and space and a better “ergonomics” of the intellectual work, leaving all the repetitive stuff to the machines and leaving to the humans the creative part”, Daniele Andriolo of Plantronics says in the main interview of the Sedus’ s study i-Enjoy. “But we have to be careful that the massive data we continuously collect, won’t let us lose the sight of what really counts”, he concludes.

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The fast development of technology in the working spaces is rapidly changing our working culture, making employees a more active part in the organizations that, on the other hand, has increasingly focused on the individual wellbeing.
If talking about happiness at work means also talking about engagement, fulfilment and empowerment, therefore technology can have a key role to turn the office in a place where a big part of our happiness can be pursued.
Already nowadays we can see augmented reality tools or cloud servers creating a faster and more transparent communication, while dedicated apps and software as Happify Health or Awesome Boss take care of the people, giving to employees tools to motivate themselves or to effectively manage the teamwork.

Space and time are very much affected by the technology and most of all architecture and design. New concepts like “environmental happiness” leads to build spaces that are easy to control in every aspect: heating, lighting, planning, scheduling,… On the other hand, IoT and wearable devices are perfect to collect useful data, intercepting and elaborating people’s preferences, and helping to design offices that are capable of satisfying employees’ needs.

A good example is the Sedus’s app se:connects, especially designed for helping to solve some of the main problems of the changing towards agile and smart ways of working: using their smartphone, employees can easily find a free workstation, register their position and be able to find their colleagues. These data are collected in a complete and updated report that gives all the information to optimize the usage of the space, making the company and the workers both happier.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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The colorful future of the office.

Color can be several things in a workplace: food for our mind, an effective and immediate way of communication, a trigger of sensations and emotions and a powerful identity totem. That’s why color matters in every trend we can trace about the contemporary office, from agile and smart working to wellbeing and creativity, from flexible design to brand and corporate identity.

While the workplace has become a more stimulating, multifunctional, agile and communicative space, color is getting the attention of every interior designer and architect.

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“Colors are the food for our mind”, Christina Wiklund, CMF Manager in Kinnarps, said during the presentation of the Kinnarps Color Studio: a mind that has to remain creative, open and enough flexible to face the new and dynamic challenges of an ever-changing market.
Therefore color, as food, has to keep our mind healthy and “fully charged”, creating a landscape where the employee can find what he needs at every moment. It has to be also a simple and easy to digest kind of food, helping to orient yourself in a space shaped by nomadic and mobile ways of working, tracing a visible map.

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Most of all, color shares with food the fact of giving a connotative and perceivable identity feeling: from the face and body painting of the ancestral populations to the medieval coats of arm, to the flag of the countries, till the nowadays expression of the corporate identity on the office walls.
Color is a very effective way to create a banner to follow, to communicate with people, to transmit through space sensations, rules, required behaviours, and messages, as it is shown by the AzkoNobel’s Heart Wood, Color Future 2018,  chosen to transmit a welcoming and reassuring feeling to the people living in the workplace.

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So, what is the kind of color we need for the new architecture of communication (as it was defined by Birgit Gebhardt during the conference at the Dieffebi‘s Showroom in Milan at the last Fall Design Week)?
It’s a color that takes inspiration from reality: like the ones used in traffic lights, it it has to direct the constant flow of people, communication, and information; like an heraldic symbol it has to create a sense of corporate membership; finally has to be scenographic, capable of creating the perfect stage where a free and creative play can take place, evoking, at the same time, more intense and meaningful emotions.
Text by Gabriele Masi

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Communication via architecture for a new WOW-effect office.

“The design of the office space has to focus on the structure of the human collaboration and communication”. The idea of workplace presented by the trend expert Birgit Gebhardt at the showroom Dieffebi is based on a “landscape of learning”, where networks and data will allow every individual to find his own way of expressing himself, through constant development and self-organization.

Will the office loose its WOW effect in the future, replaced by different spaces more suitable for a more creative, convenient and flexible kind of job? It is a pretty ongoing question that Birgit Gebhardt has studied for the last years, focusing on how we have to rethink the office space in order to let it have an important role still to play.

That was the topic of the lecture “The evolution of Smart Working: Rethink human work, redesign your office”, held by the German trend expert during the Brera Design Days at the Dieffebi Showroom, that celebrates for the occasion the first year of opening. Our society, as long as the economic world, is going through a radical structural change: from an industry-focused system, based on concepts like massification and standardization, we are moving toward the digital era where network and data produce a massive layer of information that help us to focus and produce at an individual scale.
If once the motto was “bigger, faster, further, cheaper”, nowadays is more like “unique, on the spot, feasible by anybody, as many as needed”.

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Communication and collaboration are becoming the core of this new structure and therefore they are changing also the way of designing and living the workplace.
The office can’t be anymore the stiff and hierarchical environment, where the inside is hidden from the outside, but it has to be a transparent, intelligent and malleable space, a stage where competences and performance can happen freely.
A communication via architecture is therefore fundamental, enhancing the different structure and social and psychological features of the collaboration and communication processes, offering a variety of codes and sensual stimulations, that allow the people to build a profitable learning culture.

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“Learning” is another keyword of the future office. In fact, communication and collaboration are not sterile events, but their main focus has to be the developing of personal and group competences and creativity.
The workplace has to become a blended learning space, where like in gaming, everyone is free to try and experiment, where, as Gebhardt suggested no one should be afraid of thinking in a totally different direction”. We need to create, therefore, a “landscape of learning”, based on a free and constant process, and on a good self-organization.

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At the same time, it is necessary to create an environment where design and people are strictly connected, entangled, and capable of freely modifying one another. “A space that can’t be too designed: you need to touch it, to change it. If it is too designed, people won’t touch it”. So it is not just the human being to adapt to the situation, but it also the other way around. A stimulating space, finally, is a workplace where people are allowed also “not to focus”. As neuroscience shows, to be creative we need alpha waves that our brain produces when we are not too concentrated on one particular task. That’s why another catchphrase of the future office might be “Let it happen”.
Text by Gabriele Masi.
Pictures from New Work Order by Birgit Gebhardt
Captions:
1. The School of Athen, Raphael: a model for the nowadays office space
2. The metaphorical pictograms used by Rosan Bosch
3. Ørestad Gymnasium, Denmark, picture by Adam Mørk.

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Caldera Park Worklife: sport and services for the work-life balance.

A 10 meters climbing wall: that’s the symbol of Caldera Park Worklife in Milan, by Generali Real Estate and CBRE. This business center is an example of how physical activity has become essential in the new ways of working, as a good work-life balance and well-being indicator, defining a space that is able to match the workers’ needs.

The project for the renovation of the 110 sqm Caldera Worklife Business Centre has started from a survey among the 4.000 employees working in the building in order to understand what were their most urgent and important needs. That gives to Generali Real Estate, CBRE, as long as General Planning and Carlo Ratti Associati, thata designed the main entrance and square, the line to create a business centre capable to create a wealthy and comfortable working environment. 07-Caldera-Park-wow-webmagazine

That gives to Generali Real Estate, CBRE, as long as General Planning and Carlo Ratti Associati, that has designed the main entrance and square, the main ideas and lines to create a center capable to create a wealthy and comfortable working environment.

“We wanted to create a business park which could be a benchmark for the future”, Alberto Agazzi, GRE SGR’s CEO and General Manager, said. “The core of our project is the people who live the space every day, for whom new services and instruments were created, in order to encourage a good balance between working and private life”.

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Physical activity has been chosen as the key to this balance: outside a two ring running track (1 km + 666 m) has been built with a computerized timing system, as well as a 10 meters climbing wall, while inside a fully equipped fitness area has been designed.
Also Easy Point, the building dedicated to all the services, has been renovated, creating a coworking space, which can be used also by eternal companies and people, as long as a kindergarten, a mini-market, and an app that allows employees to easily find out about dedicated offers, that helps to make everyday life simpler.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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Turning restrinctions into opportunities: CBRE, Rome.

A variety of layouts and settings that found a common mood in the corporate and smart working culture: that’s how the studio e45 has designed the CBRE office in Rome, personalizing a rigid working environment and, at the same moment, optimizing its peculiarities.

The main challenge the e45’s design team had to face when they started to design the CBRE office, next to Rome’s central train station, was how to manage a space with a stretched layout, structural partitions along the corridors and several other constraints, in order to create a suitable environment for the smart ways of working, where it was possible to place into a thin slice of floorplan a reasonable amount of desk to fulfill the clients requirements.

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That allows e45 to experiment some original solutions, offering a variety of work settings.
The reception desk has been replaced by a welcome coffee area where clients can sit on a touch down table while preparing a meeting or relaxing on a stylish Italian couch, under the CBRE logo, carved into a two-color wall of moss, that has also the function of noise reduction.

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The open space area was kept simple, with Kinnarps’s high adjustable desking system, Cardex’s furniture, Caimi Brevetti’s soundproof panels and personal numbered lockers for desk sharing. The corridor becomes a meeting point with whiteboards where people can share thoughts and ideas spontaneously, just beside written text of songs about Rome, reproduced on metal shelves, also all over the office space. Furthermore, as any contemporary office requires, all the meeting rooms, informal spaces, huddles, phone booths are equipped with video conferencing devices. Finally, a kitchenette area, as well as relax room, find a place into the project, inviting people to sometimes take a break.
Text by Gabriele Masi.
Pictures by Matteo Zanardi.

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Which kind of music does the office play?

Rock, Funky, Indie or Techno: which kind of music do the contemporary office play? We ask it to the architects-DJs of the DJarch2017 at the Herman Miller showroom in Milan: Davide Cumini (iarchitects), Bruno De Rivo (e45), Antonina Gucciardi (Unispace) e Massimo Roy (Progetto CMR). Mario Colombo, Herman Miller’s sales director of the Mediterranean area, introduces us to the link between music and design, suggesting the great director’s cinema as an example to follow.

“Music is a very simple thing. How to position the music in the office space is a much more complicated thing”, says Mario Colombo. “This is a field where architects can explore more, becoming “architect of the sound”.

What if we compare the office layout and project to a kind? Which one would it be? Every architect has his own answer.

Bruno de Rivo (e45): office as indie and techno music.

Massimo Roy (Progetto CMR): office rocks!

Davide Cumini (iarchitects): a funky design studio.

Text by Gabriele Masi.

Prysmian Hq: a workplace to make new WOWs grow.

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An efficient layout between the historical memory and the future: the Prysmian HQ in Milan, by the firm Maurizio Varratta Architetto (architecture) and DEGW (interior design) is conceived as an outgoing” space, dominated by the hierarchy-breaking open space design. The sustainable requalification of the building is centred on two bioclimatic glasshouses that link architectonically and socially the structures, the activities and the people of the four former factory blocks.

12.000 sqm office area and 1200 sqm glasshouses: these are the numbers of a smart working revolution that is taking place in the Italian headquarters of Prysmian.
In 2011 the world leader company for the production of cables for the energetic, telecommunication and optical fibre industries, begin the project to renovate the old factory complex in order to create a modern office space.

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The design by the firm Maurizio Varratta Architetto and DEGW has its core in the two bioclimatic glasshouses that link the four open space blocks of the building. These green oasis are not just a symbol of some of the most important smart working features (connectivity, well-being, sustainability, meeting, relationship, mobility), but also fundamental architectonical elements that allows a better natural enlightenment, energy saving and a better regulation of the internal microclimate, thanks to the sloping pitched structure of the covering capable of optimizing the solar radiation. 

The roof pitches facing north allow natural light to flow into the office blocks facing onto them without bringing in any extra heat and are fitted with shutters. Instead, the roof pitches facing south have adjustable mechanically-controlled shutters to provide natural lighting and, at the same time, keep out some of the direct sunlight and any extra inflow of heat.

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“The Prysmian HQ in Milan is a building complex with an apparently simple but technologically cutting-edge architectural form, which follows the very latest principles of energy sustainability, environmental quality, and respect for the environment. The old building was completely knocked down and all its constituent materials were recycled. It guarantees its occupants enjoy a good quality of life in accordance with the highest international standards”, the architect Varratta says.
Three of the factory blocks host on three levels the open space offices, meeting rooms, relax areas, and in a slighlty elevated area, the top management offices.
The fourth block, instead, is thought for hosting open and private events and activities, as congresses or training courses.

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The interior design by DEGW is inspired by the “Workplace change management” methodology, developed in collaboration with Methodos. According to this, every changing is a process that comes from the interaction and the participation of the people that live daily the environment, meanwhile, the design has to be a driver for the change.
Another brand of the Lombardini22 group, FUD Brand Making Factory, with Interbrand, has developed the space branding project.
Starting from the Prysmian logo on the bench of the reception, all the spaces tell about the company through some significant sentences, infographics, and products. Corporate values, such as ‘linking the future’,  are physically embodied in glass film showing infographics about the company’s worldwide operations in the form of words written in thick white plexiglass.
Text by Gabriele Masi.
Pictures by Dario Tettamanzi.

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Body, Mind and Environment: a 3D wellness in the office.

If anyone has to pick up a concept to sum up the nowadays evolution of the workplace, he would choose “feeling good”. As the biopsychosocial model has become used to defined wellness and health, the environment has been understood to have a fundamental role in shaping the different dimensions of employees’ well-being: physical, psychological and social.

Do you want to improve the level of well-being of the employees working in your company? Start from the environment they live in. The environment, infact, as also the OMS has recognized, highly affects the physical, mental and social state of humans. In the office design, as well, this concept has become essential to build the scaffold of a healthy and productive working ecosystem.

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Today’s office design is taking a step forward, in order to keep the workers healthy and therefore more productive. Problems and diseases of the musculoskeletal system due to wrong, long-lasting sitting positions, for example, are prevented by dynamic ways of working, agile workstations, sit-stand working desks, or unusual seats like the Technogym’s wellness ball or the ones that Kinnarps has presented at the last Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair.

Also, the arrival of the IoT has played a fundamental role, helping to improve the quality of the air, the lighting and heating system, allowing also to personalize them through personal smartphones.
Moreover, other services in the office are thought to encourage the employee to take care of themselves: company restaurants with healthy menus and fully equipped gyms come along with wellness rooms and dedicated doctor’s appointment.

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If you’ve never heard about happiness at work at work, probably you have been in another planet for the last years. The working environment and HR management get inspiration from the marketing and advertising industries as “creator of experiences”, while it resembles more and more to a theme park, where anyone can try fun and different things. The keyword is “human experience”, a mix of engagement, fulfillment, and empowerment, capable of successfully leading the company through the future challenges.

A new interesting trend comes from the new findings from neuroscience that have brought in the office a new concept of equipped relax areas, music, and spaces capable of reducing stress and facilitate concentration, even in noisy and dynamic open spaces.

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Casual meeting as the occasion of new and original ideas. The office design aims to increase the chance of encounter among employees (in-between, break and informal meeting areas) and between the inside and the outside of the company (co-working spaces attracts external professionals while more frequently curious customers visit the exhibition spaces, attend classes or use the services offered by the company’s environment).

The symbol of the social experience of the workplace is the ever-present foosball table and the Dutch Plantronics office’s rehearsal room, while couches, armchairs and kitchen spaces enhance the home-feeling that a working space nowadays has to give. A good work-life balance, at last, helps to live more easily the working environment experience: company’s kindergartens, pets in the office, agile and smart working strategies are just some examples of the more and more blurred boundaries between office and private life.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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Real Estate and the Human Experience in the office.

The workplace is more than a property, is a living ecosystem, where numerous experiences take place. The study by JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle’s brand name)Workplace powered by Human Experience” underlines three most important drivers: Engagement, Fulfilment and Empowerment. Real Estate is confirmed to be a powerful changing factor, leading a company through the present and future challenges.

“As workplace strategy moves from practical, design-based decision making to a more experience-led approach, expect an overlap with functions that have traditionally been the domain of HR teams. This will impact workspace design and decision-making”, with these words Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research di JLL Corporate Solutions, comments on their report “Workplace powered by Human Experience”.

The research was run over 40 client companies and 7.300 people (age 18-65), in 12 different countries: Australia, China, France, Germany, italy, Japan, India, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, U.S.A. and Great Britain.

The study has found that there are three priorities to drive the change: Engagement, Empowerment and Fulfilment. Engagement means fostering a sense of commitment and creating mutual trust and kindness. Empowerment, instead, is about giving people a sense of control in their working environment and the opportunity to take the initiative, while fulfilment can be achieved making sure work feels comfortable “beyond the surface level of happiness”, giving the chance to grow professionally in a challenging environment.

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Some key findings of the research are that spaces dedicated to collaboration and teamwork have the strongest impact on productivity, that agility improve performance, and that effectiveness is linked to a low density in the workplace.
The innovative offices are the ones that offer a mixture of collaborative and community spaces, support services and creative environments. Additionally, 28% of the companies provide an incubator, a dedicated space enabling colleagues and external talent to develop personal projects while making use of the company infrastructure, support and advice.

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70% of the interviewed people agree that happiness at work is the key ingredient for a good human experience, while the 54% see positively Chief Happiness Officer should be fully devoted to employee wellbeing. While large corporations are still attractive, employees crave an entrepreneurial culture: 46% of employees aspire to work in a start-up environment.
“A workplace that is powered by the human experience goes beyond a work-life balance” Marie Puybaraud concludes. “It drives how people feel about their place of work. How empowered, engaged and fulfilled they are, it’s the purposeful fusion of life and work based on authentic human experiences”.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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“Be”, being well: a human-centred redevelopment.

Being well, productive, connected, innovative: the verb “to Be” is the centre of the contemporary workplace. The requalification of the business district in Cassina De’ Pecchi, next to Milan, by InvestiRE, design a modern vital village, thought to promote a productive interaction and wealthy working environment, through different services and integrating the outdoor and indoor space in the same concept. CBRE is the exclusive agent.

Nowadays revitalizing a working environment can’t be just about re-designing spaces and furniture. Evening if the “packaging” still plays a fundamental role, the core of the Real Estate project must be the “human experience” created by integrating internal and external spaces and services given by the company.

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That’s the concept that has driven the project of the requalification of the 40.000 sqm of the business district in Via Roma 108 in Cassina de’ Pecchi, few kilometers from Milano: productivity, engagement, and collaboration, good health and well-being practices for the people, all these key concepts of the modern workspace are expressed in the simple name that has been chosen: “Be”.

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The main building, re-designed by Park Associati, is created to promote socialization and collaboration, balancing private spaces with different environment to share among the companies and external professionals: co-working, meeting rooms, temporary offices and event rooms (up to 110 people).

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The peculiarity of the project, however, is the focus on the wellbeing and on the work-life balance of the workers. Along with dedicated space and services such as an healthy restaurant, a full-equipped gym and a nursery school, outiside pedestrian walkways pass through a private green park, with movable and fixed facilities, that aims to create a “continuum” between the space indoor and outdoor, recalling the idea of “The Walk by De Lucchi of a “peripatetic office”.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

 

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When design sounds: Sound and Matter Design (Holon, Israel).

Acoustic, Design and Architecture have a long intertwined history. Sound and Matter, the last Design Museum Holon’s exhibition (29th June – 28th October), put it into an interesting perspective, transforming part of the building into a musical instrument, creating an experiential sound space and analyzing historic and contemporary object.

“With this exhibition, we wanted to provide visitors with something truly experiential where the building itself is given a voice and visitors find themselves listening to it. For the first time, the exhibition premises are used in their entirety with an attentive eye on how each sound, each piece, each element can and should be juxtaposed to the space at hand”. with these words Maya Dvash, Chief Curator of Design Museum Holon, introduces “Sound and Matter”, the last museum’s exhibition, realized in collaboration with Morel,  leading manufacturer of speaker components and audio systems company.

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Upon arrival, “The Sound of Architecture” an installation curated by Anat Safran and Lila Chitayat, exploits the building’s architecture and the capacity of its hollow corten ribbons to function as echo chambers to create an all-immersive “musical arena”. The Design Museum Holon’s iconic building, designed by Ron Arad, is transformed into a musical instrument, with 100 speakers located in different areas, and visitors become the composers, into a multi-sensory space.

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Inside the Museum, the Upper Gallery features “Seeing Sound”, an exhibition containing over 50 objects designed from the 1960s to the present. The curators,  Anat Safran, Lila Chitayat and Elisabetta Pisu, have divided the items into three categories – stationary, mobile, and interactive – exemplifying the conceptual shift from object design to the design of a user experience.
The lower galley, instead, hosts a resonating chamber, where original sound works composed especially for this space, are translated into visual representations influenced by the movement of the visitors: “Sense Sound” is designed to transport the people in an environment where movements of sound become visible and thus visual and tangible character of sound becomes clear.  

The materiality of sound is the key point of the other two exhibitions: the jewellery artist Dana Hakim Bercovich’s “Through the Mesh“, where metal mesh (speaker grille) used in loudspeakers and audio equipment are turned into unique jewellery pieces that can be worn on the body, and “Loops”, where different items from the Museum collection exemplify the importance of the notion fo repetition both in sound and in design.
Objects, space and environment: sound and matter found a real link along all the exhibition, and as Maya Dvash concludes, it appears clear how “Sound is one of the most significant “raw materials” in the designer’s toolbox”.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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Take Your Dog To Work Day 2017 (June 23rd).

Take Your Dog To Work Day 2017 is an event created to experiment the benefits of a dog-friendly office. Different companies are nowadays opening their spaces to pets in order to promote social interactions and to improve the wellbeing of the workers, allowing a better work-life balance. An example is Kurgo that has designed its own workplace as a creative environment, perfectly suitable for “dog colleagues”.

Born in 1999 form the idea of Pet Sitters International, the event Take Your Dog to Work Day encourages companies worldwide to allow their employees to bring their dogs and pets to work with them.

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Several studies, as the last one by the Banfield Pet Hospital and Mars Petcare, have proven so far the beneficial effects of pets in a working environment: reducing stress (85%), improving socialization (79%), work-life balance (85%) and productivity (67%).
An example of a total dog-friendly company is Kurgo (Salisbury, Massachusetts) that following their mission, has designed their office in order to create “the best doghouse ever”, using recycled materials as wood and steel shipping containers.

“Allowing people to take their dogs with them at work improve their life quality, creating a more relaxing atmosphere and improving the level of interaction among colleagues”, Marco Travaglia, Regional Director Southern Europe of Purina, another company following a pet-friendly approach.
Even if it seems just a matter of attitude, allowing animals in the office requires a good planning. An efficient example is the PAW (Pets at Work) project by Nestlé: after a selection process, made by a specialist, through observations questionaries about the dog’s behavior, the pet undergoes a three months trail period before he is allowed to freely enter the working environment. However, there are several environments where they are not permitted to go, as formal meeting rooms or eating areas. During the day, employees can decide where to leave their puppies, either in dedicated dog-friendly rooms or small garden or keeping them on a leash next to their desk.

For the companies and the workers willing to join the Take Your Dog To Work Day 2017 on the 23rd June here are some advice given by the promoter of the event, Pet Sitters International:
1. Check with management and co-workers to see if anyone is allergic, afraid of or opposed to you bringing your dog to work.
2. Puppy-proof your work space, removing poisonous plants, hiding electrical cords and wires and securing toxic items such as correction fluid and permanent markers.
3. Consider if your dog can easily adapt to the office environment: if he is aggressive or overly shy, it’s best to leave him at home. Consider also how he has behaved in the past around strangers.
4. Prepare a doggie bag, including food, treats, bowls, toys, a leash, paper towels, clean-up bags and pet-safe disinfectant.
5. Plan your pet’s feeding times carefully.
6. Avoid forcing co-workers to interact with your dog and remember to colleagues that chocolate, candy and other people food should not be shared with dogs.
Text by Gabriele Masi.
Opening: picture by Purina’s gallery.

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Working in a cloud: Lavazza HQ by Cino Zucchi.

Nuvola, the HQ Lavazza designed by Cino Zucchi, is a project that aims to regenerate an abandoned multifunctional area, opening it towards the city of Turin, while creating and transmitting the brand identity of the company. Conceived to facilitate smart and activity-based ways of working, the environment of the “Cloud” highlights some contemporary office trends as connectivity, interaction and the rediscovery of the importance of conviviality.

Nuvola, the Lavazza HQ by the arch. Cino Zucchi is based on the renovation of an 18.500 sqm. industrial complex in Turin, with a particular attention to the energetical and environmental sustainability (the project is running for the LEED Gold certification) and to create a space open towards the city. The office spaces, that will host about 600 employees, is conceived as the centre of the “Nuvola System”, that will include a public parking, a green square and an archaeological area dedicated to an early Christians basilica, discovered during the excavations.

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In addition, by 2018 the Lavazza Museum, De la centrale, will be inaugurated: an event space with a 1000 people capacity, including also the gourmet restaurant Condividere by Lavazza, designed along with Ferran Adrià and Dante Ferretti.
Also the relocation from the old offices has followed a sustainable process, recycling part of the furniture and donating over 3.000 pieces to schools, hospitals, and charities.
“The Hq represents how we conceive a contemporary company. It is not just about moving desks, it is moving forward towards a more integrated, stimulating and human-centred dimension. A comfortable and, at the same time, technologically advanced headquarters to connect the 90 countries where we operate”,  Giuseppe Lavazza, Vice Presidente Lavazza, says.

“We have based the space planning on the concept of an activity-based office, stressing the role of technology and environments in creating connectivity”Michele Aruanno by GTP comments.

“This advanced open space is not composed of separated environments and repeated lines of desks, but it is designed with adjustable and, at the same time, functionally defined environment, all furnished with acoustic partitions and recharge areas for devices, along with space for quick and informal meetings, as well as separated meeting rooms that allow to easily connect with the outside”.

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The value of “conviviality” and the importance of the ”coffee break” are two of the main feature of the project, literally translating the company’s activity into the ways of working: interaction and socialization are also expressed in different environments as the gym, the relax area and Bistrot, an innovative restaurant, designed by Cino Zucchi Architetti with RGA, in collaboration with Slow Food.

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Also, the new furniture is chosen to improve a smart working approach, encouraging wellbeing, comfort and sharing. Estel, as a contractor, has supplied tailor-made solutions, while also Arper, Sedus, Vitra, Artemide furniture has been used. Tecno has designed the mobile partitions, Underline the graphic communication, while the IoT and technological solution have been furnished by Samsung, Cisco and Acuson.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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10 trends for the future workplace.

A useful tool for employers for navigating in a landscape that is constantly evolving: Global Workplace Trends Report 2017 by Sodexo traces 10 main fields of innovation for the workplace, a roadmap to increase productivity, wellbeing, and quality of life comparing the current situation with future scenarios.

Clear and fast changes are happening in the conception of the working environment, although it is not easy to always understand which are the best trends for a company or how to apply them fruitfully. Sodexo, along with several experts of Columbia University, University of Granada, Harvard Center for Work e United Nations Foundation, has run a survey to help employers to make the best decisions, enlightening 10 main trends evolving different topics such as migrants, millennials, robots, environment, new technologies and social transformations:

1. Putting design thinking principles to work.
Design thinking has become a critical strategic imperative for organizations looking to put the employee experience first, rethinking all elements of the workplace.  Every aspect has to be designed considering the employee’s experience at first. Health and well-being become the foundation for designing workplaces that contribute to worker’s happiness and wellness.

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2. Unlocking the potential of millennial talent
By 2025 millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce, therefore companies are engaged in creating a culture where millennials employers are benefiting from the collaboration, creativity, and authenticity. Start-ups are representing a model for bigger enterprises that offer more freedom, flexibility, and mobility, encouraging millennial employees from taking the initiative on a new project, or even from having side jobs. That makes them more entrepreneurial (and provides a sense of freedom.

3. The agile organization.
In a recent study, Accenture has pointed out the companies with higher levels of both stabilizing structural backbone and velocity were 436 percent likelier to be seen as outstanding financial performers in their industries than those that lacked both. Agility is going to be the mode of operating of the future companies.

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4. The rise of cross-workplaces
Interaction is one of the main mantras of nowadays offices. Cross-working is encouraging employees to interact with a wide range of people across an organization to spark innovation and therefore new products, new processes, new services, new ways of organizing and new ways of thinking.

5. Employees without borders.
Corporations can play an important role in promoting a sense of belonging and a culture of inclusion among their workforces. Organizations are more frequently welcoming migrants into the workforce and leveraging their talents with an understanding of their immense value proposition. In the years ahead, those companies that already have corporate cultures with deep foundations in diversity and inclusion will be best suited to rise up to help their communities and to create innovative cross-cultural ways of thinking.

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6. The new generation of robotics.
Is the robotic a threat for employees? As the workplace becomes increasingly automated in the endless drive for greater efficiency and productivity, an anxious workforce worries that the machines mean human workers will be out of work. The future can be different: instead of wholesale personnel downsizing, employers will train and develop their people to empower workers to take on new and different roles.

7. Intergenerational learning.
The norms of work-related learning challenge the wisdom that older people teach while younger people learn: now workers of all ages contribute to one another, establishing longer and more dynamic careers that defy generational stereotypes. Intergenerational agility is a critical issue: by 2030, the percentage of the population aged 60 and over is expected to leap, from 12.3 percent in 2015 to 16.5 percent, and companies will be called to focus on successfully developing and managing a multigenerational workforce.

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8. Personal branding goes to work.
Personal and corporate brands are now overlapping, as organizations realize the value of the influencers in their workforce. It has been shown that brand messages are reshared 24 times more frequently when distributed by employees. In the future will see a rise of companies with social employee advocacy programs, social listening programs and professional development plans that include instructions and governance models on how employees can enhance their personal brands while supporting company goals.

9. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
Companies are called to an important social role: sustainable development is increasingly recognized as the legitimate responsibility of businesses. Organizations are becoming more creative, committed and consistently visible when it comes to sustainable development, alongside innovation and technology.

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10 Wellness 3.0.
As the boundaries between work and life continue to blur, today’s workers are seeking out a new and improved employee value proposition that includes a focus on all aspects of health and well-being.  And so employers are taking holistic approaches to workplace wellness, developing customized wellness programs that look at worker wellness as a true advantage.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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UnipolSai’s HQ in Milan: a building for a sustainable city.

Technical and engineering innovation are the concepts that lead  Progetto CMR to turn the building in Via De Castilia in Milan into a vivid example of green architecture: innovative materials were used like the titanium dioxide capable to “melt” the polluting agents in the air, creating, with the green areas of the project, a healthier city spot. The future operative HQ of the Italian insurance group UnipolSai was presented at the Italian Pavilion at Mipim in Cannes.

“A sustainable approach is essential for the future of our cities” . With this words  Massimo Roj, Architect and CEO of Progetto CMR, presented the requalification of the two buildings, 53m and 15m high, placed to form a 45°angle, of the new UnipolSai’s HQ in Milan.
The aim of the Milan integrated design firm was not only to change completely the appearance of the building, but also and foremost to improve its functionality, its energy performance and overall management efficiency. 

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An idea clearly visible from the outside where dynamic façade, created by the interplay between the “void” spaces of the glass and the “solid” vertical connections, combines both aesthetical and functional aspects: while giving a new architectural identity to the complex, the new façade contributes to energy production, thanks to an innovative high-performance silicon film placed on the top glass layer. On the south façade a sequence of rhombus made of tempered glass panels, each with different inclination, and framed by extra light aluminum elements, reflects sunlight in a constantly different way during the day.

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While the advanced building plant uses renewable energy resources as sun, air, wind and water, reducing the environmental impact of the complex and improving the livability of the context, the most interesting feature is the titanium dioxide that covers the the external surfaces of the building, a material capable, through a photocatalytic process,of melting the polluting agents in the air. According to a research by the University of Milan,  together with the green areas in the project, this will contribute to halve local pollution.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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Hoofddorp, 19th of March 2017 – Plantronics office. Photo: Mats van Soolingen

The sound of Smart Working.

Acoustics, technology and design: after the opening of their italian headquarters, in the offices in Hoofddorp (Netherlands) Plantronics experiments the efficacy of their own product in creating a smart working environment.  An opportunity for the company  “to bring to life our vision for the modern workplace”, as the president Joe Burton says.

Situated in the innovative Park 20|20 in Hoofddorp, the architecture firms William McDonough + Partners, N30 and Gensler, conceived the Dutch offices of Plantronics as an acoustic showcase that accommodates various employee work styles, in a symphony of sound layers that make possible for diverse activities to take place simultaneously with minimal disruption, including hallway meetings, pop-up brainstorms, quiet concentration, video conferences, even product testing.

Hoofddorp, 21th of March 2017 – Plantronics office. Photo: Mats van Soolingen

The noise management is based on the copany’s technology and research, from active acoustic management to headsets that help employees easily and comfortably work anywhere, and on the natural sound of the water:  three waterfalls act as a complementary visual aid to the audio overlay of a babbling brook that can be heard from the speakers. This allow to reduce the intelligibility of background noise, following a biophilic way of designing.


The building, as the entire park 20|20, is build following a “Cradle-to Cradle” design approach that allow to easily disassemble the building in case of need, and it is made entirely with recyclable materials. The attention to the environmental and energetical sustainability worth the  BREEAM certificate at Excellent level: from solar panels, designed to harvest at least a quarter of the building’s required energy, water systems that include greywater harvesting, filtration, cleansing, and reuse, and also carpets fabricated from recycled fishing nets.

Hoofddorp, 19th of March 2017 – Plantronics office. Photo: Mats van Soolingen
Gensler has also created an exhibition space where the company’s innovation can be tested and shown in action with an interactive sound table that shows the impact sound has on people’s daily lives, and a sound chamber where visitors can learn how Plantronics analyzes the impact of sound levels to help create its headsets.
“In designing the Expo space, our aim was to integrate the Plantronics story with their technology innovations, to create a narrative and provide an informative journey through the space,” said Milena Jovovic, design director at Gensler. “A holistic and immersive experience, consistent with the overall design of the building.”
Text by Gabriele Masi.
Pictures by Mats van Soolingen.

Hoofddorp, 19th of March 2017 – Plantronics office. Photo: Mats van Soolingen

The role of light in IoT era.

The idea of flexibility and of a human-centered environment, with the IoT interaction, have become the trend also in the lighting design. “Lamps” are not made just for giving light, but are the core of technological infrastructures, data collectors and creators of atmospheres and environments. Some of the Artemide‘s new projects, presented at Euroluce 2017, can give us a hint about the future role of light in the IoT era.

Despite a general revival atmosphere recalling the 50s and 60s design, Euroluce 2017 has shown some example of the potentiality of light for the future office design.
The key concepts are almost the same than in the other design field: human-centred, flexibility and a two-way interaction that allow every object to collect data and to be controlled by a system.

A lighting spot can be used as a data transfer device or an internet connection point. This is the idea behind Light as Quanta, the Li-Fi project by Artemide. The system is based on an “optical wireless” connection that works through lighting impulses, instead of radio waves, only in the light cone of the lamp, giving better performances and safety.

In the years Artemide has also developed a project called “The Human Light”, designing products capable of creating real-time various and complex light scenarios through communication technology as Target Point, Artemide App and LOT Software. The concept behind the Human light is to create an environment that fits perfectly with the needs of whom are living in it, regulating the presence and the role of the light in the space. Emissions, movements, speed, colors are controlled via app by smartphone, using an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, enabling all kind of users of personalizing their experience.
Text by Gabriele Masi

1, Yang IoT, Carlotta de Bevilacqua, Artemide, 2017. A two-way communication system that allow to separately control the three lamps, using the LED technology to enable the user to choose the right scenario for different situations and needs.
2, A24, Carlotta de Bevilacqua, Artemide, 2017. A24 is a unique 24 mm thick that can be installed everywhere,  in the recessed, ceiling or suspension mode to continuously follow the angles on a flat or three-dimensional surface. A flexible framework for different Artemide’s products, diffused light, sharp optical units with three beam angles, or a smart magnetic track.
3-4, LoT-LoT software, Tapio Rosenius, Artemide 2016-2017. LoT is the first Artemide’s software based on the concept of interaction design. A serie of lighting tools that allows design professionals to reimagine, reveal, reinterpret and to modulate space through light.

Building automation and ergonomics.

Automation, flexibility and an interconnected space: the Campus Perrone’s Pavillion C of the UPO’s University shows how probably the future learning spaces will be. The key role of the ICT is enhanced by the comfort and ergonomics of the Ares Line’s seats Evolution and by the MosaicoGroup’s audio-video and lighting system, following the concept of a Technology Enabled Learning space.

How is gonna be the future learning space? Studio CM has tried to give us a hint with their project of the Campus Perrone of the University of the Eastern Piemonte in Novara, showing how the interior design trends of the office and of the learning environments are following the same paths: energy saving, building automation, and the research of a constant link between the inside and the outside of the building.

The project has been realized in collaboration with two companies of the Contract Design Network: MosaicoGroup has designed the audiovideo and lighting system, enhancing the role of the ICT, providing the building with a low latency and easy to control streaming framework that allows to broadcast and receive the audio-video signal throughout the Campus and the entire university. Ares Line has supplied about 1000 seats for the different environments and in particular Evolution, an improvement of the best seller product Omnia, and has designed the teacher’s desk in order to fit perfectly the different multimedia applications provided by MosaicoGroup.
The whole building appears as a functional and colored environment, easy to control through personalized devices that allow to manage the different rooms, the volume of the microphones, of the streaming and of the lights.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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