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New trends from Worktech17: Living Office, co-design and IoT.

A self-learning space, open-designed for the future needs, based on the individual experience and wellbeing. This is the way of designing that was debated at the forum Worktech 2017, among leader companies as Herman Miller and Interface and architecture firms like Carlo Ratti Associati, Zaha Hadid Architects and Studio Banana.

The office must follow the life that takes place in it. That’s the core of the Herman Miller’s seven provocations, seven statements thought to guide the discussion between designers and companies, and based on the last company’s research “Living Office”, presented at Worktech17, one of the worldwide most important forum dedicated to real estate, technology and innovation. The study has involved anthropologists, psychologists and designers in a new holistic approach to the workplace, aiming to define the facts we need to understand when we think about today’s ways of working.

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One of these provocations states: “we feel before we think”. The environment has a great impact on us, therefore it is the main feature we have to take care of. It must be a living environment, where communication takes constantly place (quoting a provocation, “you + me = 3”) in a “wonderful mess” that facilitate creativity and innovation.

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Ulrich Blum, from Zaha Hadid Architects, has given a really good insight during his speech “The self-learning workplace”, describing a way of designing that starts from the use of IoT and sensors to collect data about the habits of every employee. “We have to think about the office as a “living network” Blum said. The data are divided in different parameters as distance, visibility and lighting, in order to give to designers the right knowledges to create a space that fits with the needs of every single person living in the workplace, optimizing the desk arrangement, the communication, the use of working time and the disposition of different environments. Furthermore, datas give the opportunity, using the generated algorithms, for creating more effective team works and arrange them in an ideal workplace. “The idea is to enhance the hierarchy of the office as it really is, and not as it is in the boss’s mind. We have to join furniture and artificial intelligence in order to increase the flexibility the furniture can give us”, Blum concludes.

As we can already see, technology is crucial in nowadays office, even though, quoting another provocation, “we have to forget about it”, meaning it has to be like a comfortable shoe: we have to perfectly walk in it, without feeling anything. As Marco Maria Pedrazzo, by Carlo Ratti Associates, said, exposing the firm’s research about the “technological management of the workplace”, “technology has to create a resilient environment. We have to change our perspective: it is the environment that has to adapt to us, not us to the environment. We have to design as we are designing 20 years ahead, and the only way to do that is making experiments, trying prototypes and see how people react to them“.

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Even though it seems in contrast with Herman Miller’s provocation “The next thing isn’t for you”, it isn’t, because innovation must be based on the company’s culture, and design must fit with the actual ways of working and corporate policy of each situation, but at the same time it has to be open-designed, giving the chance of being reinvented in the future, following the evolution of the company itself and of the times.
Something too ahead, in fact, can scare people, while innovation has to generate engagement, fulfilment and happiness.

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Key Portilla, from Studio Banana, suggested some interesting approach, like co-design sessions, where managers and employee are an active part in the workplace’s construction or restyling, or university-campus-like offices, based on a different environment that supports different states of mind and activity.

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Finally, even in a new tech-workspace, nature can be the secret of a happy and stress-free office. Oliver Heath, from Interface, has talked about “biophilic design“, meaning the need to recreate the “sense of nature“, enhancing the presence of real natural elements, like light, plants and water, or a reference to them, using colors, patterns and materials that help to recreate visually and emotionally the feeling of really being in a natural environment.
Report by Mario Colombo (Herman Miller), editing by Gabriele Masi.

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The Green & The Gray: how to marry nature and city. An exhibition by Carlo Ratti @EDITDX.

Is it possible to bridge nature and cities? Can new technologies help to reconcile these two fundamental dimensions? “The Green & The Gray”, a 2000 sqf interactive exhibition curated by Carlo Ratti Associati at EDIT (Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology) answers to these questions (Toronto, September 28th/October 8th) celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Today, new technologies allow us to bridge the eternal rift between city and nature and contribute to a “Prosperity for All” (main theme of EDIT).
“The Green & The Gray”
features artifacts and initiatives that stand out for their ability to reconcile these two fundamental dimensions of the human condition, envisioning a thriving future for local communities worldwide.
Inside the immersive environment, visitors can explore the exhibition while moving over a floor that gives the impression of walking over water.
The exhibition showcases features 19 projects, selected of 100 international projects presented, among these: Grant Associates’ Supertree Grove, Transsolar’s Reversío, Terreform ONE’s Cricket Shelter, Philippe Rahm’s Spectral light for Artemide, Arctic Food Network by Lateral Office and The Lowline Lab.


Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and a founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati, quoted: “I have always been fascinated by the words of French anarchist geographer Elysée Reclus, at the end of the 19th century he wrote: ‘Man should have the doubled advantage of access to the pleasures of the city […], the opportunities offered for the study and practice of art, and at the same time should be able to enjoy the freedom that lies in nature, and which is explained in the field of its vast horizon’. The Green & The Gray, with its Stendhalian title, aims to explore how, thanks to new technologies, we can finally contribute to Reclus’ vision of marrying city and nature”.

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“Since Marc-Antoine Laugier’s celebration of the ‘primitive hut’, architecture has always acted as a separation between mankind and nature. Could new technologies allow us to think about it in a different way?”, says Emma Greer, Project Manager at Carlo Ratti Associati: “The integration between nature and cities through the use of new technologies has been at the core of many of Carlo Ratti Associati’s recent projects, from the Trussardi Dehors in Milan, for which we developed the first vertical garden in Italy, to our soon-to-be-opened pavilion for FICO Eataly World, which leverages hydroponics cultivations and the Internet of Things to turn visitors into potential farmers”.

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“We are thrilled to be working with Carlo Ratti and his team on this ambitious exhibition, which touches upon some of the world’s most pressing issues and looks at design as integral to how we can make the world a better place for all people”, says Shauna Levy, President and CEO, Design Exchange (Producers of EDIT).

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Working in a thermal bubble (Carlo Ratti Associati).

A personalised heating, cooling and lighting system which follows each worker as he moves around the office: Carlo Ratti Associati turns the environment of the Agnelli Foundation’s headquarters in Turin in a “tailor-made” workspace, capable to synchronised to its users’ need and limit energy waste.

Carlo Ratti Associati has made the research in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) the core of their design: from the Local Warming at the Biennale di Venezia 2014 and the at the Dubai’s Museum of Future Government Services in 2015, to the Future Food District at the EXPO 2015.
The thermal and lighting bubble projected for the Agnelli Foundation’s headquarters in Turin (Italy), brings the IoT further into a more sustainable architecture and taking one of the key concept of the contemporary office interior design, flexibility, also into not tangible, but important environmental feature, such as humidity or light.
“Today, a lot of energy is wasted heating or cooling empty buildings”, says professor Carlo Ratti. “By synchronizing energy usage and human occupancy within buildings we can create a more sustainable and responsive architecture, theoretically slashing energy consumption by up to 40%.”

The system uses sensors to collect datas from the environment, such as CO2 concentration, temperature or the number of occupants in the room. Than it processes these datas in a BMS system that respond adjusting the lighting, the heating, the level of the cooling system and also managing the usage of the different rooms.
The personalisation of the systems allows every worker to set his own preferred temperature through a smartphone app. So when anyone enters the room a thermal bubble follows him activating fan coil units, situated in the false ceilings, and recreating his chosen environmental conditions. When an occupant leaves, the room returns naturally to standby.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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Tag Milan Calabiana: a 8500 sqm coworking campus with labs and swimming pool.

Tag Milan Calabiana is Talent Garden‘s coworking campus located in one of the up-and-coming neigbbourhoods of the town, just close to Fondazione Prada. An 8500 m2 space designed by Carlo Ratti Associati for 400 workstations meant for digital professionals. Not just an open space, but also private rooms, labs, training rooms, cafeteria and … a terrace with swimming pool to work outdoors. Not desks, only, but even english and yoga classes.

The space is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. Talent Garden has invested €1 million in this Coworking meant for the community of digital innovators and it’s the second one in Milano (a third one will be opened in the Sempione district). It is situated in a suburban and mostly industrial estate, 5 stops only from the Duomo Cathedral, and is now one of liveliest city districts.

Davide Dattoli, AD and co-founder of Talent Garden, calls it an “office cloud” that moves its philosophy from square meters to rent to the concept of membership. he quotes ‘’Looking at the high rates of youth unemployment in the entire Europe, it is important for us to support entrepreneurs and help them discover the future methods of working. Now it is the right time to start innovating the workplace culture. This is what we are currently putting all our energy into. Talent Garden Milan – Calabiana campus will duplicate the number of members in the entire Talent Garden network and bridge Italian ecosystem with the rest of Europe.“

The innovative workspace at the heart of Milan was developed in close collaboration with
Carlo Ratti Associati.
To facilitate the meeting of talent, technology and creativity, the historical building – a former printing house, recently transformed in  a fashion showroom by the entrepreneur Marina Salomon – was completely reshaped.
Carlo Ratti, CEO of Carlo Ratti Associati says: “Technology allows us to put the needs of the human ahead of the machine, and this is revolutionizing both the design of workplaces and their social dynamics. Rather than working from home, self-employed professionals favour common areas to share services and ideas. They demand work environments where they are comfortable. This was our vision while designing the interiors of the new Talent Garden branch in Milan. Calabiana is not only about shared offices: it is a laboratory of ideas, a place to establish new partnerships and become part of an international professional network.“
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It is a place of innovation and collaboration, offering the entire infrastructure for creative work and idea manufacturing on 8.500 m². Developed according to guidelines of collaborative design and equipped with the latest technology, the campus aims to foster entrepreneurial interaction and growth.
The campus will host 400 professionals, comprised of freelancers, startups, agencies and large corporations. As corporate coworking demand is now increasing, some of the major players like IBM and Cisco will also establish labs with integrated technologies to be closer to the innovation community. Digital Magics, Italy’s largest publicly traded venture incubator, will join the space as well and take lead on campus startup investments.

Workspaces with smart tools for idea manufacturing and integrated digital technologies turn Talent Garden’s new campus into an accelerator for ideas. Kinect Media Walls, robo administrators and an internal digital platform for communication between members – all are designed for an exceptional experience and to facilitate effective collaboration. The program is rounded off by Tag Cafe, an aperitif area, a rooftop terrace with outdoor activities, a swimming pool, a mini cinema, several event spaces with a total capacity of 1,000 persons and a large open space equipped on the activity based office concepts.
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Another feature of the Talent Garden Milan – Calabiana campus are corporate labs, arranged in partnership with companies such as Cisco and IBM. With their integrated digital technologies their aim is the fusion between innovative startups and large multinationals in order to foster the growth of the local ecosystem. The offer of the new branch is completed by the TAG Innovation School which is focussed on reshaping traditional education and teaching emerging skills.
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