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The Evolving Workspace
From a public pool turned co-working space to the emergence of the club office – as both an interior layout and a furniture collection – we keep tabs on the latest hybrid interiors.
Once a Public Swimming Pool, Now a Communal Office Hangout
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These Modular Furniture Collections Refresh Any Office Space
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Architect Bill Dowzer Re-Imagines the Future of Work
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Vitra Hits the Club – and Everyone’s Invited
4/7
Keep It Down: 4 Easy Acoustic Solutions
5/7
These Nature-Inspired Carpet Collections Bring Serenity to the Workplace
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Studio Komo’s Wooden Block Collection Simplifies the DIY Office Layout
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The Evolving Workspace

Upon entering the third-floor swimming pool of the Kerry Centre in Shanghai’s historic Jing’an district last year, Alex Mok, cofounder of Linehouse, instantly knew what needed to be done. A shared amenity in the commercial complex, the 680-square-metre space was notable primarily for its defects. Dark and lifeless, it was certainly not — as it was meant to be — bustling with swimmers.

Asked to transform the facility into a multi-functional space for office tenants, Mok and her team sought to reinstate its vitality, inspired by its commanding oval skylight. “We knew that everything had to be centred around that,” Mok says. “So we envisioned this radiating structure that came from the skylight itself; that’s how we conceived the idea of a hearth.” By linking the commercial scheme to the domestic realm — specifically, the idea of the mantel, where people have long gathered to stay warm, bond and exchange ideas — the renovation would fulfill Kerry Centre’s wish for an enticing communal spot.

Along with a variety of seating options within the converted swimming pool, Shanghai-based studio Linehouse ringed the former deck with separate meeting rooms, private pods and a pantry.

The updated skylight illuminates the open town-hall heart, accentuated by oak fins fitted with customized tube lights that radiate from its centre. The pool itself is now a sunken amphitheatre, circumscribed by a double-sided banquette at the far side and a high bar leaner in the middle, which echoes the elliptical curvature above. On one end, the panelling extends into vertical screens that separate functional nooks and quiet workrooms.

Rather than opting for (overused) terrazzo, the designers applied a speckled vinyl by Tarkett.
Sections of the original concrete wall were retained, injecting areas like this nook with a pleasing tactile quality.

Opposite, it meets bare concrete, an artifact of the pool’s shell that Mok retained to give “tension between the rougher, old elements and the new finishes,” like the blue lacquered wainscotting. Disenchanted with the industry’s overreliance on terrazzo, Mok lined the steps and seating with Tarkett’s speckled vinyl flooring instead. “It’s softer, with really good acoustics,” she explains, and it complements the beige and pink leather seating and the earthy Calico wallpaper in the private phone booths nearby.

An array of seating gives the interior an eclectic, relaxed feel.

Although Mok set out to provide an area for workers to escape their staid offices and inspire creativity, even she is surprised by the variety of events that have already occupied what is now referred to as the “social space.” From one-off dance classes to yoga sessions, each new assembly challenges preconceived notions of what a workplace should be. It’s also a subtle reminder that the hearth, while providing warmth to its admirers, is only as vital as those who congregate around it.

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Epix

Intended to future-proof offices, Epix — a first-time partnership with Sweden’s Form Us With Love — comprises chairs, tables, shelving and storage (another first for the brand), all made entirely from recyclable materials. The reconfigurable pieces are aimed at creating distinct gathering spaces that foster creativity.

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Cabana Lounge

With their short depths and upright rounded backs, the single-seat, two-seat and corner sofas in Cabana Lounge encourage postures that facilitate engaged work. The compact modules, designed by Patricia Urquiola, can be fitted with privacy screens in two heights, along with power, tables (attached or freestanding) and more.

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Vettore

Designed by Milan’s Toan Nguyen, the Vettore modular lounge series is built around a uniform low-profile metal base that can be topped with a combination of upholstered sections (with or without backs and arms) and clean-lined tables (veneer or laminate). Multiple fabrics and finishes are offered.

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Free Address 2.0

Expanding on the original, Free Address 2.0 tackles both storage and separation needs with higher-backed sofas, taller tables, cubbies and lockers in various sizes, screens and planters. Ideal for smaller footprints and flexible scenarios, the components can be arranged for groups of any size.

“Increasingly, organizations will need to offer a new experience to their people,” says Bill Dowzer, a principal at global architecture firm BVN. “And shared work environments are key to this.” Dowzer and his team should know. They recently completed And-Co, a hospitality-inspired co-working space in Vancouver (shown above).

Set to open this fall, the four-storey, 3,437-square-metre interior offers not only a highly sophisticated design but also an abundance of communal spaces, including an on-site restaurant and a fully equipped fitness centre with treatment rooms. Dowzer’s preferred phrase for this 360-degree experience: the “office as clubhouse.” As he explains, “In a world where choice is now available to everyone, an...

Aside from minding one’s hygiene, 2020 taught the global masses that they can and will find ways to work remotely. As the months wore on and people mastered group productivity tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, ad hoc home offices became more established and efficient. But now that the post-pandemic trickle back into physical offices is underway, employers and employees alike are contemplating why they should even bother. What does it offer, other than a return to crowded commuting and rigid daily schedules? At its own headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, furniture brand Vitra is exploring this matter with the “Club Office,” a practical lab of sorts aimed at defining how the office of tomorrow can better serve those who use it.

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Canvas by Carnegie

The Canvas series of freestanding dividers features a dual-sided fabric skin that can be specified with a wide range of the brand’s textiles, including Xorel Limestone (shown), the most recent addition to its sound-absorbing offerings. Its aluminum frame can be fitted with floor plates or a caster base.

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BuzziCee by BuzziSpace

With its namesake C-shape, the BuzziCee bench promotes active conversation while still allowing for distance. Made with acoustic foam, the seat contributes to noise reduction in open offices and other public spaces; it can be used alone or in multiples that group together to create expansive landscapes.

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Illi by Luxxbox

Featuring sculptural PET...

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Canopy by Shaw Contract

Combining abstract depictions of the natural world — tree canopies and jungle landscapes — with lush textures, the Canopy collection introduces a serene sense of escape to traditional office spaces. Nine complementary patterns are included, along with two tile sizes, broadloom and custom formats.

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Open Air by Interface

Organized into four categories — geometric, organic, textured and linear — the 22 patterns in the Open Air series come in a variety of neutrals, transitional styles and bright colourways. Made from 100 per cent recycled nylon, the tiles are ideal for defining zones and way-finding across large areas. 

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Modern Refinement by Tarkett

Updating three...

Modular office furniture is far from new. But it takes a measured approach to turn the oft-cited concept of a movable, adaptable working environment into a reality. Studio Komo, a design practice based in Stuttgart, Germany, may have hit the nail on the head, so to speak. “At first glance, everything looks so simple, but to turn simple boxes into a working system requires a bit of a developer mentality,” says co-founder Rene Rauls.