Buzzing. Beeping. Text messages. Facetimes. Facebook likes. We’re so inundated with technology meant to improve our lives that it’s actually distracting from what we care about most.
For Fast Company‘s special package on the New Rules of Work, we asked global architecture firm Perkins+Will to imagine an office from a decade in the future. Their response? The Analog Office. It’s a place where employees would meet, not to take advantage of the latest in virtual whiteboard technology or Cisco’s newest teleconferencing system, but everything valuable about an office in an always-connected world: Real, face-to-face interaction.
“If technology is exponentially expanding, it will be omnipresent…we could work everywhere and anywhere,” explains Hakee Chang, senior interior designer. “Perhaps the office could be the place where people would want to gather–a destination to reconnect with your fellow employees, collaborators, and other folks.”
In other words, the office is the place you’d go when you want to get away from it all. Well, all that electronic noise at least. And to accomplish this, the Analog Office is divided into two general types of spaces: what the firm calls generative and regenerative areas.
At its simplest, the generative spaces are about communal brainstorming. They’re open outdoor areas, as well as rooms with comfortable places to sit, and maybe even copper mesh shielding to keep all those signals beaming to cellphones from interrupting the conversation. People work with analog tools–pencils, pens, and markers with lots of writable surfaces.
But it spans beyond unplugged conference rooms. “There’s that priority of meaningful connection between people,” Chang says. And to find that connection, the team imagined popup shops, right in the work place, run by employees with exceptional talents. A great barista could make people coffee, or a part-time fashion designer could sell clothing, in areas built for impromptu interaction. The office would have an Etsy vibe.
“If we imagine our future workplace as a community, like a neighborhood we enjoy in the city, there is that dynamic opportunity. If there’s a couple of ex baristas that are architects, why not give them the opportunity to have that expression, to bring their craft, to allow spaces for that.”
Such interactions would allow for more casual brainstorming, or just deeper, interpersonal relationships that might be lost when trading corporate emails.
The second spaces would be regenerative areas. They’re spaces that are intended for individual work (and yes, that means people might bring their computers with them to use Excel, Photoshop, or AutoCAD.) Regenerative areas include outdoor nooks (basically, large benches with spots built for one), green spaces (to hide in the trees), and more traditional desks secluded from public space.
Strangely enough, they also include rock climbing walls. “Rock climbing is a very individual endeavor,” Chang says. “It’s a goal you’re focused on. You may have someone to help you out, belay you, but it’s still individual achievement, so we attribute that to personal focus spaces.”
There is some blurring between the generative and regenerative spaces in Perkins + Will’s concept, but both offer workers the same opportunity: An escape from the world’s unceasing electrical hum.
Hakee Chang, Senior Interior Designer, San Francisco office of Perkins+Will; Sarah Kuchar, Interior Project Designer, Chicago office of Perkins+Will; Andrew Monaghan, Designer, Chicago office of Perkins+Will; Haley Nelson, Interior Project Designer, Washington D.C. office of Perkins+Will