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Reports of the death of the office have been greatly exaggerated

Posted on September 10, 2013 by Paul Goodchild

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People have now been talking about the death of the office for over twenty years. This talk always was premature because, although it rightly acknowledged the profound impact of new technology and new working cultures on office design, it also ignored the true nature of the office. If workplaces were just work-places as some of the more dire predictions claimed, then we would not have seen the development of a new generation of office interior design solutions.

What has emerged instead is a new approach to office fit-out, new office space planning models, the development of a new generation of contemporary office furniture designs and the freedom to use innovative design features in new ways, including using a caravan as a useful feature of the workplace. These new office interior solutions are a direct response to the greater role of offices as a source of corporate identity, as social spaces, as places to communicate ideas, to learn and to provide a structure for how we use our working time.

This new world order is profoundly liberating for the occupants of offices and office interior designers. It is no longer about space allocation, but space utilisation. With people free to work anywhere and with an increased focus on teamwork, the need for personal space diminishes just as that for collaborative space increases. Because this must be reflected in an office design that is why so many contemporary office fit-outs incorporate a far greater number and variety of meeting rooms, learning areas, break-out spaces and café’s than may once have been the case. And also, conversely, why so many now feature shared, bookable cellular offices for private work – we all need time to ourselves. The same office interior solutions are also perfect for visitors, be they temporary staff, customers, suppliers or ‘road warriors’.

The social role of the office is reflected in new contemporary office furniture designs, new office space planning models, new office design ideas  and a new aesthetic with a much greater use of what were once seen as purely domestic forms, colours and materials. Even in sectors traditionally viewed as fusty, we are witnessing a transformation in how we create office fit-outs. Whatever form these take, the one thing we know for certain is that reports of the death of the office have been greatly exaggerated.