Designing the Workplace of Tomorrow

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More than 700 teams from 75 countries register for workplace of the future design competition sponsored by Fentress Architects.

"No single firm or single industry has a monopoly on imagination."

Nap rooms, yoga studios, and coffee bars are sprouting up in more and more workplaces across the world, forcing architecture and interior design studios to wonder whether these new amenities are merely fads, or signs of permanent and profound change in the way they’ll design office space in the 21st century. Now, one architectural firm is looking outside the industry for fresh thinking on the topic by sponsoring a competition open to design students around the world. The students’ directive is straightforward: submit ideas on what the workplace of the future might be like. In a matter of weeks, over 700 teams of students from 75 countries registered for the competition.

Created by Fentress Architects, a global architectural studio renowned for its groundbreaking design work on everything from airports to office towers launched the first Fentress Global Challenge in 2011. That year’s topic, the Airport of the Future, garnered a similarly high level of interest. The Airport of the Future winner, Oliver Andrew, was awarded an internship with Fentress Architects and had his design for a theoretical airport located in the Thames estuary outside London featured in a museum exhibition of the firm’s designs entitled: Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + the Architecture of Flight.

“No single firm or single industry has a monopoly on imagination,” says Fentress Architects’ founder, Curtis Fentress. “If last year’s Global Challenge proved anything, it’s that there’s no shortage of innovative thinking in today’s up-and-coming design professionals.”

The decision to focus this year’s Fentress Global Challenge on the workplace of the future arose from trends in workplace design Fentress and others have been studying for years. The office has changed radically in the past decade, with companies shifting their focus from the production of goods to the production of ideas. “Creative minds don’t do well in a box,” Curtis Fentress says. “They needs spaces that inspire ideas, inspire greatness.”

One significant trend in workplace design has been the move away from private offices and cubicles to more communal settings where ad hoc collaboration can occur more readily. Architects are quick to point out, however, that too much interconnectedness is just as bad as too little. Private areas to which workers can retreat for sensitive conversations or mental heavy lifting remain necessary, even in companies such as tech startups famous for open and unprogrammed workspaces.

Another trend to which architects and designers are paying close attention is the radical increase in mobility. Mobile computing and communications came to maturity only in the last decade, rendering the need for a fixed desk and phone line for every employee as obsolete as the Dictaphone and typewriter. Yet many designers and space planners discover employers and employees alike are reluctant to surrender dedicated personal space altogether.

To address these issues in one of Fentress Architects’ recent projects, the strikingly designed Sanford Center for Regenerative Medicine in La Jolla, CA, designers created both private and communal spaces designed to encourage chance encounters and spontaneous collaboration between researchers from several disciplines who otherwise might never had met.

“It’s about understanding the new dynamics of the workplace,” Curtis Fentress says. “That’s why Fentress Global Challenge is looking to tomorrow’s architects and designers. You never know where the next great innovation will originate.”

The winners of Fentress Global Challenge 2012: Workplace of the Future will be announced on October 24th, 2012.

http://www.fentressarchitects.com/edge/global-challenge/

Fentress Architects is a global design firm that passionately pursues the creation of sustainable and iconic architecture. Together with their clients, Fentress creates inspired design to improve the human environment. Founded by Curtis Fentress in 1980, the firm has designed US$27 billion in architectural projects worldwide, visited by over 300 million people each year. Fentress is a dynamic learning organization, driven to grow its ability to design, innovate and exceed client expectations. The firm has been honored with more than 400 distinctions for design excellence and innovation, and in 2010, Curtis Fentress was recognized by the American Institute of Architects with the most prestigious award for public architecture, the Thomas Jefferson Award. Fentress has studios in Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California; San Jose, California; Washington, D.C.; and London, U.K.

http://www.fentressarchitects.com

Please contact Scott Bergstrom at 303.282.6194 or bergstrom(at)fentressarchitects(dot)com for more information or images.

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Scott Bergstrom
Fentress Architects
303-282-6194
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