Arcturis was interviewed among other globally-reaching architects to discuss major trends in innovative workplaces. The latest trend paper from the Brookings Institution, Innovation Spaces: The New Design of Work, dissects major trends in modern workplace innovation.
In 2014, the Washington Post published an article about the detriments of the open office. The article compared the open office to being naked in public. The remainder of the article took some major jabs at the perceived failures of the open office, making a strong case to the reader that Google did in fact ‘get it wrong’ when they designed their workplace.
But where this article actually ‘gets it wrong’ is when it made the assumption that all open office environments are created equal. They are not. The open office is more than just ditching the cubicles and corner offices. The open office involves strategically designing a workplace that fits the needs of the user and providing choice. Choice is key. Choice provides control.
Since articles like these have started to surface, they are sometimes forwarded to us from worried clients. ‘Are we doing the right thing’, they ask?
Articles that denounce the open office are making workplace design seem very black and white, while the right design solution for our clients are almost always gray. You do not have to decide ‘open office’ or ‘private office’. If designed correctly, you can (and should) have both.
Companies often have Aha! moments when they realize how little they actually sit at their assigned desks. A typical schedule of today’s knowledge worker includes meetings, conference calls, travel, emails, and focus work. Sure, they are performing these tasks at their desks, but also in meeting rooms, on the phone in their cars, or even at home. On average, assigned desks are unoccupied 50% of the day.
Even if companies do not go to the extreme of a fully unassigned work environment, dedicating less square footage to owned space can have huge benefits. We have witnessed that the right mix of shared space can make everyone in the office perform better. When we look at space in a new way, everyone has access to a private office. Everyone has access to a meeting room when they need it, instead of having to schedule around other people. Users can focus on that report they need to review in private. They can meet in communal spaces and share ideas, allowing millennials to learn from the valuable knowledge of the soon to retire boomers.
The open office is not dead. In fact, an open office of choice and control is an effective approach to successful workplace design.
- Michelle Rotherham, Director - Interior Design
As designers and architects, we have a responsibility to consider how our designs impact people. We strive to take a human centered approach to design. With that in mind, we do our best with the knowledge and scientific research we have to select materials and products that will positively impact users. Recently, I attended a lecture by James Benya and Deborah Burnett that discussed lighting and human health. The lecture explored research that shows how lighting can have a significant impact on our health.
Blue Light - We have been hearing for a number of years about the effect of blue light on our circadian system after sunset. Scientific research is continuing to show how blue light impacts how our biological systems operate including sleep cycle and diet. Blue light can come from a number of sources such as phones, TVs, alarm clocks, humidifiers, night lights, indoor lamps/light fixtures, and outdoor light fixtures. The hope is that the fields of scientific research, medicine, and design would increasingly work together to develop solutions and strategies to address these challenges.
Utilizing SPD (spectral power distribution) to help determine the amounts of specific color that are in the light being generated is an important practice. Color temperature between sources may look similar, but the makeup of the light can be different. This is important to know as the impact of blue light at night continues to develop. One major challenge is that SPD information is not always readily available from commercial fixtures or residential lamp manufacturers to perform a proper analysis.
Color Tuning – Color tuning means the fixtures or lighting system has a variable color temperature. It is important to be mindful of who this is impacting in regards to time, location, and if the controls are automated or manual. Color tuning is not a one size fits all solution.
- Brian Waite, LEED AP, IES, LC - Interior & Lighting Designer
Arcturis recently discussed the future of the workplace with Colliers International and the St. Louis Business Journal.
MEET THE EXPERT: As a Principal at Arcturis, Julie Keil leads the workplace design team by establishing strategic direction and providing dynamic solutions to meet her client’s complex business needs. Her 28 years at the firm have made her a national expert on creating office spaces for world-class clients like Wells Fargo, Ameren, Express Scripts and Equifax.
St. Louis Business Journal: What industries are driving the local office market?
Keil: The start-ups. The Cortex area. The biotech. The life sciences. You still have your large corporate activities, but there’s a lot of activity in the start-ups, the more entrepreneurial-driven market. That activity is really exciting. It gives a different perspective to the type of space that is created for the market.
St. Louis Business Journal: What are the hot projects?
Keil: The Cortex hub, the Armory, and the growth in healthcare with the BJC expansion — that whole area is going to be a huge transformation over the next several years. Innovation is so important. I think corporations are all acknowledging that even if they have their corporate campuses there is a tie and an interest to have a presence in a Cortex-type of environment.
St. Louis Business Journal: The mantra we’ve always heard is location, location, location, but really there’s lots of locations that you’re referencing that have big potential right now.
Keil: In the corporate world, what we see as a huge driver is attracting and retaining top talent. With the shift in the workforce with a lot of the baby boomers, who I think historically like being in the suburbs, they like an easy commute. With more millennials really becoming the dominant population, I think there is a desire to be in more of an urban, metropolitan-feeling area. That’s where they want to live and it’s also where they want to work.
People can work anywhere. It used to be that people had to physically drive or commute in some manner to their workplace to physically work. Your desk was there. Your access to technology was there, and so on. Today, technology makes it possible to work anywhere, any time. I question if our future is really going to be corporations or if it is going to be diversified, where you have multiple offices that are more hub-like for people to come together and collaborate. Oftentimes, people have the ability to be able to work at home, but they want that personal connection. That’s where you will see people come into work a couple days a week that do not necessarily need to, but do to make that connection.
Currently under construction with an anticipated completion in summer of 2017, The Metro Downtown Transit Center is designed to accommodate the expansion of Metro bus operations in downtown St. Louis, increasing capacity from six bus stalls to twenty-two and connecting riders with existing light rail and regional bus and rail systems. This major commuter hub will serve as a primary multimodal station stop for an estimated 5,000 thousand passengers daily while also serving the City’s 19,000 seat indoor arena.
Constrained by site and financial limitations, the design elevates the rider experience, prioritizing pedestrian safety and convenience. A modest pavilion building anchors the site and mediates a significant grade change between the expanded bus facilities and existing light rail station.
This small building provides shelter and basic services for transit passengers and staff, and houses passenger and employee restrooms, transit employee offices, a small retail shop, and a passenger ticketing, information, and waiting area.
The building’s form is dictated by site constraints and program: its eastern side curved to accommodate the turning radii of incoming buses; its south-end determined by the set-back of the highway overpass; the west side flush to the setback of the rail line; and its north end bounded by the existing light rail crossing.
The building’s upper volume projects to allow for the safe movement of passengers and transit workers at rail level. The project’s primary materials –board-formed concrete and zinc –were chosen for their beauty, durability, and strength and carefully detailed to subtly reference the site’s historic past as a mill location.
Construction Progress - January 2017
Arcturis partnered with Argos Family Office, a multi-family office serving a few select client families, to reinvent the traditional office, with a contemporary spin on ornamental detailing, decorative wood moldings, and traditional furnishings and finishes. Considerate of the minimalist architectural styling of the building in which the new offices were constructed, the design solution harmonizes with the existing condition while honoring the client’s desire to maintain a traditional design aesthetic. A reception lobby is centered in the floorplate and entered from the middle of the third floor, forming the heart of the office. Clients arriving via elevator are welcomed into a tranquil, light-filled space that is punctuated by a view of the tree canopy.
With the client’s strong emphasis on client service and privacy, the central reception area allows Argos to quickly greet clients and easily transition to the meeting rooms and private offices flanking the space. An ornately designed reception desk is carefully positioned to provide visual connectivity to the entry, boardroom and the office’s communicating stair, connecting staff to lower level offices.
The retrofit of this existing switchback stair, built of painted steel stringers, concrete-filled metal pan treads, and iron balusters proved to be one of the project’s greatest challenges and achievements.
Painted wood paneling was added to enclose the underside of the stair, concealing the structure and providing new storage. Wood treads and risers were added to match the adjacent hardwood flooring and the existing guardrail was replaced with a new glass system with a satin brass shoe, cap and handrail. This re-envisioned stair marries traditional aesthetics and detailing with existing conditions to create an inviting and elegant transition between floors.
The Argos design pairs hard ceilings with large-format acoustic ceiling tile throughout, reinforcing the office’s aesthetic while providing necessary functionality. Decorative brass light fixtures are placed in areas of emphasis and supplemented by functional downlighting. Full-height semi-transparent glazed partitions marry traditional and contemporary aesthetics while opening up meeting spaces to natural light and views.
A palette of warm grey and white was employed throughout in combination with satin brass accents to complement the warm wood tones of the floors installed throughout the office. The client’s original artwork was reframed and hung throughout to provide color and visual interest. Together, these elements reinforce the company’s tradition while producing a refreshed elegance for the brand and space.
The Murmuration Festival gathered thought-leaders in the areas of art, science, music, and tech into the Cortex Innovation District for a weekend of engaging with the public and sharing work and inspiration. Arcturis has a close relationship with Cortex as several of our incubator projects fall within this up-and-coming tech development in St. Louis.
We knew that we wanted to be involved with this festival in some capacity and were thrilled when we were presented with an opportunity to not only donate our time, but our design expertise. Our graphics team was able to take a hands-on approach with the design and fabrication of the festival’s signage. I was able to design and then physically build the festival’s signage in Cortex’s very own Tech Shop.
It was refreshing to work on a project that required me to get out of the studio and away from the screen. I took a woodworking class at the Tech Shop that helped with the implementation of the signage. This project was not only rewarding because I was able to give back to my community, but it was a rare and fulfilling opportunity to bring a design to life with my own hands.
The energy at the “ground breaking” of the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator was nothing short of contagious. The talent, the potential and the combined passions seemed to feed off one another with the shared notion that this space is going to impact St. Louis in a big way.
Located in the Artloft Building, situated in the 1500 block of Washington Avenue near City Museum, the incubator space will be ready for six fashion designers in January of 2017. The goal is to provide the support necessary for these designers to grow their businesses and help put St. Louis back on the map for fashion.
As the lead architect and designer for the incubator space, Arcturis’s design was heavily influenced by the passions and fashions of the designers inhabiting the space. While much of the existing space benefits from ample ceiling height and plenty of natural light, the freshly opened mezzanine originally did not. This disconnect of space was a challenge for creating an engaging and comfortable working environment for the designers. Arcturis’s solution involved opening the space to take advantage of as much natural light as possible. The design team succeeded in creating a space that feels less constricted, while staying within a limited budget.
Designing a space that is conducive to a diverse group of creatives is no easy task. The solution, ingenious in its simplicity, proved to be the use of neutral colors and finishes to create an environment that does not overwhelm the designer’s work and allows their creations to be the focal point.
Fashion Fund’s new space on Washington Avenue ties directly to the history of the district as a hub for garment fabrication, once considered a major player in the United States from the late 19th century until World War II. Now, the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator is determined to bring that prestige back to downtown St. Louis, and Arcturis is honored to be a part of that journey.