Mat Dalby, principal of interiors at Rothelowman writes how technology-driven office design can help us work smarter.
I don’t think there’s been a more exciting time since the industrial revolution to be alive.
As one of those fortunate young people who knew what they wanted to do from really early on, I’ve been able to carve a path in the international design community working with global brands in multiple sectors.
Growing up in the United Kingdom, the first projects I worked on as a designer were all bars, restaurants, bingo halls and nightclubs. From there I spent time in New Zealand working within the sphere of winery design and accommodation, then it was back to the Northern Hemisphere for an exciting time of cross-pollination for design brands. There was a buzz of creativity in the air, and I got to work in branded residential spaces and hotels for global names like Harrods, Missoni, Hermes and Valentino.
Working in the hotel hospitality scene as a designer is an incredible experience. It gives you a unique understanding of human interaction with space which has acutely shaped my thinking around workspace interiors. The office spaces most people think of are big open floor plates. Tall buildings, cubicles and desk spaces. The entire mindset of going to work was different when these spaces were created.
People reflect their environments, but environments are also a reflection of peoples’ mentalities. These original office buildings mirrored a traditionally hierarchical framework. Thankfully, that’s begun to evolve and one of the greatest triggers for this has been technology.
Technology opened up Pandora’s Box for questioning what ‘going to work’ looks like. And, as with the original Greek myth, once Pandora’s Box is opened there’s no going back. It started when Wi-Fi became cheap. On all the time and available at a set speed, Starbucks installed it and essentially became the first WeWork as a result.
Movies and television in the early 2000s were replete with images of people working remotely in coffee shops – think every episode of Sex and The City. The internet and laptops have all enabled agile working arrangements.
This tapped into a workforce that was previously dormant and has encouraged greater diversity at work. This agility has only increased with the integration of smartphones, and I believe we have a lot to learn from the millennial mindset here. Millennials live in an application-based world and a subscription-based environment. It’s about access over ownership – from Netflix to ride-sharing and accommodation, access is everything.
The workplace is one of the last frontiers in terms of access over ownership and as designers, we should be looking to adopt this mentality and approach. Imagine your smart-phone standing on its end representing an office building. Within that ‘building’ there are manifold functions, contrasting applications to serve multiple purposes, and countless connections.
That’s our opportunity to shift the way we think about workspace design. To create something nimble, functional and elegant. It’s not about working harder, as they say, it’s about working smarter. Above all, at Rothelowman we believe in the celebration of human spirit through design.
We want to create spaces where real people will live and laugh and sleep and cry and rejoice. Where the full breadth of the human experience can take place. And how do we go about delivering that to our clients? I’ll quote Simon Sinek here – we must always “start with why.” Beyond a workplace, we want to understand what sort of environment our clients are seeking.
What human interaction and connectivity do they want to promote? Who are their people? What are they trying to create, and why? There are a million amazing architects and designers out there and we aren’t interested in stepping into a beauty pageant with them.
At Rothelowman it’s about disruption and problem-solving. It’s bringing into the market our learnings from hospitality, residential and hotels so that as the boundaries of life blur, so do the spaces. It’s not about the office environment anymore – it’s about how people communicate, collaborate and operate within those walls.