Last year was our first time presenting at Dutch Design Week, so this time around, with Fluid Forces, we wanted to zoom out and assess how we could ‘step it up’ another level. Ultimately, we decided not to create a physical office but instead focus on some overarching themes.

With future-gazing in mind, a theme from the Rethinking Workplace research really resonated with us: the importance of zoning in terms of designing offices for specific needs and not hierarchy. In the workplace, diversity and equality are coming to the foreground. The hierarchies that once existed are being brought down. It’s an exciting time; a tipping point. And businesses need to change with the times. This is the main point we are aiming to address.

Concentrate, Cocreate & Celebrate 

From these topics, we distilled various functions of the office (and home) into three distinct themes.

Celebrate

In the current workplace, there is a tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive. It’s really important for people to celebrate the wins, however small, as a team. We spend a lot of time in the office, and at least some of this time needs to be fun. But not in the sense of a playground, rather a grown-up set-up that allows colleagues to say “what we did there was good.”

The office also needs to facilitate downtime. Whether it’s lunch, tea breaks or quiet time, a strong group dynamic propels people to do more, because, ultimately, they’re happier.

Cocreate

Few people function in a vacuum. Offices should be spaces for people to work together. The open plan format that many of us have been lumped with are too distracting, but what is the alternative? None of us would want to work in a cubicle either. While there’s no clear cut answer, ‘zoning’ is a strong contender. Sometimes we need meeting rooms simply for quiet time but most of us wouldn’t want to be isolated all the time. It’s just useful to have access to these spaces when we need them. I’m a big believer in working together – egalitarianism.

Concentrate

On the flipside, sometimes we do need a place for ‘heads down’ tasks; somewhere to shut out the noise. This is often a problem in the modern office, as the popularity of open plan can mean that disruption is rife. As I’ve mentioned under ‘cocreate’, collaboration is key, but the end goal of work is to, of course, get things done, so a balance needs to be struck.

The emergence of feminine design

The whole Fluid Forces look and feel came from the increasing trend for more feminine, softer design. In workplace design, it is playing out with texture and shape – everything is becoming more fluid. The rooms in the exhibit flow into one another, they share forms and colours but each has its own personality. As an overarching, umbrella theme, we feel that Fluid Forces is powerful.

In support of this, we’ve sourced products from around the globe. From the US to Italy. At ELLE Decoration we have a very international outlook so, while we’re exhibiting at Dutch Design Week, we’re celebrating designers and manufacturers of all kinds, but of course there is also quite a lot of homegrown talent.

Leading the way

When thinking about the themes for the show, there are some trailblazing spaces that already exist and encapsulate elements of ‘celebrate, cocreate and concentrate’.

Fosbury + Sons have been instrumental in creating co-working spaces that truly meet the needs of the contemporary workforce. With two new spaces due to open in Amsterdam this year, the brand is certainly making its mark on the sector. Similarly, Alma in Stockholm executes zoning in the most beautiful way possible. From quiet spaces to a dining area with an excellent chef, it’s somewhere people want to work.

In terms of a brand that’s managed to create an office that truly works, Kvadrat’s Denmark HQ has recently undergone a transformative refurbishment by London-based architecture studio, SevilPeach. Without being too ‘showy’ the space offers the opportunity for concentration and cocreation through small working areas of around 10 people to avoid noise, meeting rooms and a cosy living space. It’s the perfect example of a business that’s moved with the times.

Visit Fluid Forces at Dutch Design Week, TQ 4, Courtyard, Achtseweg Zuid 153, Eindhoven. Click here for more information.

Evelien Reich Editor in chief - Elle Decoration

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