A keen technology enthusiast, 3D printing has become a core focus of the business, allowing Massive Design to create sculptural forms that are more akin to works of art. However, function is recognized by Mac as being the most important element of any commercial scheme.
With extensive experience in the sector, we were keen to chat with Mac about the industry changes he’s seen, the impact of technology and his latest projects. Here’s what he had to say...
You’ve worked on a huge volume of projects over the last 20 years. How has workplace design changed in that time?
“We have observed significant change – going from a hierarchical office structure to one that’s more slack. Twenty years ago we had big, enclosed corporate offices. But now, everything is much more open. We’ve moved from closed spaces to open spaces, and from very formal spaces to less formal spaces. Everything has shifted towards more employee-friendly, sustainable solutions.”
How significant a role has technology played in this evolution?
“Wireless mobile communication has completely changed the way we work. Spaces need to allow for better integration between technology and new human behaviors. Many old working habits have been eliminated, and interior design has progressed to support the new ones, such as interactive furniture and acoustic solutions.”
In what area would you say technology has advanced the most?
“We now have much more advanced office equipment – telecommunication, different types of presentation tools, superior information exchange, very advanced hardware and software compared to what we had before – all resulting in functional and economic solutions for office design.
“As teams change and expand, offices are benefitted from wireless technology allowing people to go from point A to B productively, without wasting time by connecting/disconnecting.
“In terms of product technology, the popularity of open plan spaces has led to the development of state-of art acoustic panels, partitions and carpets with acoustic backing. We’re also seeing privacy solutions such as phone booths.”
Do you feel that technology is helping designers to be more sustainably sound in their concepts? And, if so, how?
“Yes, of course, thanks to a greater volume of information online there is more understanding on two sides: designers and clients. It's down to the collaboration between client and designer in finding the best green solutions as part of the everyday design process. This collaboration is very important, and it often requires additional time and budget, so when you have common understanding it's much easier to get it right.”
Is every workplace brief you encounter vastly different, or are there certain elements that all clients want?
“Regardless of which type of client we’re working with, corporate or local level, we are asked to create more employee-friendly offices – flexible, eco-friendly solutions. Now, for larger offices, we have in-office dining solutions and exercise rooms. Because wellbeing is important.
“In terms of specific functional solutions in new offices, most businesses want height adjustable workstations and informal meeting places.”
Your designs are real architectural masterpieces. Does function follow form, or are the two interlinked?
“If at some point in the design process the designer adjusts form to function or function to form, it doesn’t matter. From my own experience, I try to start with function and wrap it in some kind of form, and then I can come to a viable solution. If commercial design isn’t functional, nobody will use it.
“Sometimes in corporate design, although it is less common, form is not connected with functionality, and then we’re looking at it more as art. Which is a separate topic altogether.”
Have you seen more of a shift towards designers taking onboard the comments of the workforce itself, as well as the business owners, when designing a workspace?
“Yes, we have been experiencing this for around 10 or 15 years, and it’s not only taking onboard the workers comments, but also actively engaging the workforce in the design research.
“This is achieved through the collection of information around activity-based research to find a solution. And enlisting employers as part of the design team. Sometimes, we run design competitions – not for the entire office – but for an important part where everyone gathers, like a meeting room or a canteen.
“This contributes to change management, an important part of office design today. When people feel they have something to say, and are listened to, they appreciate the space more.”
How do you select the manufacturers that you specify?
“Functionality, budget and corporate standards. And then, when it comes to corporate branding, colours and finishes etc.”
Home working is growing in popularity for office-based staff. How is that impacting workplace design?
“In many cases, our design brief will specify the percentage of homeworkers, which means we don’t have to implement permanent workstations for those people in the office. And this percentage might shift - i.e. there’s 10% of the workforce that’s off-site for one week per month.
“Therefore, an area that would normally be designated for these workstations is minimized or taken over by more flexible solutions that everyone can use. We also create spaces that enable homeworkers to connect with their team - such as mini conference rooms.
“We’re also seeing many manufacturers implementing home workspaces into their product offering. As a designer, I'm working on similar solutions right now.”
What is your vision for the future workplace?
“I don’t think that homeworking will dominate. From the clients I work with I’ve found that eye contact with your co-workers and customers is still very much needed. Having said that, the ability to work from home helps people to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives, so it’s still an important employee-friendly factor.”
Are there any innovations that you’re particularly interested in right now?
“Several years ago, when 3D printing was still brand new, I decided to get one for our office. From this time on, I’ve continued to invest in 3D printers as the technology has advanced.
“This fascination with 3D printing is rooted in the many ways you can use them. There’s no singular outcome - you can print polymers, metal, concrete, even bones.
“We are experiencing big change in how 3D printing is influencing product design, and, in fact, our everyday lives.”
Can you tell us about the projects you’re currently working on?
“One of the most interesting projects, and also the most complex, is The Warsaw Hub in Poland. It will be ready in the summer of 2020, it’s a large-scale project with a client we’ve worked with for many years.
“We’ve designed the common areas for the office towers, plus there’s a shopping centre connected to the subway system via a tunnel. So, as you can tell, this is a very complex design. It’s very modern, we are making custom furniture solutions, lighting, ceilings, walls and bespoke flooring – many unique details.”
Is there one project you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of? And why?
“We had another very complex project in the same location but on the other side of the intersection, The Warsaw Spire. We were not only working on the office space but an art gallery called Art Walk and parametric triangulation based restaurant building called Gazebo. It is a super-light structure built from aluminum metal - again, very modern.
“There’s also another project, and example of industrial design, that I’m particularly proud of. Coral Beach table for FIAM Italia – glass furniture maker in Italy.
“I visited them a couple of years ago and was astonished by how they create everything in-house in big ovens, which they use to heat the glass to make their furniture.
“I am very inspired by nature and the beauty of the ocean and its corals. And this inspired the Coral Beach table. We worked on it for two years before it was introduced at Salone del Mobile 2019 and the result is truly beautiful.”
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