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New Directions in Corporate Workplace Design

MMoser recently designed Saatchi & Saatchi’s New York offices, and the results speak to the brand, encourage interaction, and ultimately, they are human. Here, Charlton Hutton talks about the space, and how their learnings apply in a global context.

New Directions in Corporate Workplace Design

Brand, business, cultural values and people: these are some of the key considerations designers should keep in mind when creating office space for their clients. So says Charlton Hutton, Project Director at MMoser Associates, which specialises in workplace design for corporate clients. Indeed, these were at the core of the interior architecture firm’s thinking when they were asked to design offices for communications and advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi in New York.

“Our goal was to work together to identify changes we could make to the existing structure to make the physical space reflective of their brand,” says Hutton of the project, which involved a legacy space that did not fit with Saatchi & Saatchi’s open, flexible, creative culture.

So MMoser opened up the space, bringing “various types of workspaces to the core of the office, while building out meeting areas on the edges” and replacing the previously existing corner offices, says Hutton.

By opening up the office, MMoser enhanced the sense of collaboration in the office. “Circulation and flow were a main focus of our solution for Saatchi, and they really appreciate how this has changed the way they work in the new space,” says Hutton. “In allowing for unexpected moments of casual collisions by encouraging diverse movement amongst teams. Before, groups may have only interacted with themselves, but this has expanded the level of cross-group collaboration.”

Hutton points out, however, that open-plan spaces are not a solution in themselves. “One of the biggest issues with an open-plan environment is a lack of key adjacencies and acoustic privacy.” Nor are private spaces conducive to productivity or concentration, unless they are conveniently located close to where people’s desks are. “Having phone booths or meeting rooms isn’t helpful when they are across the floor from where you sit every day,” explains Hutton, who says that MMoser is seeing a trend towards neighbourhoods.

“Neighborhoods are more cluster-driven workspaces that are surrounded by direct amenities, with a flexibility to change, densify, or relocate,” he says.

For Saatchi & Saatchi, MMoser took a strategic approach to quiet zones, placing stand-up cubbies, small phone rooms and a library throughout the neighbourhoods they had created.

Brand was also important here: the look and the feel had to reflect Saatchi & Saatchi’s identity and workplace culture. “We kept the space neutral – simple, pure and honest – the focus is truly on the ideation and process of Saatchi’s projects,” says Hutton. Branding came through in details like the ampersand element, which “tells the creative process story through a series of blackened objects, which are the representative of a variety of tools Saatchi uses to create their projects.”

This approach is one that comes through in much of MMoser’s work – in Asia as well as in the U.S. “Because we work with a lot of global companies, our design solutions mostly focus on reflecting the large company culture, while staying true to regional residency,” says Hutton. “When guests walk into a space, companies want them to feel the global brand, but want to ensure local employees feel connected to, and a part of, their regional office.”

Designing for people is also an important consideration, says Hutton. “Buildings are becoming smarter; they are adapting to their inhabitants in real-time via your mobile technology.

“Instead of just ensuring that your work protects the environment, we are working towards designing solutions that support the heath and wellbeing of anyone who will use the space. Instead of looking at how employees or residents can adapt to a space, it should be about how a space is interacting with the people in it.”

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