The home of architecture and design in Asia-Pacific

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

The Empathic Office: Will Workplace Agility Soon Involve Bio-Responsiveness?

Are bio-responsive offices the next step forward in workplace design? Two proposals by Carlo Ratti Associati and UNStudio suggest our workspaces could and should evolve in such a direction.

The Empathic Office: Will Workplace Agility Soon Involve Bio-Responsiveness?

Ben van Berkel inside a RESET pod – a joint project between UNStudio and Scape.

Advancements in the technology fast outpace the progress of our buildings and designed environments. This has led to an increasing need for future-proof infrastructure – which, not least in the field of workplace design, has created ‘the agile workplace’ that is characterised by reconfigurable spaces.

An emerging interest in intelligent, bio-responsive environments that are not only supportive of a change culture, but attuned to real-time individual needs and personal preferences, is now expanding the idea of ‘workspace agility’ with new possibilities.

At the Agnelli Foundation in Turin, an Internet-of-Things-equipped coworking office designed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) is enabling users to create personal ‘environment bubbles’. Office 3.0’s heating, cooling and lighting can be keyed to individual preferences (inputted through personal mobile devices), creating an ambient bubble for each worker that then ‘follows’ them around the building. Each bubble corresponds to a workstation, occupying just a few square meters. 

Says Carlo Ratti, Founding Partner of CRA and Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, “Thanks to coworking and more responsive architecture, we can decrease the number of square meters per person – creating a more efficient use of space and a more sociable environment. Aggregated data can serve as a test bed for research on the relationship between office design and productivity. In the near future, by analysing statistics on the building’s use, it will be possible to better understand how people behave in particular space and how this, in turn, can affect wellbeing and creativity.”

Ratti’s vision for such organic, adaptive architecture shares many parallels with UNStudio’s research in what they call ‘human aware architecture’. Underpinning UNStudio’s research (titled ‘Towards Human Aware Architecture: Environment Assisted Learning and Working’) is the belief that the comfort and wellbeing of an individual correlate to both the creativity and productivity of staff and the general efficiencies of a work culture. UNStudio posits the homogeneously designed workplaces of today are inadequate in meeting the divergent needs of staff or community, whose individuals are offered little latitude in adjusting their personal spaces.

UNStudio proposes that an intelligent, self-learning environment that responds specifically to an individual’s mental and physical state through bio-responsive systems could be introduced to our workplaces. The proposal is for an EALW or ‘Environment Assisted Learning and Working’ system that would comprise elements such as walls, windows, chairs, desks and even drinking glasses. In conjunction with Dutch social design company Scape, UNStudio presented a prototype for an EWAL environment in 2017 in the form of RESET (Responsive Emotional Transformation) – immersive modular pods offering scientifically proven stress-reduction methods.


Read the complete article in Cubes 90! Out now!

Photography by Oddproduzioni (courtesy of UNStudio) and Beppe Giardino (courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati).

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed