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Designing for Technology is not the Impossible Dream

The new HQ for Chinese startup Xiaozhu in Beijing’s tech hub is a solid case-in-point for how we, as an industry, need to tackle integrated technology.

Designing for Technology is not the Impossible Dream

Integrated technology is a moving target. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, the technology you’ve only just mastered becomes completely – laughably – obsolete. In truth, it’s maddening, if not impossible, to produce lasting results for clients that don’t require significant upgrades within the year.

Though it’s proven hopeless for many a-workplace-designer, there are those special few leading the way, creating sustainable work environments that are not only kitted-out with the latest and greatest in commercial tech, but that are flexible enough to upgrade at any time with little impact on the original design concept.

A recent example is the new HQ for Chinese startup Xiaozhu – a peer-to-peer housing rental service located within Beijing’s CBD tech hub. Designed by People’s Architecture Office and People’s Industrial Design Office, the ‘Sliced House’ project is a highly mutable work environment for Xiaozhu, who required an office interior fit for the fast-pace and unpredictable nature of their website business.

To pair the design with the nature of the brand, the ‘sliced house’ incorporates spaces and furniture that easily combines and separates mobile meeting rooms, as well as power outlets that swing to desired locations.

The interior design approach here inserts the casual comfort of home life within the workplace through an a series of residential-style areas throughout the space. Featuring a set of small rooms split around an open, shared interior, the more private areas provide the impression of domesticity, including a kitchen, living room, and even a bedroom. Within the large flexible zone, converted tricycles create workspaces and informal meeting rooms on wheels.

To really meet the needs of their client, PDO also created custom-designed furniture, including: the long span cantilevering tables which offer undisrupted space underneath for great seating flexibility; the numerous mobile Tetris tables that can be detached, combined, and rearranged to form workstations for groups or individuals; and large red ‘umbrellas’ which swivel to different locations, providing overhead lighting as well as a electricity outlets and mild acoustic properties.

Ultimately, the lesson here is that as a designer, you just can’t keep up with technology. You really can’t. And trying to is a sure-fire ticket to the mad house. The best you can do for your clients and your practice is to understand the needs of current technological culture (both the technology itself, and how people use it) enough to design spaces that are flexible enough to implement these rapid changes at will. Anything else is a job for Sisyphus – and no one wants to be that guy.

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