Office: Focus - Q&A: Matt Jackson, BDG Architecture + Design

Cathy Hayward talks to designers in the workplace design space and looks at some of the most exciting upcoming projects.

Edited By Cathy Hayward

What are your thoughts currently on office design and what do clients now require from architects and designers since Covid?

Workplace design is still in a process of evolution postpandemic. It presents really interesting opportunities for designers to explore with pilot and beta spaces as business types settle on what their workforce are needing. It is apparent that the return to work has moved forward and workplaces are busier and socially active. There is an ongoing conversation on increased flexibility, managing a variety of working patterns, getting technology balanced for hybrid working and a big focus on social capital.

How proactive are clients on thinking ahead for projects for next year or beyond?

Clients want to see data and supporting information to help firm up on direction. There is still caution in the air on how much space people need and actually commit to. We are seeing continuous signals towards more nimble and adaptable schemes that can flex quickly, and very little commitment to any types of fixed desk locations for individuals.

What would you say are the seismic changes from office design pre-Covid and now?

Possibly the biggest is complete acceptance of widespread trust in employers allowing anyone to work from home if necessary. Covid was the world’s biggest pilot test on remote working. It proved that it was possible in great numbers, but came with a very clear message that people like being with people, and the social and collaborative value that a workplace brings are essential to an organisations culture and, often, productive output.

Due to shifting working patterns, office design has had to borrow concepts from domestic and hospitality settings. Image Credit: Jefferson Smith

What have been the biggest design challenges and opportunities to emerge from the shift in the role of the office in recent years?

Possibly the encouragement back to the office, making an office a very exciting offer and great everyday experience, how can the design be a tool to bring people in and work hand-in-hand with the cultural pull of being together with your colleagues. We have found a number of our clients very keen to explore design direction that comes closer to residential and hospitality design, putting emphasis on ‘home feel’ with strong social encouragement to stimulate togetherness.

What key exhibitions, events or other sources help to keep you inspired?

I find inspiration in all sorts of places. I think some of the installations I’ve seen in 180 Strand Studios have been incredible, including the Ryuichi Ikeda and Universal Everything shows. I also love the work of Liam Young as a director looking into a future world of architecture and sustainability. We are lucky to have so many cultural icons on the Southbank near to our studio, including The Tate, The RFH, The Haywood Gallery and so many more. Lots to inspire us.

Can you remember Niels Torp’s vision of a new office landscape 30 years ago at BA’s Waterside? Was this the most radical thinking on offices to date?

It certainly was very ground breaking at the time and many of the principles of an internal street have been influential over a long period. I think there have been many other incredible schemes over the years that have set new precedents on how to approach a dynamic workplace building for a specific client, too many to mention.

Which office design, or other project, has inspired or influenced your own creative thinking?

We all see so much influences every day that might come from being in a bar, an art gallery, an office or a hotel. It can be the smallest thing that make a difference, that make you think about how something could be re-invented or reapplied in a different context, often centring around experience. Our design teams are constantly sharing what they’ve seen and been to and it’s always refreshing.

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