During the dot-com boom, creative workspace was defined as much by its toys as its architecture. Billiards, foosball — no game was safe from the maw of the ubiquitous rec center. Yet creative people were never that anxious to go crazy with the games; for them, casual social settings saw far more use.
The mainstream workplace draws inspiration from many different sources, including, of late, creative companies. So it's worth asking how ad agencies, media groups and other firms that depend on creative work think about their own work settings.
When Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) moved from a patchwork of offices in Manhattan's Flatiron District to a 40,000-square-foot aerie south of Midtown, it opted to give more space to collaboration and less to focused work. Gensler created a workspace that's a bit like the long tables at Basque restaurants that encourage strangers to rub elbows with the regulars. At BBH, the rows of worktables accommodate a changing array of teams with minimal disruption.
Gensler also added small teaming spaces across the new office, because BBH's ad directors and copywriters constantly pair up as creative duos. Now they can land and work almost anywhere in the space.
The new Los Angeles offices of Added Value, WPP's brand development and market insight consultancy, have some similarities to BBH New York. Gensler provided Added Value's teams with long work tables that can be used in a more fluid way than individual workstations.
These are paired with a range of shared settings that let people lounge, converse or take a nap. Yet the ambience is completely different, thanks to a color palette that draws liberally on the TV cartoon legacy of the building's former occupant, Hanna-Barbera, producer of “The Flintstones” and “The Yogi Bear Show.”
In Seattle, ad agency Cole & Weber United migrated from Pioneer Square, leaving a space with a lot of enclosed offices. The move, which collocates the firm with three other WPP companies, gives it single-floor identity with a lot more openness.
To delineate distinct workspaces without closing them off, Gensler used curtains and wood lattice — semitransparent divisions that still feel private. This is a sustainable strategy that lets natural ventilation do its work unimpeded. To balance the needs of collaboration and heads-down work, shared settings like meeting rooms and phone rooms are housed within the structural core for central access and acoustical separation.
Three design principles guide the creative workspace. First, the ebb and flow of creative work benefits from openness and flexibility. Members of the creative teams need to be able to sit together as their projects require.
Second, promoting social interaction is crucial. For the millennial generation — the newest to join the creative workforce — "social exchange breeds success" is a core belief. And these newcomers expect the workspace to promote interaction.
Third, visual and acoustical privacy is important. Both the setting and its protocols need to support these privacies.
Valuing creativity and collaboration isn't limited to creative shops, which is why mainstream companies are benchmarking ad agencies and media groups for ideas about how to tune the workplace to support the collaboration on which performance and innovation depend.
The strategies aren't so different, but creative companies are ahead of the curve. The time is ripe for others to follow their lead.
John Parman—Gensler Firmwide Communications
Christopher Barrett/Hedrich Blessing: pages 1, 5-6
Andrew Bordwin: page 2
Patricia Parinejad: page 3a.1, 3b
Ryan Gobuty (Gensler—Los Angeles): page 3a.2, 3c-d
Sherman Takata: page 4
*For detailed information, please roll over imagery on individual story pages.
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