Already in 2020, when our working lives were turned upside down by an invisible virus, it was clear that many of our new modes of living would outlast the pandemic. There was of course the titanic and still-ongoing shift to a remote workforce, but even the very concept of what an office should constitute in a post-pandemic world was suddenly up for grabs.
Indeed, the architects designing our offices and multiplying coworking spaces are today reimagining what features will best hedge against future health crises, as well as best serve a workforce ever more focused on flexibility.
The starting point? Picking the right materials.
Even before the pandemic struck, cost and durability had been joined by sustainability as a material requirement for leading builders: recyclable and low-carbon aluminium or eco-friendly insulation went from fringe materials to entering the mainstream in the span of a mere decade.
So what new requirements should we expect for the next one?
Even as we emerge on the other side of this pandemic, offices have realized the need to quickly be able to pivot to a spacial model focused on health and safety. For example, as porous materials like granite and other natural stones are harder to clean, future offices (and indeed public spaces more broadly) will likely shift to greater use of flat-surface materials, such as steel, aluminium or corian. In addition, architects might steer clear of overly decorous designs in high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, handles, buttons and railings — instead aiming for simplicity and minimalistic designs.
Of course, only at the beginning of a new mode of building, we still can only guess where it will end. As the twin forces of post-pandemic design and sustainability reshape the architectural landscape, the imperative to create both attractive and unique buildings and interiors will no doubt entail a plethora of variations within the foundations that are emerging today.
In the latest episode of SAPA SERIES, architect and designer Caro Lundin shares her vision for the future of the shared office space and the materials we use to build them.
Launched in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Lundin opened ARC Club in Homerton, east London, as a place for those struggling to work efficiently during the pandemic. It only took six weeks for her self-titled studio to complete ARC Club, after taking over a retail unit. The style is a stripped-back, fuzz-free environment — designed with interiors decked out with a selection of low-cost and durable materials that Lundin felt reflected a climate where coworking is "a necessity and not a nice-to-have".