Salone del Mobile Milano

Trend Research: The New Way of Working - Nowhere Office, Shared Office and WorkSpace Reloaded

Nowhere Office

At a point in time when people and workers are becoming increasingly nomadic, offices themselves are becoming nomads because anywhere with connectivity and a minimal amount of equipment can be used as an office.

As a result of this sort of dematerialisation, contemporary offices are becoming more of a “Neverwhere”. Homes, cafés, bookshops, undergrounds, bus stops are all seen more or less overtly these days as workspaces, or perhaps more or less as one single extended office which, like a mobile home, we take with us wherever we go.

In this changing environment, designers are facing up to the challenge of self-contained “portablemodules, that can travel on four wheels or be put down wherever necessary: from the garden at home to urban public spaces. They are also busy trying to come up with accessories and furnishing pieces that enable mini pop-up environments fostering work and concentration to be created temporarily.

One of the first examples of a mobile workstation comes from carmaker Nissan. In partnership with the English designer William Hardie, the brand has developed the concept of a minivan equipped ad hoc for working remotely. 

Ecological, economic and flexible, the project got off the ground with its transformation of an e-NV200 van into an all-electric office on four wheels: the e-NV200 WORKSPACe. The interior is a fully equipped workstation with integral pull-out desk, touchscreen computer, wireless internet access, LED wood floor lighting, its brightness and colour controlled via smartphone, a wireless charging system and a Bluetooth audio system. 

There’s no shortage of upmarket details: mini fridge and professional quality coffee maker, as well as a folding bike housed in one of the rear doors. The panoramic glass roof allows for continuity with the outside world and, in fine weather, the sliding doors and the split rear doors can be opened, making for a more “airy” work atmosphere.

What’s more, a “floating” deck can be pulled out at the rear to provide an open air space in which to work or simply admire the view when a break is called for. The vehicle takes 30 minutes to charge, has extremely low running costs and is an example of smart mobility. 


A range of office dividers designed for those professional nomads who work in public spaces and often need to turn a bar table into a temporary desk. Focus provides a simple solution to this testing problem, which is as easy to put up as it is easy on the eye


These flexible vertical ribbed panels in soft natural fabric are easily shaped to suit the context and are just as easily rolled up and stored when no longer needed. They are extremely lightweight, thin, and very portable. They come in six different sizes

Desk 02 is a desk with clean understated lines designed to rationally accommodate everything that normally sits on a worktable wasting as little space as possible

A barely visible slot on the top of the work surface serves both as a channel for electric cables and as a dock for devices, thus avoiding mess and diminishing the risk of things being dropped. The fine grid underneath is designed to house all the wires, plugs and modems, thus hiding them from view. 

Along with these simple and extremely useful expedients, a range of small, highly practical and understated accessories that allow the desk to be personalised as required. Stand, for example, is a small double shelf that can be fitted to the worktop, perfect for holding speakers and video. As its name suggests, Tray is a tray for stationery and small objects, and can be fitted into the slot to provide more space on the work surface. 

Shared Office

One direct consequence of the development of the new technologies and the advent of what is known as the Freelance Economy is the concept of coworking: shared workspaces characterised by informal environments and furnishings that can be reconfigured as required, which become fertile ground for the exchange of ideas and creative energies and innovation incubators favoured by young digital era entrepreneurs and start-ups.   

The Millennial generation has espoused the principles of collaboration and cooperation and these new hybrid spaces, which are much more than just offices, have become their places of choice. They are, in fact,  places for socialisation and hosting groups of people and communities formed around common practices and values in a variable geometry.

Coworking spaces are often carved out of the rehabilitation of post-industrial complexes and buildings and help to redefine abandoned or depressed parts of cities around the world.

A complete furnishing line for increasingly deconstructed and open offices, which won the 2016 Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Award. Zones is the result of a partnership between English design consultancy Pearsonal Lloyd and Teknion and consists of work surfaces, chairs and accessories designed to respond to a number of different demands simultaneously: from a pod for those in need of a privacy and isolation break to large tables for group work, small sofas for relaxation and easels and stools for informal meetings or quick bursts on the laptop. 


The underlying concept is that each module can lend itself to different functions according to where and when it is used. The fixed places has given way to a more fluid and itinerant formula that encourages the sharing of ideas and skills as well as spaces. 


The enveloping shapes, warm colours and predominance of wood and textiles are aesthetic choices intended to create a comfortable environment

How does one work out how to share workspaces with other people while requiring a minimum level of silence? This is a question every co-worker asks themselves nearly every day and one to which the two designers Ivan Kasner and Uli Budde, have responded with their AK 2 acoustic panel for De Vorm.

AK 2 is a wide rectangular panel that hangs from the ceiling, remaining suspended above the work surface, splitting it perfectly into two halves in such a way that they are non completely cut off but so that each maintains a degree of privacy. The absorbent foam interior helps to cut down the noise impact typical of large, crowded spaces, while the coloured felt cover is made from recycled plastic bottles, and comes in ten different colourways.  


In a multitasking approach well suited to the logistics of shared spaces, Kasner and Budde have fitted an internal pocket containing a table lamp to either side of the top part of the AK 2, thus cracking another problem that often arises in coworking: lack of adequate lighting.

Bringing nature into the workspace not just for the sake of looks but for its tangible and positive impact on people’s quality of life is at the heart of China-based Vermilion Zhou Design Group’s design for the new headquarters of Fountown, a Shanghai coworking space for startups and innovation hubs. 


In a bid to recreate a rustic atmosphere in an office environment, the designers chose natural light, air water and oxygen as the keystones of the entire project, using them for what they really are, that is, “nutrients” for the body and mind. Nature thus plays a leading role, with stone walkways, furnishings made out of untreated wood, water and with large plants all over the place. 


In order to provide small oases of peace, the designers have incorporated a yoga room and three “oxygen cells”, where people can pause and recharge their batteries in an oxygen-rich atmosphere and then go back to their tasks with greater energy and powers of concentration. Lastly, there are breakout areas such as climbing frames and small sofas and pods dotted around the building, fostering a healthy balance between work and restorative breaks.

Mod is a new shared office concept that is a cross between a coworking, hospitality and retail space. The founders, brothers Brian and Randy Stowell, decided to take the coworking concept to a higher level by focusing particularly on the design of the spaces and on the service


Mod puts the focus on the wellbeing of people who work there with a dedicated concierge service, operated through an app entitled Merci. The app allows them to check in and check out of the spaces, order snacks or healthy, balanced meals, designed to promote energy and concentration during working hours, or request a computer or smartphone charger should they have left theirs behind.


Staff all wear Apple Watches, which vibrate in response to clients’ requests, each of which is attended to in real time. They are also tasked with advising clients to take 10 minute breaks for relaxation, meditation or walks, or suggesting that they correct their posture as they sit at the desks. 


The design of the spaces, which are currently available in the cities of Phoenix and San Francisco, is unmatched, with their sophistication and pared-back lines, featuring natural light, wood and splashes of green. All the furnishings, a judicious selection of cutting edge design products, are for sale, as is an assortment of objects and accessories on exhibit near the reception area.

WorkSpace Reloade

The new generation office environment is informed by people’s needs and is characterised by the fluidity of spaces. In these new workplaces, the spatial configurations and the furnishings break with the aesthetic domestic codes and ensure high standards of ease and wellbeing. 

The digital era companies driving this change formulate their interiors to stimulate the minds and bodies of those who work in them, resorting to surprising and novel furnishing solutions which thus become a source of satisfaction and inspiration.

Technology is harnessed to achieve these aims, constantly monitoring the functionality and utilisation of the spaces. It is this kind of vision that turns the new workplaces into responsive and sustainable ecosystems

Sonos, a young company at the forefront of the wireless speaker sector, tasked IA Interior Architects with designing its new offices in Boston. Their remit was to create a space that would fully reflect the brand’s sophisticated and creative approach


The architects at IA first focused on people’s daily experience to examine their needs. They subsequently analysed the specific demands of the company, which wanted an office tailored to a combination of different uses: an actual office, a shop with spaces for listening and carrying out audio quality tests, all in an environment more reminiscent of a home than of a workplace.


In the light of their preliminary findings, IA decided to concentrate on building a large communal space, with perfect acoustics and split into work islands. The result is an open, fluid environment promoting collaboration and interaction.   


The space is broken up with welcoming living areas containing armchairs, sofas, shelves and bookcases with Sonos products on display, giving visitors a personal experience. The entrance features works by artist Mark Stamaty, commissioned by Sonos.

MVRDV House contains the new offices of the architectural practice in Rotterdam after which it was named. The core concept was to capture the shared DNA and working methods and translate them into a physical space. The new offices are known as “home” and the space, carved out of a Fifties building, is reminiscent of a section through a doll’s house. Its 2,400 square metres are split into areas dedicated to work, to convivial gatherings and to relaxation and socialising. 


The Family Room is the focal point of the office space, containing a deliberately oversized dining table that can seat the entire workforce, with a plant chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and a wooden rostrum for presentations, lectures or for watching sport. 


The meeting rooms, decked out in colours that underscore their function, are on one side of this central space. The Presentation Room is a “formal” dark blue, the Library Room is a more intimate brown and the Game Room is bright green, contains a ping-pong table, and can be used for informal meetings. On the other side, behind a totally see-through glazed wall, is the area where the teams work on their various projects. The space is deliberately open, partition-free, so that everyone can see each other from anywhere in the office, and the desks were specially designed as single “units” to encourage group work, with no table legs or dividers to get in the way.   


There are also plans to redesign the courtyard outside the building, with restaurants and pop-up cafés, underscoring the company’s open approach to activities and entertainment outside the office space

Energy saving, sustainability awareness and customisation of spaces are the keywords for the new project by architects Carlo Ratti Associati. This is an office in which the air conditioning is tailored to the real needs and preferences of each individual, thus avoiding the energy wastage involved in squabbles of over those who want it turned on and those who don’t. A personalised thermal imprint made possible by extremely sophisticated sensors located throughout the office area, capable of capturing parameters such as temperature, the presence or absence of people in a room and the levels of carbon monoxide inside it and turning on or turning off fans and other air conditioning devices on the basis of their findings. 


The virtuous effect of the thermal imprint will be heightened by furnishings such as pop-up wood panels, movable glass partitions and curtains, allowing the interiors to be customised quickly according to need and the number of occupants. The architects believe that careful energy use based on people’s real needs could cut the uptake of resources by up to 40% with beneficial effects in terms of cost and safeguarding the environment. 2017 will see the first practical application of Ufficio 3.0 at the Turin headquarters of the Agnelli Foundation.

By activating an app, when staff arrive at the Deloitte headquarters in Amsterdam, designed by London-based practice PLP Architecture, the door to the underground car park recognises their cars or bicycles and indicates a free space with electrical charging facilities. The app also locates an empty desk, based on the user’s schedule for the day, a standing desk or a concentration room, and can be used to regulate the lighting and heating as desired. But that’s not all. The app also monitors the coffee levels in the espresso machine and the towels in the lavatories, and shows which bathrooms are in need of a clean; it also monitors the progress achieved in the company gym. 


At the end of the day, staff can order their shopping for the precise number of people they need to feed, which is delivered to a fridge on the ground floor of the building, thus enabling them to go home and cook without wastage and without having to stop at the supermarket. The building is basically a network of sensors keeping a constant watch on the environment, tailoring energy and consumption to the usage and real demands of those who inhabit it. 


The overall data gathered also bring to light any requirements and problems that were hard to gauge during the planning phase. Privacy is assured, given that no one are allowed access to individual employee data, particularly as the system was devised to gauge the overall scenario and not individual performance.