There’s a tired archetype of the office engrained in popular culture: a sterile gray box of cubicles filled with a sullen, uninspired workforce. While this is a somewhat cartoonish image, it’s no secret that spatial design has a significant role to play in fostering productivity and creative thinking.
In recent years in particular, our relationship with the office has shifted dramatically. During the height of the pandemic, the corporate world merged with the domestic, as spare bedrooms and kitchen tables took on dual lives. The boundaries of the office were suddenly and irrevocably untethered. The legacy of this disruptive period is radically different work habits, with many businesses embracing more flexible working arrangements.
These winning projects from the 10th Annual A+Awards have innovative responses to the changing demands of the workplace. From flagship buildings to coworking initiatives, here’s how architects are revising traditional office architecture to create remarkable spaces that are far from business as usual.
By Krueck Sexton Partners, Chicago, Illinois
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Commerical Interiors (>25,000 sq ft)
The corporate lobby has historically been an underutilized space in office architecture, a narrative Krueck Sexton Partners were determined to rewrite when they tackled the ground-floor renovation of this landmark building. Located in the Chicago Loop, the Windy City’s bustling downtown, the lobby of this office tower is now at one with the vibrant cityscape that surrounds it. Undulating 24-foot glass panels undercut the dark exterior structure of the building, making the space receptive to the street and creating a seamless transition between the urban terrain and the office topography.
Reimagined as a living room with carefully designated zones for working, relaxing and congregating, the lobby is framed by striking arcs that merge the wall and ceiling in a repetition of elegant architectural expressions. Lighting and ventilation systems are ingeniously integrated within these white solid-surface patterns. From certain angles, the arcs are reminiscent of tree branches reaching out towards the city.
By Infinitive Architecture, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Coworking Space
For some businesses, the pandemic saw the end of permanent premises altogether. Coworking spaces have become an indispensable extension of traditional office typologies, offering remote workers respite from home and a convenient venue for face-to-face meetings.
This coworking office in Vietnam blends business and biophilic design with remarkable results. Shielded from the outside world by a bamboo skin, the enclosed courtyard features peaceful, reflective pools and verdant walls of greenery. A suspended roof frames the liminal space and carves out shady outdoor workstations amongst the foliage. The interior zones draw natural light from glazed intersections with the courtyard. When a light breeze grazes the building, the open areas are permeated by soft vibrations from the percussion balls in the joints of the bamboo panels, creating a tranquil work environment that soothes the senses.
By Junsekino Architecture & Design, Bangkok, Thailand
Popular Choice Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Office – Low Rise (1-4 Floors)
This pioneering landscape designers’ office was built as an extension to their existing premises next door. Its deceptively intricate structure was envisaged as a white box — a tabula rasa of sorts — filled with materials and forms that pay homage to the heart of the business: the natural world.
Panels of patterned brickwork adorn the building’s façade, but their function is two-fold. This manmade material is utilized in a way that embraces the natural elements. Inside, the tactile treatments reveal themselves as permeable, creating a poetic interplay of light and shade, while allowing fresh air to circulate around the building. Elsewhere, floor-to-ceiling glazing illuminates the meeting rooms, blurring the line between the workspaces and the verdant oasis of the internal courtyard.
By Studio O+A, Portland, Oregon
Popular Choice Winner, Commercial Interiors (>25,000 sq ft)
Well-being in the modern workplace is a value many companies pay lip service to, however, the adidas East Village Expansion is an impressive embodiment of this commitment. Divided into two contrasting sites that overlook a soccer pitch, the result is an architectural articulation of work-life balance.
The company’s office, known as the GOLD Building, features a series of flexible meeting areas, workshops and relaxation zones framed by precast concrete columns and timber beams. The innovative design reimagines its workers as sportspeople, with the spatial tools to adapt and change up their workspaces as the situation demands. The building’s counterpoint is the adjacent Performance Zone. Defined as a kind of human recharging station, it comprises a complex of well-being spaces, encompassing cycling, dance and yoga studios, along with a weight room and a health bar.
By Studio+, Naples, Florida
Popular Choice Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Coworking Space
A rebuttal to the clinical office architecture of decades past, this coworking space in Naples, Florida, was designed with workers’ mental and physical health in mind. To this end, biophilic elements take center stage, with living walls, hanging planters and trailing foliage providing a calming backdrop for the 9-5, while ultraviolet lighting and advanced filtering systems enhance air quality.
Light reclaimed wood complements the organic aesthetic, extending from the flooring and furniture up to the ceiling, reimagined as acoustic panels to minimize noise above the enclosed workstations. The main open interior is balanced by a warren of closed, intimate spaces, from a podcast studio, breakout nooks and presentation rooms, to private call booths and even a meditation room.
By HOOBA Design Group, Tehran, Iran
Popular Choice Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Office – Mid Rise (5-15 Floors)
The dialogue between office architecture and the wider built environment requires careful negotiation. HOOBA Design Group integrated this commercial project into the cityscape without disrupting the surrounding urban infrastructure. The building’s entrances blur into street-level plazas and patios for passersby to enjoy, a masterful move that creates a connection with the city and balances the dual need for private and public space.
At once sensitive and surprising in its design, the building’s curved central light well maximizes the amount of natural light throughout, which is further optimized by a clever double-skin façade. The outer layer of porous brick is arranged into turquoise-lined frames of varying sizes, while a continuous glass inner layer wraps around the structure beneath, allowing as much sunlight as possible to permeate the office units. For outside observers, playful glints of blue can be gleaned as they walk by.
By studio razavi architecture, Paris, France
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Commerical Interiors (<25,000 sq ft)
As our working habits have become increasingly flexible, there are concerns that modern office architecture is eclipsing longevity and familiarity with informality. A bold reply to the latest trends in corporate design, this project by studio razavi architecture is a masterclass in crafting beautiful, timeless workspaces designed to outlast the status quo.
In an unusual move, they redirected their gaze to the past, drawing on examples of corporate architecture from the last century. The result is an array of exquisitely curated work areas steeped in nostalgia, from the magnificent wood-clad lobby with its 1920s-inspired fluted reception desk and orb sconces, to retro booth-style seating areas offset by dark subway tiling. Underpinned by wooden coffered ceilings and enduring materials, it’s both respectful of contemporary corporate culture and reassuring in its permanence.
By TAA DESIGN, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Jury Winner, 10th Annual A+Awards, Office – Low Rise (1-4 Floors)
Poised on a junction overlooking a public park, this remarkable biophilic office building in Ho Chi Minh City is a dramatic revision of traditional corporate typologies. The pioneering design cleverly addresses the site’s locational challenges — the structure’s two street-facing façades are bathed in direct sunlight throughout the day, causing the interior spaces to overheat.
A distinctive, geometric framework offers a striking solution. Slatted box forms set the building back from the road and create welcome shade from the sun. These usual outdoor rooms are enveloped with greenery, creating a secondary organic layer of protection, as well as providing a picturesque outlook from the offices inside. The building’s living skin softens the surrounding urban environment while establishing a visual connection with the park opposite.
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