Our lives are stretched by a sense of all-at-once-ness. We wish to live fluidly, on our own terms. Meanwhile, staying connected has never felt more vital. Throughout all of this, office and home continue to blur.
In response, we seek out people, places, and things that keep us balanced, inspired. We recognize that the quality of our space has an impact on everything, from health to productivity, creativity to collaboration.
With this in mind, we spoke to influential leaders in business, education, and culture on designing human- centered, softer spaces. On flexible spaces that support our needs intuitively. Materials and forms that feel good. Comfort and convenience. Smart settings that awaken the senses. Environments that bring us together and put us at ease.
From our earliest days, this softer approach to living, learning, and working has framed everything we do. We improve relationships – between people and spaces – through form, material and color. Our families of products are manifestations of essential human values. Connection, evolution, individuality, sensitivity. At the core of these ideas is a shared belief. The fundamental, transformational power of softer spaces.
IPhilip Iosca, Education First
"Communal spaces are meant to be soft. They're meant to be inviting. The chairs are meant to be comfortable. We test every chair that we put in a project to know that it's going to feel good."
"What makes a great workspace is changing. Our demand for public spaces is the same demand that we place on the private ones. So I think that there needs to be a softness to it. There needs to be a considered design. There needs to be a warmth to that approach."
"I can't help but think that the future of spaces will become non territorial completely. An office won't have seas of workstations. It will have seas of sofas and soft seating."
IIFabienne O’Neill, Cuckooz Nest
"Where space can encourage productivity through its design: that's really where you create the ultimate workspace."
"Design has elevated us in terms of who we are and how we are recognized, because I think when people think of childcare they don't think that it is design-led."
"I think childcare and bringing that human element of family life into the center of future developments is really key to strike the ultimate work-life balance for future populations."
IIIWeiss/Manfredi, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
"Innovation happens not through planned encounters, but through the ones that are spontaneous."
"We're always toggling between spaces that are brightly colored and spaces that are more neutral, between a bright active light filled setting and then one that is more neutral, quieter."
"Whatever we do, whether it's the selection of furniture or the creation of a skylight, there's a certain inevitability about it that makes it somewhat timeless."
IVBrian Tolman, Convene
"We're incredibly focused on thoughtfulness and intentionality, making sure that spaces are responding to the way a user might want to work there."
"We'd like to make sure we're balancing our design philosophy around making spaces that make people feel comfortable, warm, accessible. So that at the end of the day it feels like home."
"There is a difference between meeting and convening: you can “meet” anywhere, but we want to create spaces where people truly come together, to make sure that people are really elevating their experience in our spaces and we're creating the spaces for their spirit to really come through"
VKaren Wong, New Museum
"When we're thinking about spaces and what makes them work, one that is really important to me is flexibility. Ultimately we want this kind of ability to permutate our space – to almost look at it as a kit of parts. When you have that ability it just allows you to be that much more creative."
"Workspace furniture is so critical. You have your desk but oftentimes if you want to just change your perception, and perspective, even elevating yourself to a stool versus your chair can create a different and more informal dynamic."
"Furniture is really the key to executing these different ideas of formal and informal, directed work versus something that is more casual."
VILC Architects, Cosmote TV
"We believe that design, from a macro to a micro scale, it has the power to change our behaviors, to change our lifestyles, to change the way we communicate, we interact."
"Architecture and design accommodate and cater for the current needs but also to creating a future-proof design."
"Through design we can renegotiate what a contemporary working environment is and we believe that pure design, simplicity, elegance can bring in the richness and envision the working environment of today and of the future."
VIIDiller Scofidio + Renfro, Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center
"The new way that people are teaching and learning is much more informal. It's much more serendipitous. It's much more about encountering your peers on a stair, or in a lounge, or in a cafe. Those are still educational moments."
"Flexibility is about having a variety of specificity. Spaces that are unique and have character and quality. Whatever you need to do, you can find a space that meets your needs."
"Life is made up of a variety of spaces and what we want is to bring a variety of experiences and spaces to the projects we make. Spaces that make you feel cozy and comfortable, that are soft, that are quiet, that have beautiful light."
VIIIWeiss/Manfredi, Tata Innovation Center
"The people who are doing innovation are human beings: they want to interact with each other, they want a place that they can work that's comfortable, they want natural light."
"In many ways innovation happens in places that are unexpected, but there needs to be a sense of direct specificity about what distinct spaces are going to support. When you're creating spaces for innovation there needs to be distinction within areas for something magic to happen."
"If people work in an interesting space the work will kind of be self generating, but if you're in a very banal space, one that's neutral, that's completely sort of nondescript, the work will reflect that kind of level of neutrality as well."