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40 (135) 2019
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Real Estate & Construction

Rethinking the office lobby for the collaborative era

By Howard Bates, Vastint, Turnerbates studio, specialising in hospitality design
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Turnerbates was approached by Vastint Poland three years ago to take a fresh look at the design approach to the Business Garden lobbies.

We have worked across sectors including retail, hospitality and leisure, and with BG Warsaw already completed and well occupied the challenge was clear for us to see. We felt the existing lobby spaces needed to feel warm and welcoming.  Step away from the grey floor, white walls and cold lighting. We want to encourage visitors and tenants to really utilise the lobbies rather than using them just as a transitional space on route to the lift and their office desks. We also believe it is important to bring some of the ‘biophilic’ elements (humans’ innate connection to nature) within the surrounding gardens into the interior of the buildings.

Scandinavian design is popular, and with good reason. With Vastint’s Swedish heritage it was not something we wished to ignore – classic Scandinavian elements can be seen in the muted colour palette and natural materials used. A good design project, however, must not just to respond to style or fashion but rather to achieve workable solutions that will stand the test of time. Our approach for the design across the lobbies was to have core common elements in each building that reflect the innovative and welcoming essence of Vastint Business Garden complexes. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that all seven buildings had a unique character in the colour details, accessories and artworks. The functional layouts of the lobbies also differ according to size and floor plan.

To achieve a different feel or personality for each space we drew inspiration on a given theme for each building grounded in research on Warsaw’s history and the surrounding region. All our Business Gardens reflect different aspects of the vibrancy and culture local to Warsaw. Our research in preparing the designs was not just limited to the ‘tough’ Warsaw office market but also from trends across many cities and town workplace environments globally. Millennials and Generation Z are changing the way we live and work with the popular rise of co-working and flexible, collaborative workspaces. There are more and more people for whom an office is any place where they can connect to the internet. This is especially true in London, where Turnerbates is based.

We wanted the new lobbies in Vastint buildings to be perceived as attractive and friendly spaces that encourage visitors and tenants to relax, drink coffee and hold less formal business meetings. Without having to leave the building or find a coffee shop, the lobbies allow employees to take a break from the daily office routine in a flexible and attractive space. The lobbies encourage a sense of openness and community, and can also be enjoyed by visitors who live and work nearby as co-working spaces. A good example of this ethos in practice is the book exchange in the lobbies, which allows tenants across the building to interact and share ideas rather than be confined to a potentially isolated office.

Office and hotel lobbies are slowly becoming similar in look and feel. We see the Vastint lobbies as an extension to the office, and similarly to hotel lobbies; they have a warm and welcoming atmosphere designed to make visitors feel at ease. As a studio we are interested in how biophilic elements within interiors, for example natural materials like wood and planting, can encourage tenants and visitors to feel at ease and relaxed in the space. Our experience in designing hospitality interiors has allowed us to create a sociable layout, including a more casual digital check-in welcome desk instead of the traditional formal reception.
 
A number of the Turnerbates team not only work in architecture and interiors but are also artists in their own right. Joanna Gomm, an associate at Turnerbates, not only designed the space but also produced unique artworks that hang in the spaces. Each building’s artworks are connected to its individual theme and reflect and tell a story about elements of Warsaw’s vibrant culture.

We are working on the second phase of BG Poznan that’s just completing and also Vastint Business Garden projects in Bucharest, also due for completion. BG Vilnius in Lithuania has also just started groundwork with the first phase due for completion in 2021. It is a large scheme, with a big central lobby that incorporates in an events space, café, retail and community meeting spaces. We are excited about what the future holds with our collaboration with Vastint.

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