As observers of the changing nature of the workplace and monitoring the fluctuating relationship between people, place and technology, there is a constant demand for alternative solutions offering physical, virtual and cultural spaces within open plan working spaces. Rooms was designed to respond to these changes, it defines space, creating a sense of place, a space within spaces. Its architectural structure offers a suggestion of an enclave, which can creatively be enclosed with variety, colour and texture to create spaces of different functions, needs and flexibility, offering choice between privacy and openness.
The narrative we were trying to create with Rooms is something from the ‘start up’ culture. It is a mind-set rather than a state of business development. Start-ups by nature are born from nothing, they use what is around, by being resourceful and creative. Using low budget materials and re-purposing what they can find, to make something they need. This helps create a look like it happened out of necessity and imagination. It represents a physical manifestation of a “Work in Progress” sign. Organisations like Google, Facebook and Uber have all managed to retain in their culture the feeling of youthful ‘start up’ businesses, whist becoming multi- national corporations.
Due to the scale and size of Rooms and it’s self-assembly construction, the structure is made from robust anodised aluminium extrusions. This is deliberately clad in wood, with either a natural oak or birch finish, painted a colour or in oriented strand board (OSB) to emote a ‘start up’ aesthetic, comfortable and domestic in feel, rather than refined high tech. The variety of ‘accessories’ that can be applied to Rooms enables the structure to be dressed in a way to reflect the culture of the organisation, so it can project a ‘start-up’ or polished culture to replicate a sophisticated corporation.
The concept of Rooms is to define a flexible space within an open office floor plan, so it has to be adaptable. Rooms makes a space designed for change, whether it be a huddle space for team collaboration; a learning or training space; a sanctuary for relaxing and contemplation, a project space for inspiration, all of which can support a mix for focus or flaring activities. Enclosed or open, acoustic or dynamic; flexibility, choice and variety have been incorporated into Rooms so that it’s function can be defined by the end user.
The early sketch design concepts of a structural wood framework defining a space changed through the development stage into physically exploring larger span structures using aluminium extrusions as a skeletal frame and cladding these with a thin wooden skin. The aluminium gives a strong, lightweight and rigid structure enabling long spans to be created. It’s inbuilt channels provide fixing points along the lengths of the extrusion which make it easy to assemble on site. The channels also enable a range of infill panels to be inserted and located to create the white, acoustic, media, curtain and trellis walls, as well as forming raceways for power management to be run around the structure. Having designed the extrusions these were first proved out by 3D printing small lengths. This gave us the opportunity to make some dimensional adjustments before the extrusion tools were produced. To increase the acoustic performance of the ‘Room’, compressed wool baffles formed the roof , allowing light and ventilation through but helping dampen and restrict the noise penetrating or escaping from the space.