We met Kerstin Zumstein and Helen Parton, authors of Total Office Design, to have a chat about the project, their favourite offices in the book and the importance of ecological design.
What led you to working together and developing the Total Office Design project?
Kerstin Zumstein: As the editor of onoffice magazine, I came across some really inspiring workplace designs and often thought about doing a collection of the world’s coolest and cleverest offices. Helen was my deputy on the magazine for a while so she already knew the subject matter and always was great to work with.
Helen Parton: We saw there was a gap in the market for a book that took a more practical approach, as well as an academic study to what’s going on in workplace design. Plus we get on fantastically well both personally and professionally so it made sense to do it together. And we’re still good friends after the project too!
If I had to pick a favourite office it would be Bearstech‘s with those amazing wooden ceilings and walls.. or the bastard Store and their skate ramp! Do you have any favourites in the book and why?
KZ: I fell for the SelgasCano office the first time I saw it. While many architects have talked the concept of ‘bringing the outside in’ to death, this office reminds you that you are surrounded by nature. Studies have shown that to be visually connected to nature while you’re working provides a healthy balance and calming effect (mostly demonstrated by the token pot plant). SelgasCano takes this to another level, essentially placing a glass box office in a forest. Too many offices do not provide workers with a view, yet we all know how important it is to take your eyes off the screen, what better thing to look at than trees and birds?!
HP: I love the KK Outlet in Hoxton Square. FAT architects worked their magic in making this a really flexible workspace on a budget. I’ve seen this place in action as a gallery and events spaces many times, one of its key functions, from hosting a Dutch Christmas market to showcasing Transport for London’s Lost and Found exhibition. It’s a real destination, not just a workplace – people love to come and grab a beer and see what’s going on there. It’s a real asset to its location. And it probably does wonders for KesselsKramer’s branding too!
Obviously ecologically minded design is an important part of the book – how do you think it will shape work spaces in the future?
HP: It’s important that workplaces are greener for lots of different stakeholders. Developers who invest in office buildings know they are increasingly easier to let with, say, a BREEAM rating. Their clients, firms looking for office space, want to be greener to satisfy their CSR and everyone today realises the need to conserve energy. Saving the environment doesn’t stop at home anymore. I think being ecologically minded saves money in the long run too, which is what will drive it forward in workplace design, particularly as budgets and in particular the lifetime cost of a building come into greater focus.
KZ: With accountability high on the agenda for everyone involved, I hope ecological thinking will soon become second nature. The key is to get the users of the space to understand how the buildings work. Good change management is vital. Architects and facility managers have to find a way to motivated workers to move, think green and take responsibility for their actions.
What are you both working on currently and are there any projects in the pipeline you can reveal a little about?
KZ: I’m currently the editor of the Germanwings inflight magazine GW, and just recently commissioned a piece on museum architecture as well as European Design Weeks. I also cover a lot of hotel interiors. The principles of good, ecological design transcend all disciplines. With London’s Design Week coming up, Helen and I will be speaking at various events to ensure we’re doing our bit to make workplace design present among the design elite.
HP: I’m editing icon magazine’s design trail for this year’s London Design Festival, which will come out next month. It’s a lot of work – I’ve chosen 100 events from 300 that are taking place at the end of September. It’s a hugely important time in the design calendar and this project’s given me a great sneak preview of everything that’s going on! It’s a great opportunity to showcase London as a design city. Myself and Kerstin will be very much part of events in September – we’re speaking at 100% Design about Total Office Design for instance.
Brimming with creative and intelligent ideas, Total Office Design is a book that every workplace designer needs to own. Organised into three colour-coded sections featuring small, medium and large projects, the book includes nearly 500 detailed illustrations, plans and photographs and is available now for £24.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.