Lighting the Global Workspace
with ANCB Research Partner Zumtobel
2014 – 2015
The modern office represents a space where knowledge is assembled, shared and generated in temporary constellations of changing work groups. These loose networks often comprise people with different cultural backgrounds, experiences and expertise. The office space needs to offer specific qualities to help cultivating these differences and to strengthen efficiency and wellbeing of the knowledge worker. Innovative lighting solutions for contemporary office environments are an absolute necessity today. But how does light influence the quality of office work? In early 2014, ANCB and Zumtobel initiated a global research study on light and lighting in the contemporary office environment. Five research teams of universities from Australia, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia have been involved in this year-long study. The goal of the study was to understand diverse lighting situations around the globe and their potential for innovation.
10 office spaces in Sydney, Medellín, Berlin, Lagos and Manila were analyzed. One work environment per city was chosen by a jury to be investigated further on visionary potential during a professional workshop week in Berlin. The workshop week closed with a high-profile symposium
on 20 February 2015 at ANCB.
How much does the workplace vary from city to city and to what extent is that associated with environmental conditions? To get a bigger picture of workspaces around the world, we directed the research initiative towards five different continents. Lighting the Global Workplace focuses on key cities around the globe, capturing impressions of their current workplaces and their specific contexts. Oceans apart from each other and across different time zones, these cities share a basic need for quality workspaces. The research dissects the cultural, social and environmental conditions of each of these cities and considers their relationship to the workplace.
Beyond the urban context of each research destination, our collaboration has integrated five leading universities around the world and examined their unique academic profiles. The robust research team brought together the Interior and Spatial Design programme at the University of Technology in Sydney; the Department of Architecture in the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at the University of Lagos, the Laboratory for Study and Technical Experimentation in Architecture at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellín, the Institute for Design and Architectural Strategies at the Technical University Braunschweig, and the School of Fashion and Arts (SoFA) in Manila. Though equally driven by excellence in design, each programme has a distinctive approach to architectural research. We invited them to participate in our research initiative and to join us in our quest to better understand contemporary workplaces. Each university draws from a unique academic program and local expertise in the disciplines of architecture, interior and lighting design. These five knowledge hubs gave us a broad scope of the current state of affairs in architectural education across the globe and add refreshing perspectives to our research topic. Together we have ignited an engaging dialogue about workplace environments and to highlight the numerous aspects that must be factored into the equation. We anticipate a dynamic discussion that will build upon this global insight and reveal various research techniques and pedagogical approaches.
Led by accomplished instructors with backgrounds in the fields of architecture, interior design, engineering, stage-design and literature, each team brought a slightly different approach to our research collaboration, and thus produced distinctively individual results. Charging past the conventions of traditional architectural education, students ventured into the city to draw inspiration from reality and test the viability of their own creativity. Throughout the process, experiential learning proved to be a complementary educational tool in the study of contemporary workplace conditions and a catalytic ingredient for visionary design.
Throughout the first phase of the Lighting the Global Workspace Research Collaboration, students actively surveyed a total of over fifty offices in Sydney, Lagos, Manila, Berlin and Medellín. They carefully documented contemporary working environments, interviewing employees, observing their office culture and the influence of light. Zumtobel lighting specialists and ANCB research analysts eagerly examined a colourful inventory of case studies, ranging from an art foundation in Sydney’s CBD to engineering offices in downtown Lagos. The sample of workspaces revealed a number of regional contours, as well as overarching global themes. Together we have mapped common and individual challenges and design principles for offices spaces around the world.
From the initial survey of fifty offices, twenty-five were selected for further investigation and design proposals. Students were reconfigured into larger teams, as they focused on half the number of workplaces. They were asked to consider a practical solution for each of the workplace conditions and a speculative vision for the future. Students’ proposals were rooted in an informed analysis of each workplace. Though they were challenged by the limited possibilities in realistic scenarios, their work was inspired by an optimistic prognosis of the future. Each of the projects was truly unique, as it simultaneously addressed an environmental context and a particular workplace situation with a collaborative design. After careful review of all twenty-five projects, the ANCB and Zumtobel advisory board chose one representative project per city, which would be further developed during the workshop.
THE WORKSHOP WEEK
After months of international research and long-distance correspondence, fifteen students from Medellín, Lagos, Sydney, Berlin and Manila came to ANCB to represent their universities during the final workshop and symposium from 13 - 20 February 2015. The week-long intensive workshop was aimed at condensing the essential thesis behind each proposal as well as extracting transferable outcomes on one hand and region-specific, culture-related conclusions on the other hand. Building upon an extensive analysis from the previous semesters work on the project, new and comprehensive facts emerged during the workshop week. The coaches were able to integrate additional aspects of the analysis and direct the student groups towards a structured, coherent concept.
The Lighting the Global Workspace Symposium took place on February 20, 2015 at ANCB. Among the aims of the event was to highlight the complex interrelations between light, space, work performance, wellbeing and productivity; while reflecting upon the year-long research initiative. The symposium was an open invitation to publically explore the technological, creative, geographic and psychological dimensions that define the workplace today; as well as prospects for the future.
The symposium was chaired by Zumtobel Marketing Director, Stefan von Terzi. Keynotes Lectures were given by Ben van Berkel, Co-founder and Principal Architect at UNStudio, Amsterdam: Framing Light with Buildings and Vice Versa; Andreas Schulz, Founder and Director, LICHT KUNST LICHT AG, Berlin/Bonn: Playtime, Google & Beyond; Christina Dreesen, Associate, Project Management and Workspace Strategies, Arup Deutschland GmbH, Frankfurt/Main: Delivering the Future Workplace; Terry West, Corporate Director of Research, WorkSpace Futures, Steelcase Inc., Grand Rapids Michigan, USA: A New Literacy In The Creative Era. In their presentations, the speakers examined workplace environments from their professional perspectives, which included architecture, lighting design, foresight and project delivery, and product design.
At the end of the symposium, the exhibition of the final student projects was opened and the winning proposal was announced.
OUTCOMES AND OUTLOOKS
Our Lighting the Global Workspace research initiative culminated at the symposium, where an international jury reviewed the final projects and gave students their final crit. Looking back upon the ambitious initiative, the results are both insightful and rewarding. ANCB and Zumtobel embarked on the research collaboration with the intention of instigating a lively discussion that was rooted in distinctly different geographies and what that implies.As an experiment in collective inquiry and knowledge sharing, the project brought together a wonderful selection of dedicated students and devoted teachers. The research program promoted the integration of theoretical and practical methodologies. Nevertheless, it was challenging to find a common language for analysis and to work across boundaries of time and curricula. As we learned from different teams, cities, and workspaces, we built a platform that connected us beyond environmental and cultural contexts.Each of the final submissions reflects the individuality of each research site and the originality of the teams. The proposals encompassed an acute understanding of a local problem and an imaginative solution that allows us to peek into the future workplace. Having activated a vibrant group of students, professors, professionals and practitioners around the globe, we aspire to establish an interdisciplinary network of workplace thinkers. In the next weeks weeks we will publish the final projects and their resonating messages.