WORK4TANK showcases a social, collaborative and transparent modern workplace

Earlier this month, VOA was one of six firms invited to participate in DesignLab – “Future of Great Work,” a spec suite design competition sponsored by building owner Vornado Realty Trust/Charles E. Smith in the Washington, D.C. area. Each invited firm – VOA, Fox Architects, Smithgroup, RTKL, Perkins + Will, and OTJ – was given a spec suite area in the unoccupied sixth floor of a high-rise office building at 251 18th Street in Crystal City, Virginia and tasked to design “an office of the future” within a budget of $65/SF. The idea behind the competition was to showcase the ways in which architects are addressing the changing world of workplace, especially in light of the increase in Internet-based businesses.

Meeting Room, WORK4TANK

Meeting Room, WORK4TANK

Suites for each firm were chosen at random and ranged in size from 3,000 – 5,500 SF. In just 12 weeks (excluding construction) VOA architects and designers Pablo Quintana, John O’Dowd, and Sarah Brown developed WORK4TANK as our DesignLab entry. A combination workplace + think tank, WORK4TANK’s design showcases the evolution of the workplace towards an environment of total collaboration, openness, and visibility.

WORK4TANK’s open architecture capitalizes on raw building materials (exposing the existing concrete floor, ceiling slabs, as well as HVAC and electrical systems) requires less new ceiling and flooring materials. Its flexible bench-style workstations allow users to customize their work environment as needed and to work anywhere within the space via Wi-Fi. The suite design offers 100% access to daylight with outdoor views from all spaces within. By using high performance fluorescent and LED fixtures, WORK4TANK’s lighting design achieves 36% great energy efficiency than code-mandated 1 watt/SF standard. The lighting design employs occupancy sensors in all areas of the suite in order to conserve energy when spaces are not in use.

Open Workstations & Teaming Area, WORK4TANK

Open Workstations & Teaming Area, WORK4TANK

The WORK4TANK layout is comprised of three zones:

EVENT: The modern office is a social environment. The event zone is designed so the mobile worker, aided by technology, can work, eat, and socialize all at the same time. It is an in-out environment where work can be done on the fly. Event space is intended as a quick meeting/socializing/ and touchdown work area, not a permanent work destination. Spaces like this are highly favored by today’s mobile, on-the-go workforce. With high stool seating and “powerbar” tables, where workers can utilize phones, tablets and laptops, allowing the event space to function as a social, gathering space and a workspace all in one.

MEET: Every office needs meeting spaces, lots of them. Located in the center, the meet zone is the hub for gathering, working, and connecting to the outside world. Rather than sit idle, WORK4TANK offices can be used as meeting spaces and vice versa throughout the day in this flexible model. The shared offices are designed to function as both private and group meeting spaces. A wall-mounted screen allows video conferencing capabilities without having to go to a traditional conference room. The furnishings are purposely minimal to discourage personalization and “ownership.”

WORK:  The desk is still the backbone of the workplace. The work zone features open stations and teaming tables. Visibility and ease of collaboration are hallmarks of this zone.

Private Office, WORK4TANK

Private Office, WORK4TANK

Thematically, we wanted to showcase different work modes and styles within the suite. Think of our entry as a showcase of modern work styles and trends. We envisioned our suite as a physical think tank for new workplace ideas. We also wanted to maintain a balance between the collective/totally open workplace and the individual’s need for privacy. By dividing the suite into three zones, we were able to separate the wide open EVENT zone from the more private/personal WORK zone.

Stylistically, we wanted to create a quiet, elegant and serene space. We did not want technology and openness to override simplicity and beauty. We definitely went for a “less is more” approach.

Event Space, WORK4TANK

Event Space, WORK4TANK

We took a balanced approach. The danger of designing solely for collaboration is disregarding the individual’s need for privacy and sense of self. Also lost in the rush to create the future is a sense of restraint, to make spaces that are visually quiet while conceptually loud! Our balanced approach satisfies both collaboration and privacy, and provides elegant functional space for each.

The use of small and large glass panels to visually connect spaces and allow vistas across the office from all angles is among our favorite details. I am personally infatuated with the “low-tech” nostalgia pieces such as the Concorde super graphic in the EVENT zone and the classroom blackboard interactive walls in the main meeting space.

We envisioned this space being used by tech start-ups; architects; graphic designers and consulting firms with mobile employees.

DesignLab was covered extensively in the D.C. area business press, on citybizlist and in the The Washington Post.

Keep an eye on VOA Design on Twitter for upcoming DesignLab events.

Photos by Robert Severi

1 Comment

    Hey my name is Brooke Rawls and I am an interior design student currently working on a spec suite case study. I would love to use this space in my study as an example and was wondering if there was any way that I could receive more information or maybe even find the floor plans for the space. Thanks!

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